By: Jami Gold
Writing is often about finding a balance. Too much left in subtext can lead to confusion. Too much explanation can feel like an info dump or be too “on the nose.” Etc., etc.
With our characters, if we want our protagonists to seem heroic, they need to have strong traits. Yet at the same time, if we want our protagonists to be relatable, they need to have vulnerabilities. This is never an easy balance, especially when clichés fill our heads about what a “strong character” means.
Stereotypes of Strong Characters Don’t Allow for Diversity
On the heroine side, Ripley from Alien is often brought up as a “strong female character.” The stereotype, which I’ve written about before, refers mostly to physically violent, butt-kicking women. Furthermore, it assumes women who need rescuing—ever—can’t possibly be strong.
On the hero side, the stereotype is all-alpha-male-all-the-time. And not just a normal level of alpha male, oh no… In some genres, the expectation is for an amount of alpha-ness that reaches *sshole level—leading to the label “alpha-hole.” Again, the assumption is that heroes who are caring or sensitive—ever—couldn’t possibly be strong.
With all those clichés and stereotypes swirling about, it’s no wonder that we might struggle with making likable characters. There’s no room in those clichés for vulnerabilities that will make them relatable to the reader.
Whatever happened to “strong” meaning the ability to handle that which the character thinks they can’t? Whether they’re handling a situation, an emotion, a conflict, a weapon, a threat, or a relationship, there should be multiple ways of showing strength, or else we’ve lost a different kind of diversity among our characters.
Stereotypes Don’t Allow for Three-Dimensional Characters
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Read the full article HERE!
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