The Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies are next Friday and foreign journalists are flooding into Vancouver. How can we spot them? Many of them are walking around sweating in their fur-lined parkas. It's not cold here; in fact, it's so warm snow is being trucked in from BC's interior to help 'snow up' on of our local city mountains where some of the aerial ski-ing is to take place. Cherry trees are beginning to blossom. I've got flowers coming up in my garden.
But apparently, the Canadian stereotype is alive and well around the world. Guess what?
1. It doesn't snow here 365 days of the year. (especially here in this little corner of B.C.)
2. We don't all live in igloos.
3. We're not all lumberjacks, and we don't all wear plaid shirts.
4. Maple syrup is not the main staple of our diet.
5. Polar bears do not wander through our streets.
6. We don't all speak French.
Local media is having quite a good time, but this situation has got me pondering stereotypes and how often we use them for our characters.
I'm all for humour, but aren't stereotypical characters the lazy choice? Stereotypes are one-joke wonders. I'd far rather read (or write) about real people. No one fits into a mold; no one is completely good or completely bad.
Think of your characters as real people trying to get through your plot. Some are going to make good decisions, some are going to make bad. Some you would want to have over to dinner, some you would avoid at all costs. I have one character I'd like to give a sharp smack to, but he's the way he is. His priorities are different than mine, but they're his. To him, they make sense.
Make bold choices. Write characters that are their own persons, not cardboard cut-outs.
Meanwhile, I'm going to leash up the huskies and go for a dog-sled ride.
Sending all of you love from Vancouver, where this morning it looked like this: