Write, Story

Good Words – Stereotype, Stock, & Side Characters

Stereotype, Stock, & Side Characters

This week, Evan and I take on the ambitious task of discussing three character types the final episode of the Good Words character series: Stereotype, Stock, and Side characters. These character types face critique when they are overused and too heavily relied on by authors. We define each character and discuss the ways to use them effectively and break out of some overused character tropes.

Stereotype: a generalized character based on little experience or direct knowledge. We discuss ways to address using known characteristics and changing them up to avoid this writing pitfall.

Stock: a typical character often seen in literature and storytelling. Stock characters, when used well, can flesh out a story plot and make situations seem more realistic. Overuse of stock characters can make writing seem very flat.

Side: closely related to stock characters, side characters are not directly involved in the action of a story but interact with the character in a supporting way. Think of the barkeep at the tavern where the hero begins his journey. Side characters may be named characters but usually have little to no backstory.

This concludes our first topic series for Good Words. In the next chapter we will cover literary devices which are the basic approaches all writers take to crafting literature.

Tune in next time for more Good Words!

Regina & Evan

To Discuss:

What are some effective side characters you’ve appreciated? What stereotypes get under your skin? Let us know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Good Words – Stereotype, Stock, & Side Characters”

  1. I was trying to think of examples where these characters are actually used for their purpose to tell a story. Fables and parables came to mind. They depend on the reader immediately knowing the agency of the character so they can identify or understand.
    I also thought of “Unbreakable” by M. Night Shyamalan. He takes the stock villain and hero and builds a new story around them. Instead of standing the characters on their head, he stands the viewer and story on their head.

    1. Fables are excellent examples. Other than the lead character, pretty much every other character is a stock character. Just a placeholder really. Even the evil stepmoms. I think that’s one of the reasons the retelling of fairy tales we’ve seen recently has been so successful. There is a lot of room to fill in with new stories.

  2. Oh yeah. Pocket protectors.

    Notice that the back of the protector that rests against the shirt is as tall or almost as tall and the pens, extending well above the opening of the pocket. So when you go to put a pencil or uncapped pen in your pocket, you hit the back of the protector instead of your shirt. Otherwise you would have a series of vertical ink and pencil marks on the shirt above the pocket.
    And, yes, it also protects the bottom of the pocket from getting spots of ink where the pen nib would sit and rest.

    1. I never would have thought about accidentally drawing on your shirt when you put the pen IN the pocket. Makes total sense. I have never carried pens in shirt pockets but I’ve always had a book bag or a purse.

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