I detest everything about "politically correct" in any arena, and I say this with gusto. When the saying ventures inside the publishing industry, well, I'm known to bristle on a daily basis without external help. How many times have you heard: Your character(s) are too stereotypical? or this scene (paragraph, phrase ...) might offend members of society?
Fiction is about real characters that a writer meets, passes by, sees on television or hears about in the media? Correct? Sure. Think about the "perfect" story. the villain is nasty and ugly and ... and never bathes (Yuck!) who is determined to confiscate something--the woman, the money, anything. Your heroine is a size five flaunting an hourglass figure, has impeccable manners and has the voice of a songbird--dripping with sweetness. Your lover-boy hero is six feet two, muscled in all the right places, the wealthiest man on the planet who is instantly consumed with the heroine and would give up everything for her. Huh?
Do we really want to read this "perfect" book involving "perfect" characters in a "perfect" world? We need depth to make those characters three-dimensional. Typically, bad people have at least one redeeming quality. Even good people have one or more poor qualities. No one is perfect, good or bad. Make our characters real, not politically correct. Don't believe me? Read on.
Let me step in reverse for a moment and give you a smidgen of personal background before I go on. I'm African American, whatever that means. I was born and raised in the United States like my parents, forefathers and mothers. American. My ancestors are a mix of Blacks, Whites, Indians and Cajuns. I'm Black. My family lived in all-white neighborhoods from the time I turned four years old. Ninety-five percent of my schoolmates were white until I attended college. As I matured, employment relocating me to several U.S. cities with varying degrees of status and success, the men I dated were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds--all of which had diverse educational levels and financial rank. Some were extremely arrogant, some rather dull. But, for the last twenty years, I've been married to a wonderfully romantic man. We're an interracial couple. He's Caucasion.
I'm published in erotic romance, one of the fastest growing subgenres. My first novel, Strip, is an interracial love story that recently hit the book stands. You can read a little more about me, how I got The Call, and the book(s) I've written on my updated website, www.deltadupree.com Blogs and websites are a great way to promote!
Now that I've given personals, back to the dreaded phrase.
Political correctness crosses all genres. Take erotic romance, for instance. Many people consider the subgenre as porn. Why is that, since sex is part of human nature? Eliminate the sensual act and none of us would be here. Is the genre porn because women opened their eyes, began to fantasize, dared to enjoy a good read containing the so-needed satisfaction as they closed the book? You see, men have kept their eyes wide open about sex. They fantasize. They enjoy carnal knowledge. They discuss it! Give it up, boys. You know who you are. Erotic romance is not necessarily about how much sex or how hot or sweet the scenes are, it's the quality of the writing, whether the characters fit the storyline, whether the plot (believe me, porn usually neglects this point) rocks your world--like all fiction genres. Taking it one step further, erotic romance is about two people in love or highly in like. Writers have stimulated the industry with eroticas--gay and lesbian, paranormal, historical, time-travel, mystery, suspense, thriller, etc. For page space I included all areas of sexy stories under the erotica umbrella, which was once politically incorrect, and not virtually accepted. This takes me to the next point.
Who are the characters in all fiction? A character's nationality, religious beliefs, gender, sexual preference, etc., should they matter? For the sake of shortness, let's put this group under DITSOL I'll get back to the acronym in a bit. Naturally, DITSOL includes the entire world's population. Should we as writers, restrict ourselves as to whom we write about? Is it wrong to include an atheist or transsexual or Jupeterian into the mix? We write about the autistic, the obese, children, criminals, heroes, a**holes, the rich, the downtrodden, the dearly departed...I can go on and on. These are (or were in the latter case) real people. Each one fits under DITSOL, no matter the color of their skin, their religious practices, or to which gender they belong. We cannot--should not quarantine the real people who make our stories worth reading.
Part Two--Stereotype. Here's one of Webster's Dictionary noun definitions: "something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; esp: a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, affective attitude or uncritical judgment." As an adjective: "lacking originality or individuality." Hmm. Does this mean that my gazillionaire hero needs a wart on his bum? Would readers prefer to hear about the rogue hero who contracted a STD and ignored the doctor's advice, because he's tall, dark and handsome? How about the hourglass beauty with impeccable manners that left her children because the wealthy boyfriend implored she do? Not in romance, not so far. I'm not saying the above is romantic, but these are issues that impact our daily lives. It's only natural for humans to fantasize, but they prefer to dream about all things good. Maybe the perfect life.
For those into paranormal or sci-fi, the auspicious future. And, as writers, we give our audience those fantasies. But our heroes and heroines come in all shapes and sizes with different thoughts and actions, likes and dislikes, loves and hates. All are part of DITSOL, which makes the human race so great because without the "stereotypical" characters, to me, life would be pretty boring. We would all write about the same people, the same characters, and the same situations. The perfect "boring" world.
So, those politically correct, stereotypical characters, put some life into them. Give them one or two defnining qualities that lift the readers' eyebrows. It doesn't have to be an ick factor. It can be--if appropriate to the character and storyline. Make them stand out, make them memorable.
Oh. DITSOL. Diversity is the Spice of Life. Bump your characters up a notch. You won't regret it.
Thanks for joining us today. Be sure to leave a comment and enter a drawing to win, Delta's Debut Novel, Strip. www.deltadupree.com