View Full Version : Stereotypes
September 24th, 2006, 10:55 AM
i recently gave my friends a story to read and i got quite a lot of feedback saying that the characters in it should be described more as pretty/handsome. For example there was a male elf named rogue who i described as having long, dark hair and pale skin. Apparently, the hero has to be handsome and strong for them to feel a connection to him and same for the female characters unless they're evil... and blah blah blah. The trouble is i really don't want to write the perfect, tall, superior to human, elf hero and the incredibly pretty female sidekick. So what's more important, my originality as a writer, or what the reader thinks the character should look like... advice please...:confused:
September 24th, 2006, 10:58 AM
Stereotypes Suck (with a capital s, thats how bad they are) in my opinion. I say if you want your hero to be ugly then do it. If you want the heroin to be deformed, do it. I think perfect people belong in fairy tales not fantasy. Thats just my opinion.
September 24th, 2006, 11:04 AM
So your saying stick to my writing morals??? But what about the reader? maybe i should do a poll to see what people think i should do???
to stereo type or not to stereo type that is the question. Kay, please see stereotype or not to stereotype poll thread...
September 24th, 2006, 11:24 AM
I would take the feedback from your readers with a grain of salt. It sounds to me like, for whatever reason, they just aren't connecting with your characters. The reason they give is that the characters aren't pretty enough, but maybe that's just what they've come to expect. Literature is filled with heroic characters that aren't pretty. In fact, often, a character's imperfections are what connect the reader to the character. It's pretty easy to sympathize with a character who is shunned because of his ugliness, or who is jealous of her better-looking friend who seems to glide through life with ease.
My advice is to give your characters those human imperfections that we all have to deal with at one point or another. Give them a challenge to rise above. If your readers connect with your characters on this level, they won't care what the charaters look like.
September 24th, 2006, 11:33 AM
Perhaps your readers aren't seeing the effects of your characters when interacting with others in your story? Maybe it just means you need to show more depth in how their 'plainness' keeps them barely noticed or deformity/ugliness might get them shunned, and how this affects their personalities.
September 24th, 2006, 11:39 AM
I removed your poll, Elidhu, because it creates duplicate threads, and we really don't have to vote on this issue.
Some protagonists of stories are pretty. Some are not. It varies widely in the fantasy field. If your test readers can only be interested in your main characters if they are gorgeous, then I would suspect they don't read a great deal of fiction regularly or have only very limited interests in fantasy fiction. (They clearly haven't heard of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, for instance.) As such, they are perhaps not ideal test readers for you. That doesn't mean you can't find their feedback useful, but as the author, it's unlikely that you are going to be able to write a strong story following the dictates of readers that you disagree with. It would be as if you wanted to write a fantasy story and were told you had to write something else. They also may be reacting to something else unconsciously, as choppy said.
What you might want to do instead is study stories by other, published writers and see what sort of things they did -- stereotypically and not -- and then figure out what it is you want to do. But it sounds like you pretty much know that -- you want to keep the characters un-gorgeous.
September 24th, 2006, 12:39 PM
the hero has to be handsome and strong for them to feel a connection to him and same for the female characters unless they're evil...
...uh, I don't think so...
Pick your genre: they're all filled with examples of extraordinarily attractive villians/villanesses (an example that springs to mind readily is Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, and its many sequels: he's certainly the most popular villian of all time in that entire VG series).
Juxtaposition of outer-beauty and inner-ugliness is a pretty sharp literary technique if done well (I take it that your amigos would find "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" 'unrelatable'?) Conversely, outer-ugliness with a raidiating inner light is a sharp technique to provide to a hero (or anti-hero, if you prefer) a-la KatG's "Hunchback" example.
September 24th, 2006, 01:54 PM
Don't write what you really don't want to write. You'll end up writing a mediocre story (at best). Not because your friends advised you badly, but because you write against your own judgement. An importan writer's skill is to know when to reject criticism and risk reader disapproval.
Question aside, do you and your friends read the same books?
September 24th, 2006, 03:20 PM
Even if my characters were pretty or handsome, I would rarely use those words to describe them, those are rather weak descriptors. Pretty is different things to different people.
Maybe write something like this for your friends:
"He looked like he hadn't eaten in a week, and even then it must have been a meager meal. His hair was an oily mat which covered his head and shoulders. One eye looked like it had been torn out by an angry bear, the other was dark and bloodshot. His nose was hooked and crooked, his ears uneven and large. All in all, he was a very handsome man."
...In the end, the story is about what your character do, not how they look.
September 24th, 2006, 03:41 PM
I suppose also it's who you are writing for. If you're just writing a story in general, then your reader pals are expressing an honest reaction, but it's not necessarily typical and you will have to weigh it against your own judgement.
If, however, you are writing the story for these particular people, then obviously you have something of a problem. So perhaps the best thing would be to write a second story with pretty people. If you wanted to have some fun, you could write a second story with protagonists who are pretty people, but anti-heroes who do evil things and get away with it. If your friends then objected that the protagonist had to be both pretty and heroic, you could write a third story with pretty protagonists who are heroic and dumb as posts. If they insist the hero must be smart, you could write a fourth story with a heroic, pretty, smart protagonist who is also obnoxious and superior. And so forth. It might be a pretty handy writing exercise.
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