Thursday, March 05, 2015

Shake it up

by C. Michelle Jefferies

I have a side job as a content and structure editor. I see a lot of work pass across my desk both as paid and volunteer work. In that work see a lot of errors that could cost you as an author a chance of getting out of the slush pile. I thought it might be a good idea to give you an idea of some of the things I see.

Today I want to talk about stereotype. Especially when it comes to character.

When I say the word "rebellious" in regards to character how many of you thought of leather jackets, piercings, tattoos, and the stuff that goes with that?

How many of you thought about something different?

How many of you want to take a guess the percentage of people that thought of the first description?

How about the straight laced, straight A student? Or the CEO of a internet start-up?

What do you see? Is it what everyone else sees? This could be a problem.

Why? Because we are so used to the "normal" stereotype of any character that we gloss over that character and that makes it difficult for us to identify with them. We all ready know exactly what that character is like and is going to do and say. We tune out because its all been done before.

What if I told a story of a young boy who was as rebellious as they come but instead of leather he wore dress slacks and a different colored vest to school each day? A respected doctor who has both arms sleeve tattooed? A private school instructor who wears black suits, narrow ties and drives a powder blue Vespa? The hard nosed leather jacket wearing kid at school who spends his weekends doing crafts with, and reading books to kids at the children's hospital. Because his sister is living there, or maybe he just wants to be there to help out.

Do these characters appeal to you? Do you want to know more? This is where your investment into your characters and their characterization can pay off for you as a writer. This is your chance to create a character that not only will your reader resonate with. It will get the attention of those who are expecting you to do more of the same. It makes you as a writer stand out and get noticed.

As a writer don't give us the standard. Break the mold and really impress those who matter. Take the time to create good characters and you will see the results of your effort.

Oh and by the way? The Dr. with the sleeve tattoos? He's real.

What will you create?  

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