The cliché is a cliché for a reason: we are very much like snowflakes. Every person has their own unique patterns, but it takes a microscope to see those elaborate patterns and intricacies. From a distance, our eyes are drawn to the fluffy white snow, the slick surface of ice. Only under certain circumstances do we notice the crystals.
In people, it is remarkably similar. Stereotypes exist, and on the surface may have some grain of truth to them. However, upon closer examination, most of them end up showing what they really are-just a blanket of monochromatic drudgery, a glossing over of the details that truly contribute to a character.
If you do not like being restricted to a stereotype, why do that to your characters?
Too often, it is easy to disagree with a way of life and therefore rely on the ideas society has pressed. Instead, shift some focus to the “why” they are exactly who they are.
No One Thinks Themselves the Villain
We all want the villains to be evil. It’s easy to hate someone who enjoys making life harder for someone else. But do you really, truly believe when they go to bed at night, they go to sleep thinking, “I did such a good job being a jerk today”?
Some of the best villains thought themselves to be heroes. Voldemort wanted to conquer death. President Snow wanted to lead his country. Scar wanted to take the throne.
Villains are people, and people aren’t delineated as good or evil. Though actions may be questionable, the thought process behind them are rarely out of sheer malice.
Region Does Not Define Personality Traits
Can we just completely abandon this notion that all people within a region are exactly like one another?
Southern culture values tradition significantly more than some northern areas. In some ways, this sense of tradition can be constraining. To some, the bounds are too tight and the culture itself does not allow for improvement. For others, the culture allows structure within which they can feel free.
Here’s a newsflash: Other people probably think you’re too narrow minded, too.
I grew up in an area that values innovation and creativity. I also grew up in an area that values supporting your neighbor and taking care of each other. My mother is in Washington. My father is in Texas. I can say with absolute conviction that, though the culture and values of the area may be different, depth of personality, community, and the drive to succeed are always present.
“Goody-Two-Shoes” Does Not Mean Hero
Edward Cullen, guilty of grooming his girlfriend for an eternity of controlling behavior. Albus Dumbledore, master manipulator. Hans, Arendale’s power hungry suitor. What do they all have in common?
Their surface is pure. Their motives are murky.
Of course, the goody-two-shoes will still see themselves as the hero. And maybe you do, too. That doesn’t mean every move they make is morally right. Moral ambiguity can make certain situations more interesting, but it can also make said situations perilous.
Frankly, the “good” villains are my favorite villains.
Disabled and Disposable Are Not Synonyms
This is a personal pet peeve.
Let’s be real for a moment here. In an apocalypse situation, most people with disabilities are screwed. For me, personally, I might make it a while if I’m with a decent group, but between the joint dislocations and high pain levels, I wouldn’t make it too long.
Killing off the disabled character for shock value is a cheap shot. It’s unfair to play on emotions like that, especially when society as a whole has a tendency to protect those we view as “weak.” For the most part, this encompasses the elderly, children, women, and the disabled.
In many ways, though, allowing other people to dictate what strength means is detrimental. Disabilities do have a profound impact on people, but they also shape their character. Let that cane-using 25-year-old chemistry major survive the first wave of zombies. Let’s see where they go.
Ask Before You Assume
Newsflash of the night: You’re NOT an expert. Really. You’re not.
For everything you know, there are thousands of things you don’t know a thing about. For instance:
I am Native American, Irish, and Austrian. I don’t know much about Norwegian culture, which is where my fiancé’s family is from. If I want to know about that, I ask him.
I remember 9/11, but I was 6 years old when it happened. If I want the details about how the country responded, I ask someone who remembers.
I have never been outside of the United States, but that doesn’t mean I understand everything about the Revolutionary War. If I have questions, I can head to the library.
There is no shame in asking questions. Experience is limited. One person can only have the experiences of ONE person. Considering there are 7 billion people on Earth right now, and there have been people inhabiting this planet for ages, imagine all those moments you will never know for yourself.
Ask. Ask. Ask.
There is no shame in wanting to know.