From genre to genre, each book tends to highlight specific stereotypes regarding its characters. For example, there may be a nerd or a jock or a fearless leader. Regardless of that character’s individual attributes that make him/her unique, most of these characters can be categorized into general or broad descriptions which are applicable to literature as a whole.
In this post, I’ll be focusing on female characters (although a few of these categories are also applicable to male characters). We’ve all read about them, and we’ve all formed our own opinions of them. This isn’t meant to single out any one character, book, or author, I’m simply detailing the recurring personality types that I’ve experienced in my own reading.
The Unattainable Epitome of Perfection
Hollywood-star appearance, check. Sophisticated dialogue and witty comebacks, check. Knows exactly what to do at exactly the right time, check. Incapable of any sort of error whatsoever, check. Completely devoid of flaws, check. Physical impossibility, check. I find this type of character to be one of the most frustrating to read about. I often judge a book based upon whether or not the characters are relatable. And considering that I have never possessed all of these characteristics simultaneously for an extended period of time, these characters give me the impression that I’m reading about the fabulous life of a cardboard cut-out. How intriguing. These characters frustrate me to the point of wanting to push their fake cardboard figures out of a rapidly moving vehicle. Repeatedly.
The Know-It All
These characters, while they may possess quite a bit of book-smarts or general knowledge, tend to impose this information on others at the least opportune occasions. While this knowledge does sometimes come in handy, these characters do have a slight tendency to get on others nerves – both other fictional characters and readers. The know-it-all figures also lack common sense and are helpless when placed in peril. And they sometimes struggle with emotions – they struggle to express their own thoughts/feelings and don’t know how to address another emotionally wrecked character.
The Physically Undeterred Butt-Kicking Character
Lifting a house? No problem. Pushing a truck up a hill? Easy. Holding up a house on a single finger? Any day. These characters are all muscle and are able to intimidate others. They’re known for their physical feats, but may be held back by uncomfortability regarding emotions, similar to the know-it-all (yes, I know I just invented my own word). They also have a recurring tendency to act without thinking – they’re more than willing to jump straight into action without considering other alternatives (any sense of diplomacy flies out the window).
The Proper Lady
Hates doing things for herself, can’t stand getting dirty, and has no clue how to survive in the real world. Has never spent a second of her life cleaning or performing any sort of manual labor. But for etiquette and manners, they definitely take the cake. They tend to be a bit dramatic, freaking out over the most minor provocations and in the event that things don’t go their way. And can often be equated to a tantrum-throwing toddler.
The Helpless Damsel-In-Distress
This is easily one of the most frustrating and most common characters that I come across while reading. They are completely incapable of saving their own lives. I hate to break it to them, but Prince Charming will not be available 24/7 to pop out of the nearby bushes and save the day. Sometime you need to be independent. Yes, a novel concept, I know.
For part two of this discussion, I wanted to focus on the stereotypes for male characters. Do you have any specific characteristics that you want me to include?