01 January 2010


A cliché becomes a cliché because we recognise and re-use it.

As a writer I know editors don't want stereotyped characters. They want new, fresh and engaging. But stereotypes play an important role. They move on and off-stage with a minimum of description and fuss, and they can be gently subverted to provide sly fun.

As a reader, I like stereotypes. I'm happy to know the red haired heroine will be feisty; that tall, dark and handsome will be heroic; that nerds wear glasses and provide the means of solving difficulties. Stereotypes are comforting in their familiarity.

Sometimes a writer such as P G Wodehouse will create his own stereotype (think of the gently ineffective Bertie Wooster and his "rabbit" clones) and then recycle it through a number of characters and stories, to the delight of his readers.

Stereotypes are part of storytelling technique.

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