Avoid Stereotypes

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Characters different from our own experiences can easily become stereotyped. Unless you are writing a fictionalized story solely from the point of view of a character that is your fictionalized self, every writer at some point, will write a character who is not-them and will inadvertently rely on one or more stereotypes to get it done.

The single best way to avoid that is to remember beauty is only skin deep.

What do I mean by that? If you rely on depicting physical traits and behaviors (movement) to describe a person for the reader, you can easily slip into stereotype. BUT if you go deeper, show how they are acting out of specific motivation and individual goals, you will make your character unique from the first word about them to the last.

TROPES rely on stereotypes. But you can (and should) elevate a character or plot from the trope by giving unique inner depths and motivations to your MCs (Main characters are described as MC1 and MC2, but can be any pairing you like – M/M, M/F, F/F)

Option 1: Gender swap. Make MC1 the opposite gender from the trope, or a part of the LGBTQIA spectrum, etc. Do the same with MC2. Character motivations naturally shift when the person comes from a different walk of life than typical and has had a different growing up experience than typical. Corollary: Neurodiverse characters also can create powerful subtext in main character roles of a presumed trope.

Example: Batwoman series. The cowl went to a black lesbian woman who grew up on the streets instead of being part of the privileged white class, enriching the dynamics of how she was treated in her secret life vs real life in virtually every direction with allies and antagonists (and all the shades in between).

Option 2: Swap the power dynamic. Make the rich MC the hard-working second instead of MC2’s boss. If the circumstances that put the two MCs in each other’s path changes, the cause and effect of the story will necessarily play out differently.

Example: The Proposal. The marriage of convenience plot there is flipped around with the truly rich character being the underling.

Option 3: Change the point in life of the MCs. This is more than changes their ages, but that is part of it. Changing the stage of life from fresh-faced ingenue to divorced mother of three creates a whole cascade of character motivation differences.

Example: The Golden Child. Eddie Murphy’s character expects to be guarding some kid who is vulnerable, but this is flipped and the Wise One/Master trope (normally an old person) is actually the young kid.