Dec 11, 2012
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Very few things seriously annoy me in books. Sure, if my editing cap is on, I could go crazy with the red pen on just about any book you give me (hey, if it wasn't written by me, I'll always be wanting to rearrange some sentences), but very few things actually bother me.
I finally started The Maze Runner the other day. Things were coming along smoothly until Gally stepped into the picture. This guy is your prime bully. You know it before you ever even see his name. The description fits the "modern bully" quite perfectly. I don't know about you, but reading that a guy has missing teeth makes it seem really typical.
And that is what I'm asking you to avoid. Please. Stereotypes and characters I've seen way too many times before are just a bother. They make me sit back and know what's going to go down in this scene, this chapter, or even the whole book, just by seeing him and his stereo-typicalness.
I'm sure you can come up with some stuff. If you see a stereotypical bully, you realize a lot. Okay, he or she is going to get in the main character's way. They'll most likely become archenemies. Oh, and I'll bet the main character stands up to them, as well. Maybe they're the prime antagonist, already nailed in their position at approximately page 20.
But you know what stands out even more? The character who shocks us.
I find that Rick Riordan's The Son of Neptune does a great job of this. Sticking with the bully example, let's look at Octavian. This guy pretty much wants to be in charge. Almost immediately he's in Percy's way. Now I'll bet you all are coming up with some fancy images in your head.
He's probably large, muscular, either downright ugly or amazingly good looking. Greasy hair, perhaps? One of those faces only a mother could love with a squashed in nose?
Actually, no. Octavian was a skinny, weak looking guy. The only position of power he held was that he was the place's auror. People just got to watch him beating up on poor, defenseless teddy bears.
For that? I must thank Rick Riordan majorly. A bully that is nowhere near stereotypical can be very hard to find nowadays. Octavian used his mouth--not his fists. That alone makes me happy.
But bullies aren't the only stereotypes in existence. What about that drop-dead beauty of a girl that the main character has a crush on and will, no doubt, be dating by the end of the book/series? The thin, wiry nerd that no one wants to deal with? Stereotypes are everywhere. And you could change that. Don't follow all monkey see, monkey do like.
Do you have any stereotypes?