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Part II: Stereotypes in Writing or Reading: Love Them or Not?

 

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A long while back I made a fun post about stereotypes and received some good feedback, some positive and some negative. I wrote that post long before I had the idea for this new series. Many new readers have come along since that time and I was wondering how you feel about stereotypes.

There are those who are deeply offended by stereotypes. I am a most liberal-minded person, supporting both a diverse population and multifaceted lifestyles. I am seriously opposed to discrimination. Yet, there is a part of me that recognizes stereotypes exist for a reason. They are how we categorize typical characteristics. Now, those of us who like to think we are all unique don’t always appreciate that practice.

I hear author experts give guidance to aspiring writers to avoid stereotypes so as not to be cliché. Our characters should be profoundly unique and original to demonstrate our clever creativeness. But I think stereotypes are useful in creating a mental image of a person without going into elaborate detail. Sure, give your stereotyped image his/her own voice, behaviors that are specific to that individual. Is it a cardinal sin to pluck a stereotype out of a comedian’s routine and develop a novel character?

My crime series is filled with stereotypes, deliberately. It is not a comedy caper series, but the stereotypes do provide for some comic relief in an otherwise serious story. There is a transsexual biracial woman, a sweet, smart, petite Asian girl, a loner P.I., biker dudes, a nurse, a gay neighbor, a dragon lady, a sugar daddy and his trophy wife, a redneck, a philandering politician, a flaming fag, a few cougars, a couple of Jamaican Rastafarian-type dudes, a few gamblers…I could go on with this. I’m not speaking of racial profiling in society or condemning/degrading any group. These are fictional characters.

I am sorry if my words have caused offense. My point is; with these few words I have already created images in your mind of this cast of characters without revealing too very much about them. Sure, my characters are unique in that they have been carefully created to play their roles in the story. They have their own voice and their own individual identities. I was not looking for an easy way out, but they fit the story set in a very diverse community well. And there are also characters in the story that I have created specifically to defy the stereotypical images people have.

For an example of how these images sale books, the rocket scientist specifically looks for regional authors who write about bumbling criminals. The wacko, goofy, redeeming villain grabs his attention in a book blurb every time.

That being said, how do you feel about stereotypes?

Would you be able to enjoy a book that has them?

Would you deliberately avoid reading a book if you knew it was laced with them?

It is for marketing reasons that I ask your opinions.

Reminder, Red Clay and Roses remains on sale for 99 cents for the digital copy on Amazon through Saturday, July 12th. All proceeds are matched and go to the Russell Home for atypical children.

Stereotypes in Writing and Reading: Love them or Not?

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I like to think that I am a non-racist individual that dislikes prejudice in any form, and then I write.  When I write, in developing my characters I can’t help but depend on stereotypes.  Do you think they are derogatory? I like to think that I do so without the element of Hate, and that makes it okay.  Like the book and the movie “The Help”The help by  Kathryn Stockett, I used the stereotype of the Southern maid, a big boisterous buxom black woman, who smelled of baby powder, sweat and peppermint.  Hannah’s nanny, who accidentally and erroneously taught her why black people were black.  It was funny.

Like comedians:  We writers sometimes depend on these images to develop our characters into real and believable immediately recognizable images.  Moreover, I don’t believe that society dictates that to us in our everyday lives, as much as visual media demonstrates these images over and over again until they are fixed in our brains.  We, as writers are trying to place or fix a visual image in our reader’s mind relying on their own imagination.

You do know that if I said, “Gangsta dude,” you would immediately conjure an image a of black guy with his pants dropping down and his underwear showing, shooting hand gestures and wearing bling with his ball cap placed backwards on his head or a hoodie on.

Likewise if I said, “Flapper”, you might immediately conjure an image of a lady in the roaring twenties without further explanation.

Swedish cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson: Check him out
Swedish cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson: Check him out

Sometimes, I try to deliberately cause the reader NOT to get a stereotypical image in their mind, because I am trying to go in another direction.  This can be more challenging than writing the stereotype.  Do you depend on stereotypes or try to avoid them?

I made two lists of stereotypical images of Southern men and women.  Does your mind automatically distinguish the sometimes subtle differences or would they have to be explained? Do you get a visual image?

Southern Men:                                                                       Southern Women:

1)      Swamp man                                                              1) Redneck mama

2)      African-American                                               2) White trash/trailer trash

3)      Redneck                                                                     3) Hillbilly Queen

4)      Hillbilly                                                                   4) Southern Belle

5)      Mountain man/Mountaineer                            5) Steel magnolia

6)      Good ole boy                                                             6) Swamp Witch

7)      Southern gentleman                                             7) Proper Southern lady

8)      Southern guy                                                            8) Good ole girl

9)      Black Sambo                                                              9) African Princess

10)   Flaming Fag (like Chablis, in                       10) Somebody’s Child

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)         11) Church lady

11)   Dirt farmer                                                               12) Holy roller/Biblethumper

12)   City boy                                                                     13) Island girl

13)   Cracker Jack

When you write or read to you feel facilitated by stereotypes or hampered by them?

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