1. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502

    Archetype vs. Stereotype

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JJ_Maxx, Oct 7, 2013.

    I am trying really hard to make my characters three-dimensional but I am finding my first instinct is usually a stereotype.

    For instance, in one of my recent RP posts, I created a character that was the popular kid in school, who comes from a wealthy, powerful family. He is followed around by a mindless entourage of lackies and is talk, dark and charismatic. Everyone knows he is going to graduate and become someone powerful and if he targets the lowly MC, watch out, he is ruthless and unforgiving.

    See? This has no depth. This person might as well be made of carboard. We've all seen this character before and we know who he is and what is going to happen to him.

    I also find myself making my MC's the apathetic loner/rebel who keeps everyone at a distance, but is really a kind person deep down.

    I mean, isn't Bilbo Baggins kind of a stereotype? The unwilling adventurer who ends up saving the world?

    So the question is, how do you turn a stereotype into a three-dimensional character that people will want to read about? Thoughts?
     
  2. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
    Offline

    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2013
    Messages:
    2,319
    Likes Received:
    743
    Location:
    Music Room #3
    He's a villain isn't he? He doesn't have to rescue kittens and hand out candy to be 3-dimensional. Maybe he acts the way he does because he is a sociopath. Or maybe he is SO evil that he killed a dog on purpose or something.
     
  3. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502
    Yes, he's a villain in the start, but then the MC kills him and the villain's father takes over as the villain. (Similar to Green Goblin/Hobgoblin in Spiderman) Which in itself may be cliche.

    Obviously, I need to change this character. Perhaps start with making him a her! But then she falls into the Mean Girls stereotype and I don't want that either. (The popular rich girl with no heart and mindless followers.)
     
  4. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    As I see it, Stereotypes exist for a reason.
    The issue is that a lot of people create Mary Stu or John Stu because they forget to add a reason to their existence and personality.

    What creates a 3D character is simply depth into their being.

    Richard Rhal from the Sword of Truth series is basically a White Knight type. However, through the books we learn of the past mistakes he made which molded him into who he is in the book.
    Cercei from A song of Ice and Fire might seem like an evil queen type but we learn about her stillborn, her love for her children, and her struggles which turned her into a bad person in the long run.

    So, if he is the rich perfect popular kid in school, it has to show in his character.
    None of those kids IRL became that way by pure luck. They struggle to get to the top and remain there.

    The loser, dark broody loners are usually a product of their environment and tend to develop pessimistic philosophies on life and their social sphere.
    Some become 'superior' and some just angsty but it's because their PoV changed how they deal.

    This is all things we, as a reader can relate, and we begin romanticizing the characters by relating and understanding their struggles.
     
    zabaar likes this.
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Archetypes are characters intended to represent a viewpoint. Stereotypes are characters who fall into a shallow mode because the author failed to add dimension.
     
    Burlbird likes this.
  6. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502
    Well, the issues is that, as a reader, a stereotype will make us feel comfortable, it fails to get us interested. At least that's what has been told to me.

    The issue is that a lot of his traits are pillars to his personality. Let's face it, if he's unattractive, he won't be popular. If he's not popular, why not?

    Maybe I need to give him something new. Maybe he's just a puppet for one of his lackey's who holds a terrible secret over his head?
     
  7. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    This is all my own opinion, so take it with a dosage of salt.

    Every character in a sense is a stereotype because we build them on traits and often a single trait.
    Such as "The eccentric mother" "The cruel business man" "the corrupt politician" and from those we branch out other traits and stories as to why they are like that.

    Remember kiddy books or older video games where the bad guy was "Evil" because he was "Evil"?
    Didn't need a reason.

    If you write a stereotype, people are going to read a stereotype.
    If you write a stereotype but give him reasons and depth, people will see them as an individual.

    Think like... Going to the bar or a out and about. You see a blond, pretty, loads of makeup, very revealing clothes, chewing bubble gum, pet chihuahua in her handbag.
    I can safely assume you're not gonna think "This is a smart and educated woman with dreams and feelings."

    As a writer, you can portray a character as such and people will fall back on their experiences and knowledge of what that character stereotype is.
    But, once you start talking about her, having her act and respond to her environment, the reader will start thinking differently about her.
     
  8. B93
    Offline

    B93 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2012
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    32
    A character should not be all good or all bad. Every character should have his flaws, good characteristics, and problems, and his actions should be motivated by his beliefs and needs in the situation he finds himself. Be consistent with that and your characters will not be cardboard cutouts.
     
  9. Mottahko
    Offline

    Mottahko Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Messages:
    133
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Ohio
    Just curious, is the popular kid Gavin from your flashback story?

    Anyway, you have to think, with so much writing being out there, it gets more and more difficult to have a character type not done before. You have to start looking into unusual mental diseases for inspiration. What's more important to bring characters to life is contrast. There are supporting characters that can be a bit more flat. But adding a few details even to them helps build empathy with them. For main characters, maybe the popular kid secretly hates it. Or maybe he used to then just got used to it. It's not so much their "type" as it is the how and why they are that type.
     
  10. B93
    Offline

    B93 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2012
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    32
    A character should not be all good or all bad. Every character should have his flaws, good characteristics, and problems. Characters must be have motivations for their actions, that follow from their beliefs, goals, needs, and the circumstances they find themselves in. Be consistent with those guidelines and your characters will not be cardboard cutouts.

    Sorry about the double. I didn't think I posted it at that stage of editing.
     
  11. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Oh, an archetype can be all good or all bad, or be neither. That's because an archetype character doesn't need to develop. He or she is there to represent an ideal or position. The archetype need not grow, provided that the archetype effects change in other characters,

    An example is Roarke of Fantasy Island. He doesn't develop. He is the puppet master who creates the tableau that bring about an epiphany in his clients. Whether he is good or evil is a matter of interpretation, though. Either he is an angel who illuminates their behavior and offers them a chance to redeem themselves, or he is a demon who offers temptation to them so they can damn themselves.

    Either way, the clients choose their own fate.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
    JJ_Maxx likes this.
  12. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502
    Hehe, yes! It was an example of a hastily-written character that I really only created to be the catalyst for Jansen to change. If my writing is a fine wine, then the RP is my light beer. I tend to get lazy in my RP posts, so sometimes I fall onto stereotypical characters. I didn't really have time in the flashback to flesh him out anyways. He's a throwaway character.
     
  13. Mottahko
    Offline

    Mottahko Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Messages:
    133
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Ohio
    Nothing wrong with using a stereo type if you can find a way to make them dynamic
     
  14. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    This is how I see it. If you are going to use a one dimensional character it should be by active choice, not by default.

    I have a couple in my novel, they are characters that have an impact on my protagonist, but they have a limited role in the story other than that impact. In addition I've allowed one of them (a jealous ex-girlfriend) to have a good side in order to change the predictable up a bit. But the reason for these characters is solely because of their impact on the MC.

    If the character plays a major role in a story, why make them so shallow? Do they not matter except as the villain? If they are a main character then my personal preference would be to flesh them out more. Take the bad guy, Rufus, in Octavia Butler's "Kindred", he is never morally redeemed, but he's still a complex character. Butler builds his character by showing us the people around him, his mother, father, the slave girl he grew up with and fell in love with, and his relationship with Dana, the story's main character. You pity Rufus, he pisses you off, and in the end he chooses selfish scumbag-ness rather than redemption.
     
  15. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    Even Hitler had his reasons. He was essentially trying to create his own Shangri-La, so from his POV, he was doing good, but we all know how things turned out, looking at his attempt from another POV. Essentially, his ends justified his means.

    That being said, your evil kid could act the way he does because of his background. Perhaps his father is very competitive and his relationship with his son is a constant competition intended to make the father feel better about himself, and when the son starts catching up, it creates clashes that end with the father putting down his son despite the son's improved performance (which might even be better than that of his dad's).
    This would mean there's lots of pressure on the kid, and while he has money and everything, his family doesn't tolerate failure. However, since their family is a proud one, the kid has to uphold a facsimile of strength and superiority, ignoring his true feelings for the sake of his family because he desperately wants to gain his father's acceptance. E.g. he might ridicule someone in front of others in order to strengthen his own social standing/image even though if it was just him, he wouldn't have done it, he might have even been friendly towards his "victim." I've met folks like that and sometimes they go so far with maintaining their image that their real self ends up buried so deep, it rarely sees the light of day.

    Just a thought.
     
    JJ_Maxx likes this.
  16. peachalulu
    Online

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Cogito and T. Trian make good points. In order for the characters to branch out of being stereotypes they have to be seen
    from all angles. They have to have baggage, reasons, frailties. I've lived with some people that you could call the popular types
    and others that you could call the loner types but it was always hard to label them because just when you thought you could, they'd
    do something to defy the label. One of the nastiest boys I knew in school was quite clever about keeping himself popular, despite
    his behavior. Though he'd verbal rip you to shreds one day or rough you up ( whatever his choice of attack ), the next day he'd
    include you in his circle of friend and talk to you as though truly interested in what you had to say. Everybody went out of their
    way to stay on his good side and keep him 'happy.'
     
  17. Keitsumah
    Offline

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2012
    Messages:
    3,279
    Likes Received:
    285
    Location:
    Nebraska
    call me ignorant, but i honestly do not know of very many stereotypes unless asked to list them (then i suddenly remember!). otherwise, i avoid them entirely.

    for me, i create my characters on a base trait: wisdom, guilt, rage, protectiveness, etc. and go from there. now you expect the wisdom part to immediately bring up the wise old man in your mind. To me, it actually brought up my very first character, Keitsumah, who was a young girl of fourteen who, though still a child, made very adult decisions because of her past (parents were kileld in a fire and she was left with her older brother to hunt and scavenge for survival). I didn't realize how un-stereotypical that actually was until just now. o_O but then we all surprise ourselves when our brains "think" ahead for us before we really realize it. (Long story...)

    Another example is Batos, the other MC in my book. You usually imagine a prince with his features to be tall, dark, handsome, charismatic, yada yada yada -BAM! I throw in the guilt key and it just unlocks a mother-load of stuff. You see dark, sad princes or perfect, happy ones. Guilty... never seen that kind yet lol

    Now i realize i am starting to ramble, but overall, read this if you cannot bear to read the previous: though stereotypes have never actually been a problem for me (at least to the point where i've noticed it) i would suggest throwing in mental traits when you create your characters in order to help shape them. Just as the examples show above, you take a regular stereotype and throw in something unusual. THAT breaks the pattern! :D
     
  18. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Give them pieces of yourself. Don Maas is big on this -- check out some of his books, such as Putting the Fire in Fiction (or something like that -- I don't have it in front of me.)
     
  19. DanM
    Offline

    DanM Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    6
    It's a tricky question - we are all aware of the various stereotypes from films and fiction (readers especially), and it's hard to not reach for the classic paradigms when we need to pull a character from somewhere. For villains/antagonists this is especially true.

    I remember reading somewhere that a hard and fast way to get around this is to give the character a trait that seems contradictory - for example, the racist thug with hate tattooed on his knuckles who can quote every poem by Byron.

    Aside from that, maybe try to think up some interesting/original details for the character - some mannerism, or physical attribute that's both unique and telling.
     
  20. DanM
    Offline

    DanM Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    6
    Whenever I try and think of a telling detail, well described, I always think of this John Updike line:

    "She didn't look down, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima-donna legs. She came down a little hard on her heels, as if she didn't walk in her bare feet much, putting down her heels and then letting the weight move along to her toes as if she were testing the floor with every step, putting a little deliberate extra action into it."

    I mean, if you can't picture her from that action, the way she walks, and just know something about the kind of girl she is...
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  21. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,345
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    Nothing wrong with stereotypes, actually, because many people are carbon copies of one another way. What plot can do as serve as a perturbation to make those stereotypes become interesting. Nancy is your perfect housewife. Hourglass figure. Heels. Mans the kitchen. Polite to a t. Then she finds out her husband is living a double life. Now she's taking anti depressant's and spending more time than she should be cutting carrots with a butcher's knife.
     
  22. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    @Keitsumah I do the exact same thing.
    I pick a main aspect for them for whatever purpose that character serves and then branch out from there.
     
  23. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502
    @Keitsumah - How do you feel about the usage of the 'dead parents' trope? Do you think it's over done?
     
  24. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
    Offline

    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2013
    Messages:
    2,319
    Likes Received:
    743
    Location:
    Music Room #3
    It depends on when it's used. Can you go more into depth?
     
  25. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502
    Well, it's usually the young orphan that loses their parents and then becomes hardened/wise/streetsmart, etc...

    Also popular is the hero having only a loving mother and the heroine having only a father.

    If you look close enough, dead parents like up pretty fast.
     

Share This Page