Archetypes Versus Stereotypes

Your goal to making characters should be to create real people, not cardboard cutouts. You want characters to feel genuine and fleshed out, not one-dimensional. You also want them to be unique, even when you use an archetype. An archetype is a reoccurring type of character that serves a specific role in your story. So we have the wise, old mentor, or the fool, or the hero. They are familiar characters for us and we know how we should relate to them and understand their roles. However, we don’t want to stray into stereotype territory. Stereotypes fall flat and are full of clichés. For instance if our hero is the “chosen one.” This character is flat and overdone, special through no fault of their own, but just because they were born. But for some reason they’re special and we should pay attention to everything they do. This has been done too many times.

So how do we avoid creating stereotypes? By making our characters three-dimensional. Every character must have a goal to work towards and a flaw to make them human and relatable. No one is perfect, not even our hero, and it’s important to reflect that in our stories. Look at your character’s list of personality traits. Are they unique or overdone? Is your villain a black-eyed devil who dresses in all black and laughs maniacally? What if instead of just being evil he was driven by his mother’s tragic death at the hand of the king’s main advisor? Give him a motivation. Make him interesting. And stay away from black clothes and a maniacal laugh.

Make each character an individual. They should all have different defining characteristics just like in real life. No two people are the same. Give them a quirk. Maybe they always tell bad jokes or they only wear the color yellow. What makes them an individual?

Choose the unexpected. Instead of the orphan boy being the chosen one, make your hero the girl from a family of nine. How can you make your mentor different from the wise old man? Use the archetypes in new ways and delight your readers. Make your characters a refreshing change from the usual.

What are your favorite archetypes and how do you make them new? Share below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and my Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

Best Practices for Writing a Series

Sometimes our concepts for our stories span more than one book. And that’s ok because series are popular these days as readers love to return to characters and worlds they love. But they can be complicated to write. Careful planning can ensure a successful series. So let’s look at some best practices for writing a series.

  • Make sure you have enough story for more than one book. You never want to write a series just to write a series or to try and get more money than from a standalone book. There’s nothing worse than a story line that’s stretched too thin over a series. You need enough plot for each book. The last thing your reader wants is to read a bunch of filler.
  • You want your details to match from book to book. Your protagonist shouldn’t have green eyes in book three when she’s had blue eyes in book one and two. Keep a master copy of the little details of your story that you can reference as needed.
  • Make a macro outline connecting each book and any overarching story arcs. This will help you keep track of each plot line and story arc and also ensure you tie up each end.
  • Make sure your premise is enough for more than one book. If your story concept is weak, you’ll have a hard time writing book one let alone book three or four.
  • Each book should have resolution. Even though some things will remain unresolved until the end, each book should have a major story arc that does get resolved. Don’t leave everything hanging or your reader will feel cheated.
  • Ensure each book carries the theme throughout the series. This ensures each book is tied to each other and has depth.
  • Build your story world. Make it a place readers will want to revisit. It should have a touch of familiarity as well as a touch of intrigue. Make your settings a real place to your readers by including rich details.
  • Establish the main characters early on. It’s the characters that will get your readers to care about the story so make sure the major characters are introduced right away. This doesn’t mean give away every backstory early on. Leave some things uncovered and slowly reveal pertinent backstory as you go.
  • Introduce new characters in each book. But don’t make them throwaway characters that don’t matter. Use these characters to build your subplots and highlight or contrast your main characters.
  • Have dynamic characters. Your characters need to change and grow throughout the series. This could be a positive or negative growth arc. But make sure they change.
  • Don’t forget about the passage of time. You may not have much time pass from book to book, but after enough books your characters should age. This goes especially for serials that span a few years in real time.

These tips should help you move forward as you start to draft your series. What are your best practices for writing a series? What did I miss? Share below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

How to Add a Romantic Subplot

If your story is lacking depth and layers you may need to add a subplot or two to it. What is a subplot? A subplot is a smaller plot line that works alongside your main plot line. The most common subplot is the romantic subplot or love interest. But this subplot should add dimensionality to your story. So how do we go about that?

To write a good love subplot it first has to be believable. It’s all about the characters and how they react to each other. Would these two people fall in love in real life? Is there any chemistry between them or are you as an author forcing them together? How do they get from introduction to real romantic feelings? Show their natural progression and their emotional journey. Remember that this is a subplot (unless you are writing a romance) so you don’t want to devote too much page time to this. A few impactful scenes is enough.

No relationship is perfect. There will be and should be obstacles to their love. Obstacles should be both external and internal. Does he have a character flaw that’s preventing him from opening up to her? Do her parents oppose the match? Give them problems and show them dealing with them.

Make sure both characters are fully fleshed out and dynamic. Meaning they have a goal, have agency, and react to what happens in the plot. You don’t want the love interest to exist just to be the love interest and you don’t want them to be a cardboard cutout. Develop both of them and have them affect your main plot.

Make them friends first. This goes along with the natural progression of the relationship but also helps keep readers from getting fed up with romantic scenes. Your two characters won’t always be making out or being sickly sweet to each other as they profess their feelings. Have them do normal stuff and acting as the friends they should be as well. They should like each other as much as they love each other.

Watch for clichés. Be well read to keep up with what’s commonly used as a romantic trope and what is overdone. Don’t let the love interest fix every problem the protagonist has. Real relationships don’t work this way and it’s boring as well as unrealistic. Also, make sure your characters don’t turn into completely different people around each other. They shouldn’t have to change to be together. And give them reasons to be together besides looks. Make their relationship genuine.

That should give you a good idea for how love subplots work. What are your tips for writing a romantic subplot? Share below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and my Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration and find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.