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Start writing fiction: characters and stories
Start writing fiction: characters and stories

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5.2.3 Challenging expectations

Figure 7

The challenge now is to write your stereotype in a more complicated fashion. Gauging your characters in terms of stereotypes and considering ways to make them more complex, and offering more nuanced detail about them, will help make your characters more life-like.

Activity 5.1 Creating a complex character

Part 1

Write a brief scene, around 300–500 words, in your notebook, in which you portray a character in a complex way, going against the usual expectations for such a character.

You could:

  • take one of the stereotypes mentioned by Novakovich (shifty-eyed thief, forgetful professor, etc.)
  • or use one of your own
  • or use one of the examples listed in Enriching stereotypes (headmaster, manager, librarian or flirt).

Part 2

Consider the character scene you have just written, and share your thoughts with other writers if you can.

Here are some questions to consider and/or discuss:

  • What sorts of stereotypes did you use?
  • What sorts of methods did you and other writers use to make the character go against expectations?
  • Do you, and other writers, think all of these methods were successful or did some characters remain typical?
  • What were the most and least successful methods?
  • Which stereotypes were used most commonly as starting points?