How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

It can be really hard to avoid stereotypes in characterization when you’re setting up your novel. A stereotype is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”

We all use stereotypes in everyday life, whether at the grocery store or filling up at the gas station or at a scientific symposium. For better or worse, they help us categorize the world around us.

But they can also get us into trouble when we forget to allow the people around us to be larger and more complex than we expect them to be. Stereotypes are so embedded in our conscious and subconscious that they end up on the pages of our novels before we really have a chance to process why we have chosen them.

Reasons to avoid stereotypes

These are a few reasons why you should avoid stereotypes in your characterizations.

  • They are unrealistic. People are wide and varied in their looks, interests, and self-expression. Fiction does not always have to reflect reality, of course, but if anything it should push the boundaries and create more options instead of less.
  • They are limiting. Once you decide to allow a character to conform to a stereotype, there’s not much left for them to do. You’re stuck having them act according to that stereotype instead of allowing yourself room to write the story outside those limits.
  • Stereotypes mean flat characters. There’s nothing to a stereotyped character. No motive, no real depth or dimension to him.
  • And once they stop having depth, your characters become uninteresting. Why would you want your characters to be predictable and boring?

If you want your novel to be memorable, you’re going to have to take some time to examine your characters and root out as many stereotypes as you can. Here are four ways to avoid using stereotypes in your writing to create rounder, more realistic characters.

4 ways to avoid stereotypes

  1. Spend some time people watching, and especially people that are different than you. I know this sounds a little stalker-like, but if you take the time to observe (or better yet, get to know) people who are remarkably different from you, you’ll begin to see how varied their actions, interests, body types, and style preferences are. Inform your writing by learning as much as you can about the people you are trying to portray and writing them as realistically as possible.
  2. Challenge convention. If you can’t find people similar to the characters you are writing, that’s ok. Take a few minutes to ask yourself why you portray each character the way you do, what purpose they serve in the story, and whether your story would be better served if that character did something completely contrary to what people expect. Why constrict your writing and your characters’ potential by forcing them to conform to a specific trope?
  3. Create rounder characters. The definition of a stereotype speaks for itself. It’s oversimplified–a caricature. You owe it to your characters to make them as deep and complex as possible. Again, this comes back to why you portray a character a certain way. Ask yourself if there’s a deeper, more meaningful way to describe that character or their actions.
  4. Make your characters unforgettable. How do you do that? By having them do unexpected things. If a character is flat and unimaginative, if he/she/it conforms to the expectations of your readers in style, language, and actions, then he/she/it will probably not leave much of an impression. Readers remember characters that shake up their world and challenge their preconceived notions of reality.

Look beyond the stereotype

Discovering stereotypes and conscientiously eliminating them from your writing is hard! It requires that you do some deep self-reflection as well as some heavy developmental editing. But your writing will benefit so greatly from the exercise. And your readers will deeply appreciate the effort.

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

When considering female stereotypes, the publishing arena hasn’t been kind to its female characters. Discarded in favor of male characters, they are also utilized in a manner that is nothing short of insulting. Admittedly, female characters, especially protagonists, have come quite a long way over the years. However, it will take a while before they can begin attracting the same fair treatment as their male counterparts.

Female Stereotypes to Avoid

Female stereotypes have run their course in literature, and it’s high time writers learn to expel them from their works. The easiest way to avoid female stereotypes is to know what they are in the first place. ChatEbooks lists down some of the most common female stereotypes that you may want to avoid.

The Brave Chick

These are women that brought nothing to the table besides weeping and waiting for the male hero to save them. To remedy this, authors began writing the butt-kicking female protagonist, which has now become a stereotype all on its own.

The problem – writers have become so determined to stray from the idea of the soft female hero. The answer – they have essentially begun writing men with breasts. A female protagonist can both be gun-savvy and feminine and her depth should be embraced not sacrificed. So showcase her personality and avoid a cold, bland characterization. The bottom line – the solution for making your female characters strong is NOT to make them as male as possible.

The Mary Sue

Mary Sue is a concept popular in literature several decades back and has slowly begun to make a comeback. Such female characters are often kind to a fault, forgiving in all situations and beloved by everyone they meet. They can do no wrong which makes their unrealistic nature unrelatable to readers. Mary Sues are not real characters. Try making sure your female protagonist is balanced and is as talented and capable as her peers.

The Anti-Mary Sue

Writers should avoid the anti-Mary Sues of female stereotypes as well. The anti-Mary Sue is often characterized as someone weak, boring, plain/ugly, clumsy, uninteresting , and the list goes on and on. Authors should know it’s perfectly okay to create a strong and powerful woman and not bask in her off-putting characteristics.

The Dream Girl

Proving particularly irksome these days, even more irritating than a Mary Sue, is the Dream Girl. This is the female individual whose sole purpose is to support the men in her life. Dream girls often have quirky attributes that endear them to every man they meet. They have no particular objectives of their own and their lives instead revolve around the male protagonist of the story. These female characters are, on a whole, irrelevant as distinct individuals to a story. In the end, they do not make for very interesting reading.

The Damsel in Distress

The most hated of female stereotypes in literature today is the Damsel in Distress. She is a character who exists only to be rescued by the male protagonist. This means they spend the entire story entangled in predicaments that only the male hero can save them from. Damsels in Distress have no relevance today, and its inclusion is bound to turn a lot of people off.

The Slut

The Slut is probably the only female stereotype that is as despised as the Damsel in Distress. The majority of female characters in literature today skirt this stereotype in combination with other stereotypes. This includes the crone (who hates everyone and only exists to cause harm). As well as the Queen Bee (who has an alpha personality and dominates in business and social settings). This stereotype persists largely because of certain erroneous perceptions about women that still persist today. Not surprisingly, however, this stereotype enjoys considerable interest among some readers, especially men.

Female stereotypes paint their female characters using a single trait or attribute. On the contrary, real people embody a variety of personalities and traits. Writing your female characters as though they are real people will make them more relatable to your readers.


DEADLINE: Thursday, April 15th, 2021

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

Writers and readers talk so often about strong female characters that the phrase has become a publishing buzzword. Writers try to entice literary agents by using a strong woman character as a hook in their query letters. Readers create lists of books that feature strong women characters. Writer’s Relief knows that strong women characters are beloved and highly sought-after by book-publishing professionals—and for good reason!

From superheroes to career women to stay-at-home moms, strong women come in many forms. Here are some tips to help you create a believable, well-rounded, strong female protagonist.

How To Write A Strong Female Character For Your Story Or Novel

A worthy goal. Big, memorable characters have big, memorable goals. The bigger the goal, the stronger your strong female character will have to be to achieve it. But don’t think that her goal necessarily has to be noble and righteous! A strong woman character can be saving the world from an alien plague, strong-arming her kids into the Ivy Leagues, or robbing a bank just to thumb her nose at the cops.

A great adversary. In some storylines, you may want to give your character an archnemesis—the meaner and more powerful, the better. Your protagonist’s strengths become clearer in the face of conflict and contrast.

Some imperfections. Strong women don’t have to be paragons of virtue and beauty in order to make a meaningful impression. Your strong woman character will earn readers’ empathy when she has a full complement of human emotions, problems, and challenges. Learn more about how to write characters that people will care about.

A meaningful character growth arc. Even a strong woman character needs room to grow within a story arc. Don’t skimp on her emotional development. What does she learn? How does she change? And what does it mean when she does?

Realistic physical features. There are lots of different ways to be beautiful; let your strong female character stand out by giving her physical attributes that mirror the real world. And if she’s going to be supernaturally beautiful, be cognizant of how her freakish good looks have real-life complications so that we mortals can (sort of) relate.

And Finally, Here’s How To Avoid Clichés When Writing Strong Women Characters

Start from square one. In a culture that’s saturated with stories, a person could consider almost any defining character element as overly familiar. It’s all been done—and done again. To write a character who is more than a jumble of seen-it-before clichés, it’s important to approach your characters with deep respect and understanding. Commit to writing a complete, well-rounded character—even if some of her traits feel familiar.

Look around. Be sure you’re paying close attention to how female characters are portrayed in stories (or, how they’re NOT portrayed and are totally MIA). Too often, strong female characters are relegated to being sidekicks and afterthoughts—complements to male protagonists. Or strong female leads are portrayed as embodiments of traditional gender role fantasies. To avoid falling into clichés, you’ve got to know a female stereotype when you see it (and know how you feel about it). And that means paying attention.

Let your character surprise you. The best characters sometimes have traits that seem unlikely—but are in fact totally right. For example, your character could be a devout and upstanding mother who sneaks a smoke behind the garage, or a teacher’s-nightmare teen who spends detention doing algebra because it soothes her busy brain. Dig deep to discover your character’s darkest secrets—and you’re more likely to create a well-rounded character.

Question: What clichés of female characters do you see most often? Which ones drive you nuts?

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

When considering female stereotypes, the publishing arena hasn’t been kind to its female characters. Discarded in favor of male characters, they are also utilized in a manner that is nothing short of insulting. Admittedly, female characters, especially protagonists, have come quite a long way over the years. However, it will take a while before they can begin attracting the same fair treatment as their male counterparts.

Female Stereotypes to Avoid

Female stereotypes have run their course in literature, and it’s high time writers learn to expel them from their works. The easiest way to avoid female stereotypes is to know what they are in the first place. ChatEbooks lists down some of the most common female stereotypes that you may want to avoid.

The Brave Chick

These are women that brought nothing to the table besides weeping and waiting for the male hero to save them. To remedy this, authors began writing the butt-kicking female protagonist, which has now become a stereotype all on its own.

The problem – writers have become so determined to stray from the idea of the soft female hero. The answer – they have essentially begun writing men with breasts. A female protagonist can both be gun-savvy and feminine and her depth should be embraced not sacrificed. So showcase her personality and avoid a cold, bland characterization. The bottom line – the solution for making your female characters strong is NOT to make them as male as possible.

The Mary Sue

Mary Sue is a concept popular in literature several decades back and has slowly begun to make a comeback. Such female characters are often kind to a fault, forgiving in all situations and beloved by everyone they meet. They can do no wrong which makes their unrealistic nature unrelatable to readers. Mary Sues are not real characters. Try making sure your female protagonist is balanced and is as talented and capable as her peers.

The Anti-Mary Sue

Writers should avoid the anti-Mary Sues of female stereotypes as well. The anti-Mary Sue is often characterized as someone weak, boring, plain/ugly, clumsy, uninteresting , and the list goes on and on. Authors should know it’s perfectly okay to create a strong and powerful woman and not bask in her off-putting characteristics.

The Dream Girl

Proving particularly irksome these days, even more irritating than a Mary Sue, is the Dream Girl. This is the female individual whose sole purpose is to support the men in her life. Dream girls often have quirky attributes that endear them to every man they meet. They have no particular objectives of their own and their lives instead revolve around the male protagonist of the story. These female characters are, on a whole, irrelevant as distinct individuals to a story. In the end, they do not make for very interesting reading.

The Damsel in Distress

The most hated of female stereotypes in literature today is the Damsel in Distress. She is a character who exists only to be rescued by the male protagonist. This means they spend the entire story entangled in predicaments that only the male hero can save them from. Damsels in Distress have no relevance today, and its inclusion is bound to turn a lot of people off.

The Slut

The Slut is probably the only female stereotype that is as despised as the Damsel in Distress. The majority of female characters in literature today skirt this stereotype in combination with other stereotypes. This includes the crone (who hates everyone and only exists to cause harm). As well as the Queen Bee (who has an alpha personality and dominates in business and social settings). This stereotype persists largely because of certain erroneous perceptions about women that still persist today. Not surprisingly, however, this stereotype enjoys considerable interest among some readers, especially men.

Female stereotypes paint their female characters using a single trait or attribute. On the contrary, real people embody a variety of personalities and traits. Writing your female characters as though they are real people will make them more relatable to your readers.

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

Coming up with characters can be as simple as looking to our subject matter and asking ourselves who might be expected to be involved. But that only creates the expected characters – predictable and uninteresting.

Building characters that are intriguing, unusual, and memorable is a different task altogether. Here’s a method you can use to break away from standard characters and sculpt them into far more interesting people, step by step.

To begin, let’s create some ordinary characters and then breathe fresh life into them. First, we’ll look to our subject matter and see what characters suggest themselves. (If you like, try this with you own story as we go.)

Suppose all we know about our story is that we want to write an adventure about some jungle ruins and a curse.

What characters immediately suggest themselves?

Jungle Guide, Head Porter, Archaeologist, Bush Pilot, Treasure Hunter

What other characters might seem consistent with the subject?

Missionary, Native Shaman, Local Military Governor, Rebel Leader, Mercenary

How about other characters that would not seem overly out of place?

Night Club Singer, Tourist, Plantation Owner

And perhaps some less likely characters?

Performers in a Traveling Circus (Trapeze Artist, Juggler, Acrobat, Clown)

We could, of course, go on and on and eventually we’ve have a complete cast for our novel or screenplay. The problem is that when we go to develop each of these characters, we tend to have a predisposed idea of what they would be like. This expectation comes from our personal experience blended with our cultural indoctrination. And the result is the same old characters you’ve seen again and again.

So how do we break free of these stereotypes? To make a clear example, let’s just choose four characters to work with. We’ll pick just one character from each of the four groups listed above: Bush Pilot, Mercenary, Night Club Singer, Clown.

Now we’ll assign a gender to each. Let’s have two male and two female characters. Well pick the Bush Pilot and the Mercenary as male and the Night Club Singer and the Clown as female.

Now, picture these characters in your mind: a male Bush Pilot, a male Mercenary, a female Night Club Singer, and a female Clown. Since we all have our own life experiences and expectations, you should be able to visualize each character in your mind in at least some initial ways.

The Bush Pilot might be scruffy, the Mercenary bare-armed and muscular. The Night Club Singer well worn but done up glamorously, and the Clown shy and hiding behind the makeup.

Now that we have these typical images of these typical characters in our minds, let’s shake things up a bit to make them less ordinary. One way to do that is to change the gender of some of our characters to play against expectations. As an example, we’ll make the Bush Pilot and the Mercenary female and the Night Club Singer and Clown male.

What does this do to our mental images? How does it change how we feel about these characters? The Bush Pilot could still be scruffy, but a scruffy woman looks a lot different than a scruffy man. Or is she scruffy? Perhaps she is quite prim in contrast to the land in which she practices her profession. Since female bush pilots are more rare, we might begin to ask ourselves how she came to have this job. And, of course, this would start to develop her back-story.

How about the female Mercenary? Still muscular, or more the brainy type? What’s her back story? The Night Club Singer might be something of a lounge lizard type in a polyester leisure suit. And the male Clown could be sad like Emmett Kelly, sleazy like Krusty the Clown, or evil like Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s “It.” The key to this trick is that our own preconceptions add far more material to our mental images than the actual information we specifically developed, which so far were only only vocation and gender.

Due to this subconscious initiative, our characters are starting to get a little more intriguing, just by adding and mixing genders. What happens if we throw another variable into the mix, say, age? Let’s pick four ages arbitrarily: 35, 53, 82, and 7. Now let’s assign them to the characters.

We have a female Bush Pilot (35), a female Mercenary (53), a male Night Club Singer (82), and a male Clown (7). How does the addition of age change your mental images?

What if we mix it up again? Let’s make the Bush Pilot 7 years old, the Mercenary 82, the Night Club Singer 53, and the Clown 35. What do you picture now?

It would be hard for a writer not to find something interesting to say about a seven-year-old female Bush Pilot or an eighty-two year old female Mercenary.

What we’ve just discovered is that the best way to break out of your own mind and its cliché creations is to simply mix and match a few attributes. Suddenly your characters take on a life of their own and suggest all kinds of interesting back-stories, attitudes, and mannerisms.

Now consider that we have only been playing with three attributes. In fact, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of attributes from which we might select. These might include educational level, race, disabilities, exceptional abilities, special skills, hobbies, religious affiliation, family ties, prejudices, unusual eating habits, sexual preference, and on and on. And each of these can be initially assigned in typical fashion, then mixed and matched. Using this simple technique, anyone can create truly intriguing and memorable characters.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in all of this is that we have become so wrapped up in these fascinating people that we have completely forgotten about structure! In fact, we don’t even know who is the Hero, Protagonist, or Main Character!

So, imagine…. What would this story be like if we chose the seven-year-old female Bush Pilot as the Hero. How about the eighty-two year old female Mercenary? Can you picture the 53-year-old male Night Club Singer as Hero, or the thirty-five year old male Clown?

Many authors come to a story with a main character in mind and can use this technique to break out of developing a stereotypical one. Other authors are more interested in the events or setting of their stories and discover their characters (including who is the main character) in the process of working out the plot. In that case, using this technique provides them with a whole cast of intriguing characters from which to choose the Hero.

The bottom line is that whether you have some or all of your characters in mind from the get-go or start with a story concept and create your characters along the way, these character development tricks will help you come up with the people you need to populate your story and ensure they are both fresh and real.

“A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

Jul 11, 2018 · 4 min read

When you first hear the definition of a cliché I bet your mind goes towards a negative thought, not a positive one. The terms, overused, and lacking in original thought don’t exactly reek of confidence. When I think of a cliché, the first one that comes to mind is:

That particular cliché is probably the first one I t hink of because social media is splattered with meme’s with that as their caption. Everybody uses clichés at least occasionally, most often in a conversation. Are clichés really all that bad thought? Must we avoid them like the plague in our writing — another cliché for ya ;). If your enjoy making an outline for your novels, it can help you spot a stereotype existing within your plot. I’ve written a post that can guide you in making an effective outline.

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

The best advice I can give you, is to be cautious when using them, you don’t want your writing to be littered with over used phrases — giving the appearance that you are completely unoriginal. If one or two clichés fit perfectly within your writing, by all means, add them in. I can imagine a character within a story who loves lame jokes, and drops clichés all the time — and in that context they would be fitting, and won’t leave unoriginal undercurrents tainting your writing.

Clichés are more than just overused sayings though, they exist in plots, character types, and descriptions.

  • The young woman torn between two loves — one dangerous, and one safe.
  • The scorned woman who is seeking revenge.
  • The nerdy boy next door who is in love with his beautiful neighbour.
  • The protagonist who is shy, and has no confidence but suddenly becomes the hero with all the answers
  • Use your favorite stories as inspiration — not guidelines
  • Develop fully rounded characters that think logically, as you would — unless your character is an idiot.
  • Don’t assume your novel needs to be filled with dramatic, over-zealous, action-packed scenes. Reach into the boring parts of life and craft them into intriguing scenes.

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

With her mind on other matters, Amy washed the knife she used to prepare dinner for Jonah last night. Jonah warned her not to make anything exotic, so she spent all day simmering a chilli for their dinner guests. Nobody had told her that Mrs. Alma had a severe allergy to jalapeño peppers — why didn’t anyone say anything? I didn’t know exotic extended to spicy. Mrs. Alma’s face swelled up within seconds, Amy just stared at her, mouth gaping, and she continued to sit and stare until long after the paramedics had left.

This scene is boring in nature, Amy is simply washing the dishes, and thinking about the previous nights events — nothing exciting. Accidentally serving someone food they are allergic to happens frequently, and sometimes with dire consequences. It’s realistic, but it’s intriguing — what happened to Mrs. Alma?

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

It’s hard to avoid stereotypes completely, they exist because we fell in love with them once, and they became overused because of our love. Tap the creative juices flowing through your veins, and you won’t have to worry too hard about being cliché — creativity gives birth to originality.

If you enjoyed this article, then I have some more reading for you below!

by Dan Klein

As a man, writing male characters for the screen has always come naturally to me. I know how guys walk, talk, eat, think, and speak. Female characters, on the other hand, can be a bit more challenging. Often times my fellow male writers relegate them to uninteresting, one-dimensional stereotypes. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Follow my simple rules, and you’ll never again have problems creating relatable, dynamic, and realistic female characters.

First, let’s look at the wrong way to write a female character…

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

“Hot Girl 1”? Come on, dude. You’d never name a male character “Hot Guy 1” This brings us to my first rule:

Name your female characters.

By naming women, you’re humanizing them and giving your audience (and yourself!) a reason to identify with them. It makes her a person, not a prop. Let’s see how it alters the scene…

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

Wow, what a difference! Now we know it’s Doreen who’s coming out of the pool. I wonder how she got there? And what makes her tick? Her name has already made her that much more of an intriguing character. Nice work!

Let’s see another example of the wrong way to write for women…

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

OK buddy, you think men are so interesting that we’re all that women talk about, huh? Sorry, fellas, but it’s time to get real, and follow my next rule:

Make your female characters talk about more than just men.

It’s simple. In real life, women have interests, thoughts, hopes, dreams, regrets. They’re not just sex objects who obsess over dudes! Let’s see what happens when we add a little something to the dialogue…

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

Wow. Lindsay’s bisexual? And so is Shannon? Riveting! And we would never have known that if they kept yammering on and on about men. This scene really picked up steam with its newly added depth. Great job!

Let’s look at another wrong way to write for women…

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

A dramatic moment, sure, but what’s missing? I’ll tell you. A woman! All too often we imagine high-status figures as men because that’s what society has taught us to believe, but if we bend our minds a little, we can imagine women in powerful roles as well. That’s my next rule:

Make a character usually played by a man a woman.

By breaking stereotypes, we’ll add an interesting ripple to our character. It’ll only add depth and intrigue to what is already a strong scene. Let’s see how it reads now…

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

And just like that, we’ve made the president a woman! See the difference in the scenes? A women can be president, and in our film she is. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Okay, one more bad scene…

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

Really? How many times do we have to see this “captain of the cheerleading squad” stereotype. We get it. She’s young, she’s hot, she’s a bitch. Stop relying on clichés to write your scenes! That’s my final rule…

Make your female characters three-dimensional.

Give her something! Anything to make her a real human being and not just a cartoon drawn through the eyes of the male gaze. Let’s try that again, shall we?

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

WOW ! A scar! Now that’s cool and original! It’s a whole new facet for what normally is an uninteresting, cornball character.

And just like that — a simple yet thoughtful addition can turn a dumb, sexist scene into a brilliant one. That was the case for all these examples.

So that’s it, fellas. Just follow these rules, and you’re on your way to writing amazing, compelling 18-year-old female characters. Oh yeah, don’t ever make them older than 18. Good luck, guys!

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know September 2017 saw the launch of my new B2W book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV and Film (Creative Essentials). Marginalised characters have been a focus of B2W for years, so it made sense that I finally pull all my resources and experiences with this important element together, in one handy guide.

So, from talking to the Bang2writers, a common cry is: ‘I want to write diverse characters … but I’m SCARED of getting it wrong!‘ So, how DO we avoid ‘getting it wrong’? Here’s my top tips:

1) Understand your genre/tone and your audience

This is the thing. If you don’t know what your genre is, or what tone you’re going for – or what your audience wants from it – you’re at a mega disadvantage when you try to create diverse character/s.

The reason for this is obvious: there are certain types of story and audiences that prefer MORE diversity and others that prefer LESS. Now, this may mean the time is ripe for a lady gangster film or a TV series about BAME pensioners … Or it might be that no one is bothered. Which is it to be? How can you find out?

Understanding which is which will help you pinpoint the threats and opportunities that may present themselves to you as you draft. It can mean the difference between creating a tokenistic, try-hard character that feels out of place and one that feels authentic and real!

KEY QUESTION/S: Who is watching this? What do they want from this type of story? Historically, has this genre had much diversity? Does that mean it’s missing, or that this audience doesn’t want it? Who can I ask/ where can I research this?

2) Understand what’s gone before

Once you’ve pinpointed your genre, audience and the type of story you’re going for, NOW you need to do some hardcore research!

The great thing about movies, TV is that it’s very easy to spot patterns straight away when it comes to ‘types’ of characters. For example, I love the action-adventure genre and spotted the so-called ‘Expendable Hero’ is very often cast as a BAME actor (most often male!). This leads to this character also being called ‘The Sacrificial Minority’. Which is it to be? We have to decide as individual writers how we will tackle this.

It’s important to know the types of character role functions that diverse characters may appear in, historically. Female characters are often mothers and carers; BAME characters may be drug dealers, terrorists or – conversely! – chief of police; LGBT characters are often only in Romantic Comedies, coming out or transition stories; plus disabled characters may be suicidal or missing altogether.

Until recently, it was very unusual for a diverse character to occupy the protagonist’s role, plus sometimes a character’s ‘difference’ would be ‘enough’ to make them the antagonist.

Ugh! No thanks, this is 2017.

KEY QUESTION/S: In the type of story I’m writing, what patterns are there? Which diverse characters appear in which role functions most often? How can I twist this?

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

3) Find out why people don’t like certain tropes

Tropes get a bum deal in the age of the internet … It’s thought that automatically ‘Tropes = bad’ but this is not true. Fact is, ALL stories have tropes, we need that recognition to figure out the type of story being told …

These are the facts: we LOVE a fresh take on a trope; we hate it when the trope is ‘the same-old, same-old’. What that means may range from being simply boring, stale and cheesy as hell (people have seen it too many times!), through to stereotypical and downright offensive (which may lead to trouble and finger pointing, especially online).

It’s important to note that writers don’t have to AGREE with identity politic, or even whether a trope is ‘bad’ or not. However, if people are complaining in large numbers about certain tropes for some reason, it’s a good idea to listen. You don’t even have to stop using it – just twist it and subvert expectations. This actively helps writers avoid CLICHÉ, which has to be good!

KEY QUESTION/S: What do audiences think of these tropes? Is it good/bad? Why? What can I do to bring a fresh take here, or subvert my audience’s expectations?

4) Consult experts

There are some people who say writers should stick to ONLY writing what they know in terms of diversity; but then those same people often say there should be more diversity too, so I think we can safely say there are lots of mixed messages flying around!

I say writers can write whatever they want … BUT individuals must do their due diligence. By this, I mean writers should not just consult secondary sources like history books, biographies or museums; nor should they rely on simply their OWN interpretation of people, events, issues, etc!

When we write a character that is not like ourselves, we should also seek to find at least one person LIKE our character (though preferably two or more). This doesn’t mean hassling that real life person to read drafts or answer questions either; that is not cool.

However it’s easy now to follow marginalised people online via their own Twitter accounts and blogs, etc. Some will be happy to speak with you, or even offer their own consultancy services. Crowdsourcing answers to your questions via Q&A sites like Quora can also take the emphasis off – people can choose to answer if they want to.

5) Let it go!

Once you’ve exercised your due diligence and tried to ensure your diverse character is an authentic portrayal as possible, that’s all you can do. The bad news is, some people may hate it and tell you you’ve done it ‘wrong’ regardless. But the good news is, if you’ve done your due diligence and consulted people ‘like’ your character, as well as found out what’s gone before and twisted it? Then that’s JUST the haters’ opinion!

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing

BONUS TIP !

6) Identify Representations That Need More Variety

Did you know that approximately 19% of both the US and UK population have a disability of some kind? This means disability affects nearly 1 in 5 people in these populations … Yet we see a complete underrepresentation of this is storytelling, prompting disabled people to call themselves the ‘largest and invisible minority’!

Of the stories that DO include disabled people, nearly all of them focus on wheelchair users, especially with reference to suicide. Politics aside, is it any wonder that audiences are WEARY of this story?? We need more VARIETY — and with almost 1 in 5 people living with disability, there’s plenty of story potential out there that could include diverse characters like this.

Good Luck!

This post first appeared on Script Angel. See the original post, HERE.

How to avoid creating female character stereotypes in your writing Want more about diverse characters?

Then check out my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film, out now from Creative Essentials. Available in paperback and ebook, from Amazon and all good book stores. Click on the link or the pic for more info.