Thursday, February 4, 2010


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:


  1. What!? I'm Canadian and all of that list applies to me. Just joking.

    1)It doesn't snow here 365 days of the year. (especially here in this little corner of B.C.) - not even the NWT snows everyday.

    4. Maple syrup is not the main staple of our diet. - I don't even like the stuff.

    5. Polar bears do not wander through our streets. - No, but I lived near Banff and bears often do.

    6. We don't all speak French. - Ugh, I hate when people assume that. Next time somebody asks me that, I'm gonna ask them if they speak Arabic.


  2. Love Vancouver (where we DID get snow on our trip).

    Yeah, living in Orlando, we can spot the tourists, no problem.

    And when we went to Quebec, I totally blanked out on the fact that they DO speak French.

  3. Ann Elle; LOL! Where in Canada are you?

    Terry; It CAN snow here, but it usually causes traffic chaos because we're just not used to it. And in Quebec (and parts of New Brunswick), yes, you'd better know a few words of French. Thanks for the follow! It's appreciated.

  4. I thought you were a lumberjack! :)

    Believe me, stereotypes are something that Southerners deal with quite a bit. I've got no hoop skirts in my closet, don't like in a plantation, and didn't marry my cousin. :) Although there ARE Southerners like that....

    You're so right about characters--got to dig a little deeper than making them a cardboard cutout.


  5. Elizabeth; I thought of you while I was writing this post, I'm sure you have to deal with this issue a great deal! No hoop skirts? WHAT a disappointment! But you DO drink nothing but mint juleps, correct?

  6. Stereotypes? Think Texas and Texans.
    We all live on ranches or in Dallas.
    We all know how to ride a horse.
    We all wear jeans, boots, western shirts and hats.
    Cowboys . . .
    And the list goes on.

  7. I lived way up north in B.C. and hardly ever wore a fur-lined parka! We always dressed in layers.

    Americans know little or nothing about Canada. It pisses me off.

  8. Carol; Stereotypes about Texas?? Say it isn't so! ; )

    Elizabeth; It can be annoying. But seeing these journalists sweating is amusing. How can these stereotypes still exist in this internet age?

  9. Oh, thank you for mentioning stereotpyes, Elspeth!!! We all have them, don't we? And we're all at times victims of others' stereotypes. When people find out I live an hour and a half south of LA, they ask me if I know any movie stars. I don't. I also don't say, "Dude," know how to surf, or speak in "valley." I'm from Pennsylvania, but even the folks I know who've lived here always are not like that. And yet, those stereotypes persist. You're right that relying on them is the cheap and easy way out when it comes to characters, too. That's why I am drawn to novels where the characters are more than what you see on the surface.

  10. Ha ha ha, this is great. I hate when people ask me to say "out and about" b/c apparently Canadians say it differently.

  11. How disappointing, Elspeth. And here I was thinking you lived in an igloo and had a polar bear for a pet. Bummer.

    And tell me about stereotypes! Non-Indians have their stereotypes about Indians, and Indians have their stereotypes about the part of India you are from, and I am not sure I fall into any of them.

    And reading about stereotypical characters is such a drag.


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