Stereotypes In Writing – Why They’re Ok

I’m a writer.

I’m also a reader.

I’ve had people tell me I should write my female characters stronger, or my male characters more rounded.

Thanks for your opinion, but I will write them how they are.

As a reader, I don’t want all the stories I read to be politically correct. I don’t want all the females to be strong and independent. I don’t want all the men to be good guys. I don’t want all the villains to be bad guys. I don’t want there to be an equal distribution of male/female main characters.

Stories are full of stereotypes for a reason. We reach people by showing them a familiar world, then helping them see it in a deeper way. I want to see stereotypes in what I read.

I want to read about a goddamned princess who meets a great guy that’s willing to kill a dragon for her. I want to read about the guy that gets the girl. These are relatively harmless stereotypes.

I don’t want to read about the prince telling the princess to make him a sammich, but I do want to read about how she tends his wounds after battle. I don’t want to read about the prince telling her to stay out of the way because all she’s good for is making babies, but I do want to read about how he wants to provide for her so she doesn’t have to worry about it.

I don’t want to read about how the male character is a misogynistic pig, but I do want to hear about how much of a jerk he is, and find out later that it’s because he’s in pain, and empathize with him. Or maybe just find out that he’s a jerk so someone else can be shown to be different.

Stereotypes provide a canvas for writers (and filmmakers, and playwrights) to paint a story. Stereotypes give us the familiar, so the artist can show us the spectacular.

Take this example: When is a candle truly useful? If the light is turned on and the room is brightly lit? Or if it’s dark, full of shadows and blurry shapes? A candle is only useful when it shines through the darkness, and only truly beautiful when shown against a dull backdrop.

The stereotypes allow the unique characters to shine. A strong woman stands out to teach us a lesson when she is unique. A thoughtful man stands out as wise when he is unique.

I understand that it’s wrong to think of women as weak or men as brutish, but frankly many people still do. It’s the norm. Someday it might not be, but then the stereotypes will have changed, won’t they? Then the stereotypes will be the strong woman and the thoughtful man. Right now, they aren’t. Right now we still need to put a spotlight on them.

People’s primal ideas of “how things are” don’t change by forcing them to view the world in a certain way. People don’t learn from stories by being slammed with “blanket truths”. People learn like children, when something sneaks its way in and takes root, becoming “ok”, then becoming “common”.

A story where there are no stereotypes doesn’t feel real. We know fiction isn’t real but those “PC” stories feel fake. The stereotypes feel real, so even if a story is fiction there is truth to it. Readers can sense the truth in them, and therefore begin to accept the spectacular in them as truth as well.

So don’t tell me not to write a female that needs saving, or a man that can’t deal with emotions. Don’t tell me I’m not representing a gender, or any other stereotyped feature “the way it SHOULD be” written. I’m just drawing the shades, so I can light the candle.