Following on from my recent article Avoiding Female Stereotypes, we obviously need to discuss some of the male stereotypes.
Yup, these stereotypes creep into books and movies all too often and so I feel it’s my duty to point them out (mainly because they annoy me and well, that’s a good enough reason for me to write this article) 🙂
As before, these are my personal opinions on what can ruin an otherwise good book for me. You might not agree with some or even all of these which is totally fine. So enjoy your own opinion and please don’t feel the need to flame me if you don’t agree.
THE EMOTIONALLY DEVOID HERO
Now this is not complete deal breaker for me. It won’t automatically turn me away from a book to have an emotionally devoid hero. I can handle some aloof dude who seems to have left his emotions in his other pants. However, there seems to be this very “general” concept that women are emotional and men are stoic and logical.
We will skip right over that piece of garbage and stress that men have emotions and no I don’t just mean the supposed 3 – anger, jealousy and horny. There are more. Now there is some truth that men generally keep their emotions inside whereas women tend to express theirs externally. This does not mean men don’t HAVE emotions.
Society has done a great job of crapping on men for showing emotions even when a situation expects it and society has also done a great job of making some emotions seem “feminine” and even making them “negative.”
So, feel free to have your hero a little emotionally detached, but since we are probably in his head either as the narrator or as the character himself (depending on which person you write in) we still need to see those emotions…you know, since readers see into the characters’ heads. (Unless of course your hero is an unfeeling robot, an android with an emotion chip that’s switched off, a sociopath or some weird alien who is incapable of having feelings)
THE NERDY GENIUS
Again, I am okay with nerdy genius, however that is a very limited role and if you technically define your character as the smart, nerdy guy and everything about him revolves around those two aspects – well that’s kinda one dimensional and boring.
Firstly, not all nerds are the same level of genius. If you decide your character is a maths genius, that doesn’t mean he will automatically know all about science, history, computers etc. So let’s not feel the need to give our nerdy character every conceivable “Nerd” characteristic.
Also, does your nerdy character HAVE to be tutoring some popular girl that he desperately fancies? That honestly has been done to death. And while we’re at it, let’s lose the “Nerdy guy has no friends”. That may sometimes be true, but nerds and geeks actually have tight cliques because they share fascinations and hobbies and it’s so much easier to find other nerds and geeks.
The stoner is usually shown as being pretty stupid and often lazy. Usually unemployed with long lanky hair and grunge outfit. Sitting on his couch in a haze of smoke and barely aware of anything. As with the above, there are varying levels of stoners and many are extremely intelligent and work very hard – they just like to toke up afterwards to relax.
What is usually noticeable with a stoner character, is that he has been created with little knowledge of actual stoners. Most of the stories I’ve read with characters who smoke weed, seem to derive their information from propaganda ads or movies.
As with anything in your novel, do some research and nope, I’m not stating you should get high, you don’t need to participate to research.
We seem to be a little obsessed with our male characters being expert martial artists / fighters. Whether the character is a poor farmer or a prince, they all seem to have some knack for round-house kicks.
Thankfully I have seen this reduce over the last few years, but it was always interesting how no matter what I read, some hero would have these impressive skills.
Not a problem if that is explained – is your character ex-Special Ops? Then I’d expect him to have awesome fighting abilities and heightened reflexes. Now, is your character a medieval knight? Then no, he wouldn’t have martial art abilities. (Though he would have other abilities, like the ability to accurately hit people in the head with a morning star).
Remember, not every guy can fight. Not every guy can fight well. Not every guy has been in a fight and it is not inbuilt into their DNA to be martial artists or even know how to throw a real punch. On that vein, I’ve known plenty of guys who could throw a punch, but had never taken one and so were completely dazed when receiving their first.
If you REALLY want him to be an expert martial artist/fighter, make sure it works for your story, the character and the time period. Make sure it’s explained so it doesn’t just come across like he has this kick ass ability for no other reason than he has a penis.
This is usually the guy written into romance comedies. Some bachelor who doesn’t want to be shackled in a relationship. He parties with the lads no matter how old he gets and doesn’t like the idea of being tied down (unless it’s done for sex).
Throw in a needy, marriage-obsessed love interest and…well…you have my least favourite movies / books of all times.
This is another one of these typical “guy-types” that is done to death and extremely one dimensional.
As I’ve mentioned before, you need to create good, multilayered characters that can enrich your story. Not one dimensional, single-focus, single-aspect characters that can be defined in one word (eg: The Jock, The Nerd, The Player….). Leave that to the bad movies.
So, have I missed any? (I’m sure I have). If so, leave a comment below. 🙂
Sorry for bouncing this post until today, sometimes I just need to rebalance myself when I have an off-day.
NB: photo purchased from depositphotos.com (supporting other creatives) 🙂