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charctor steriotyping

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batesy
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charctor steriotyping  Reply with quote  

I hate charctor steriotyping in books. Like the stressed single mom, or the mean relitives, or the missunderstood goth, or the rude cheerleaders. They make me want to pull out my hair! At school, we have to grade the other students papers and stories. Amybe it's just because we're all thirteen and fourteen, but there is wayyyyyy too much charctor steriotyping. I'm thirteen, how do I keep from falling into this trap?

Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 5:11 pm   
chris
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Re: charctor steriotyping  Reply with quote  

batesy wrote:
I hate charctor steriotyping in books. Like the stressed single mom, or the mean relitives, or the missunderstood goth, or the rude cheerleaders. They make me want to pull out my hair! At school, we have to grade the other students papers and stories. Amybe it's just because we're all thirteen and fourteen, but there is wayyyyyy too much charctor steriotyping. I'm thirteen, how do I keep from falling into this trap?



In politics, stereotyping is a bad thing, it makes assumptions about people that although sometimes true, are often negative. The thing is, in my experience, single moms are stressed, relatives are often mean, goth's perceive themselves as misunderstood, and cheerleaders are often rude.

The thing you have to realize is that these are not stories in themselves. They represent an accepted norm. Racial stereotypes, sexual stereotypes, and regional stereotypes can be offensive, but some stereotypes, like some cliches, exist because they are true. They are your background. Your main character may be the well-adjusted Goth, the polite and kind cheerleader, the single-mom who is totally chilly, and so on, and that may be the story, but if all of your characters, especially your background characters, are "unique" then your reader will have nothing to grasp as reality in the story.

So, what I'm saying is, that stereotypes serve a purpose, and sometimes breaking the stereotype is, indeed, the story, but you can undermine yourself by identifying commonalities among groups of people as stereotypes and not allowing them in your work. For instance, cops tend to be bigger, physically, than adverage guys. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is that once you get your ass kicked by a guy who just got out of five years of lifting weights in prison, you tend to want to hit the gym so it doesn't happen again. It's a stereotype, but it's true. Not always, but often enough that you can bank on it in a story. (And the divorced cop is a stereotype, but it's also true that they have one of the highest divorce rates of any profession.)

In my own work, I use stereotypes that people can immediately indentify with because they've observed them in their own lives. Pilots who tend to be arrogant, scientists who tend to be socially awkward, potheads who tend to be stoned. I get letters all the time from people saying, "I know that guy. I used to go to school with that guy." Well, no they didn't, but the qualities of the character were consistent with real people of similar background.

It's perfectly natural to want to rebel against stereotypes when you're in your teens. You should. You're lumped in with a bunch of people your own age, you have no rights, no money, no freedom, and the people around you are as mean as they are ever going to be unless you are taken as a prisoner of war later in life. Individuality is a very tough thing to achieve, because it's always easier to be on the inside of a group looking out at the freak. That's your story, the breaking of stereotype, the rebellion against it, but to rebel against it, you have to recognize and use it.

Dude, you have so been lectured.

Carry on.

Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 5:50 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
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Welcome to the board, Batesy. Good question.

Read good books, for a start. Learn from authors - there are plenty of people out there writing great books with great characters. Unfortunately, I see a ton of young adult books coming out that are all the same teen angst-filled thing, filled with the same cardboard characters, just with the names changed from book to book. Ask your teachers or librarians what they'd recommend, because most likely they'll steer you away from the crap.

You're here on Chris' board, so that means you've good pretty good taste. If you like fantasy, have you tried Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence? Very good stuff. If you like funny stuff like Chris' books, try the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, or Good Omens.

Like Chris said, the sterotypes are there because they are built from reality. If you have a story full of exceptions to the rule, your story gets lost, or your characters get lost, or you lose your plot in explaining how the jock is always nice to the unpopular kids and everyone loves him. Then again, the sympathetic jock is yet another stereotype, isn't he? His natural habitat is in the poorly penned romance stories of the geeky seventh grade outcast. His counterpart usually shows up after said writer gets her heart publicly, humiliatingly broken by her jock-crush. Enter the mean jock whom the main female character makes ever-so-jealous when she brings an even cuter, jockier guy to the prom and they usurp Jock #1 and the head cheerleader for the homecoming crown.

No, no, I didn't write those, but people in my creative writing class sure did. I cornered the market on the super magical/beautiful/tough girl (who always had a snappy comeback) whose father was super evil but she worked for the good side, only to finally confront her father and get the big "I'm evil except when it comes to you, so now in the last five minutes of life I'll redeem myself for you" speech. Oh yes, it was such utter crap. A different kind of escapism. I look back at that stuff and cringe. But I've learned from that - what was cliche, what not to do.

In your own writing, well, I guess the only advice I have is this: if you think you're falling into that trap, stop and take a look at the character. If you can, flesh him or her out - who are they, why are they acting the way they do, what do they want? Some of the best villains I've ever read have been likable characters because the author gets into their heads. If your goth character is angsty and misunderstood, is she doing it to fit in with the goth crowd, or is there something deeper than acting angsty because it's cool? However, sometimes the cheerleaders are just rude because they can be. No need to explain she's mean to the goth kids because she's cooler, richer and more popular than they are - that's a given. If she's mean to the goth kids because they made fun of her first, well, now you've got a backstory.

The fact that you recognize it is a good sign. Keep writing - even if you look back at what you've written later on and hate it, you learn from it.
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Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 6:14 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
Ferrit Leggings



Joined: 29 Mar 2004
Posts: 2658
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Stereotyping is something that lazy people do sometimes and there are times when it is done on purpose. Without Holden in Catcher on the Rye we would not have the disillusioned youth. Vonnegut gave us Billy Pilgrim the lanky and geeky hero and Mark Twain gave us Jim in Huck Finn which is one of the most misunderstood novels in history. If you use a stereotype use it well to make a point with your character but remember satire and humour is something that comes naturally through writing and life.

Jim in Huckleberry Finn was not as stereotypical as most think. Sure the Ďní word is used a couple hundred times. Someone counted but I canít remember who many there were. The character of Jim was on the surface a stereotype with the language that he used and his demeanour but so was Huck. Jim was another anti-hero. What bothered people in the past about that character was not the Ďní word it was how he was portrayed. Jim was more of a father figure to Huck than anyone else in the story. The ending lost a lot of people today but it was a reflection on society and the way it was. Most of the white people in the book were shown as swindlers and con-artists. But then there was Jim who was looking out for Huck the way a father would. Twain turned it around and made Jim an African American a hero in a time when that was unheard of. But then there is the ending which turns many people off when Huck and Tom got together and acted horribly toward Jim. This was stereotypical behaviour in the world during that time and Mark Twain wrote about it. It wasnít a stereotype because it was true that white people treated African American badly back then.

Anyone that has even been through the south knows this. Was that a stereotype? Sure it was and many people will probably call me on it and say that it wasnít right. But is it true? No, it isnít but most people know that the point is that the evidence of slavery and poor treatment of African Americans is there and is still there today but it is still not true. Not all southern people treated or treat African Americans badly. Some did and some didnít. Sweeping statement can get you into trouble and over-characterizations can as well. Not all teenagers are spotty and angry like Holden Caulfield just like when he made the statement about old people smelling like Vicks Rub. Not all old people smell like that.

As for the rude cheerleader, the soccer moms, the stressed single mom, and the rude relatives, well you can use them the way Mark Twain did and make them into something else like he did with Jim. But be careful what you write when you do that. The rude cheerleader makes an easy and knowable character because I think everyone knows at least one rude cheerleader. The same is with the stressed single mom, rude relative and so on. They are recognizable to people so they are comfortable characters. It is easy to pigeonhole someone or something but it takes a lot of guts to turn that around and change it.

Roald Dahl did it with his portrayal of the Trunchbull in Matilda and relatives in James and the Giant Peach. The difference is that he went overboard with the characterizations for the use of humour. He took the stereotype of the wicked schoolmaster and made it funny and who didnít laugh when Matilda got revenge on her father? JK Rowling did it with McGonagall and Snape in Harry Potter. She made them the typical teachers that are strict. Each is sort of an opposite of each other but still similar to what most would see as a typical teacher.

The best thing to do is write and write some more. You will find your use for your characters when you find the voice behind your writing and that takes a lot of writing. But the best thing to do is tell a story while you are writing and write with purpose. Chris has said it many times that one of the keys to writing is to make sure there is a reason behind each scene in your story.

I hope this helps you and good luck with your writing.

Ta,
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Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 6:33 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
John



Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 521
Location: Massachusetts
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I know what you mean about stereotyping.
As a gay, born again, hasidic,, transexual, republican eskimo you can imagine how often I get pigeonholed.

You know, that old chestnut.



Sorry, couldn't help it.
Welcome to the board Batesy!
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Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 9:34 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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How a 13 year old reads your advice:

boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word
boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word
boring word, boring word, boring word, FUCKTARD, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, ASSHAT, boring word, boring, word, GOOD FOR YOU, boring word, boring word, NAKED, boring word, boring word, boring word, MONEY, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, HALO 2 IS OUT, SWEET! boring word...

Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 9:56 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lib



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 3423
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Quote:
Posted by Chris: How a 13 year old reads your advice:

boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word
boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word
boring word, boring word, boring word, FUCKTARD, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, ASSHAT, boring word, boring, word, GOOD FOR YOU, boring word, boring word, NAKED, boring word, boring word, boring word, MONEY, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, boring word, HALO 2 IS OUT, SWEET! boring word...


And it be like that until they're at least in their twenties (I speak from experience). Laughing
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Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:02 pm   View user's profile Send private message
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
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Location: Massachusetts
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Quote:
From Chris and Lib: (Chris' part) HALO 2 IS OUT, SWEET! boring word... (Lib's part) And it be like that until they're at least in their twenties (I speak from experience).


My husband's 27. While he has yet to *buy* Halo 2, I've had the release date memorized for months. Not that I'm one to talk: Half-Life 2 comes out 11/16! Sweet! Wink
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Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:26 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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I love Halo. Have to wait for the PC version of Halo 2.


Wanna see what a bunch of bored drunken gamers can do with a little creativity and a lot of time?

http://www.redvsblue.com/home.php

An entire TV show "filmed" with the Halo game. Someone may have posted this in here before. The interesting thing is that all of the characters look alike, yet they have distinct personalities. (I'm desperately trying to tie this to this writing thread because I feel sort of sleazy discussing computer games in this forum.

Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:30 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
mister



Joined: 05 Jul 2004
Posts: 301
Location: brooklyn
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heh, the dvd's for second season RVB feature the best line they didn't work into the show...


at one point, Church says "God! I can't stand this! If I suffer any more Mel Gibson's going to make a movie out of me."
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Post Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:51 pm   View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
John



Joined: 02 Mar 2004
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Location: Massachusetts
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Not only did I buy Halo2 the day it came out (I am 35 by the way, a respectable, contributing member of society), but I bought the special edition with the behind the scenes dvd. They had a whole segment on the Red Vs Blue show that was pretty funny.

Hey Chris, do you play Halo 1 online? I would so kick your ass. Razz
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Post Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:10 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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John wrote:
Not only did I buy Halo2 the day it came out (I am 35 by the way, a respectable, contributing member of society), but I bought the special edition with the behind the scenes dvd. They had a whole segment on the Red Vs Blue show that was pretty funny.

Hey Chris, do you play Halo 1 online? I would so kick your ass. Razz


I haven't been playing, lately, John, and I was never any good, but I play the PC version. I don't have an XBox. My handle was Ubertard.

Post Fri Nov 12, 2004 5:56 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
John



Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 521
Location: Massachusetts
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chris wrote:
John wrote:
Not only did I buy Halo2 the day it came out (I am 35 by the way, a respectable, contributing member of society), but I bought the special edition with the behind the scenes dvd. They had a whole segment on the Red Vs Blue show that was pretty funny.

Hey Chris, do you play Halo 1 online? I would so kick your ass. Razz


I haven't been playing, lately, John, and I was never any good, but I play the PC version. I don't have an XBox. My handle was Ubertard.


I play the pc version of Halo 1 and the XBOX version of Halo 2. My handle for Halo 1 was hachiman. You know I think I may have actually come across you playing before. I remember seeing Ubertard and gigglling. Had I known who it was I was running over in my warthog I would have at least tipped my hat or something.

There's nothing like video game violence to put a smile on your face Very Happy
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Post Fri Nov 12, 2004 7:37 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address
chris
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Yeah, I remember you. You are good. Not me. Although I did excell at running over people in the warthog and ghost. Now that you can jack vehicles, my only skill is obsolete.

Post Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:58 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
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