Thursday, January 13, 2022

Avoiding Stereotypes and Cliches in Writing

 


By Mindy Lawrence

The old woman had long black hair and wore a conical hat. She had a black cat named Esmeralda and friends she practiced with at midnight in the forest.  Tell me, is there any other kind of witch? Not according to many people.

Books, plays and movies all have a habit of stereotyping different groups. The writers who produce the words for these works sometimes use cliches and stereotypes to advance their stories. When this happens, characters become the same old same old, and not accurate. Every witch isn’t an old woman with warts in a black dress. She can be a he. She can be a scientist, or a teacher, or a mayor.

An archetype and a stereotype are not the same. An archetype is a template (prototype) on which to build your character. Stereotypes tend to show a lazy writer who is not sure how to let a character develop his/her own way. They are oversimplified, overused, and preconceived. These are generic and have no creative punch.
 
According to New York book Editors (https://nybookeditors.com/2019/04/6-tips-to-avoid-writing-cliched-characters/), you can do these things:

•    Focus on your characters origin story.
•    Deeply describe your characters.
•    Allow you character to bare more than one emotion.
•    Let your characters have motivation for their actions.
•    Show your character’s fears and flaws.
•    Give your characters strengths.

Make your characters more than one dimension. Flesh them out and make them breathe.


Interesting Articles Online:

6 Tips to Avoid Writing Cliched Characters
https://nybookeditors.com/2019/04/6-tips-to-avoid-writing-cliched-characters/

Stereotypes to Avoid When Writing your Next Book
https://www.bealubooks.com/avoid-stereotypes-when-writing/

3 Stereotypes to Avoid
https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/writing/fiction/w/character-development/2874/3-stereotypes-to-avoid---article

The 8 Worst Cliches in Fiction
https://ryanlanz.com/2016/06/02/the-8-worst-cliches-in-fiction/

Strong Female Character Cliches to Avoid (In Writing and Beyond)
https://samanthaheuwagen.com/strong-female-character-cliches-to-avoid-in/

How to Write Diverse Characters (without Stereotypes)
https://pshoffman.com/character-creation/write-diverse-characters/

How to Write Non Stereotypical Characters
https://www.wikihow.com/Write-Non-Stereotypical-Characters

5 Ways to  Break Stereotypes in your Writing
https://www.inspiredlinesediting.com/blog/5-ways-to-break-stereotypes-in-your-writing


Mindy Lawrence is a writer, ghost blogger, and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over 24 years and moved to Farmington in 2020.

She proofread the Sharing with Writers newsletter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and wrote “An Itty-Bitty Column on Writing” there for ten years. She has been published in Writers' Digest magazine and interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered.



5 comments:

Karen Cioffi said...

Mindy, great tips on avoiding stereotypes and cliches in writing. I love the definition of the difference between archetype and a stereotype.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Karen and Mindy, this may be the most perfect paragraph (and most needed!) that I have seen in a long time!

“ An archetype and a stereotype are not the same. An archetype is a template (prototype) on which to build your character. Stereotypes tend to show a lazy writer who is not sure how to let a character develop his/her own way. They are oversimplified, overused, and preconceived. These are generic and have no creative punch.”

Thank you!!!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Terry Whalin said...

Mindy,

Thank you for these important tips and resources to avoid cliches and sterotypes. As editors we are looking for originality and the unexpected in spite of how Solomon told us there is nothing new under the sun.

Terry
author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition)

Rosi said...

Thanks for a terrific post. I love all the links. I will be posting your link on my blog.

Karen Cioffi said...

Rosi, we appreciate posting our link on your blog! Thank you!

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