Why I Write in Stereotypes – and a new revelation

My husband and I met on an internet dating site. The forum alone makes it an interesting experience. All you have to make an initial romantic assessment of someone is his/her/(your choice) picture and brief bio. Talk about snap judgments. Well, my snap judgment of my husband brought a lot of my prejudices to light. I saw a “brown” male, and I’m not going lie, I initially wondered if he was Muslim and what that meant in terms of how he treated women. Once I read his profile, I saw that he was Catholic. Well, I made a whole new set of judgments based on that. My husband, on the other hand, made his own set of assumptions. In particular, when I made, what I thought, was a sarcastic comment about my “daddy” buying my car (something I was embarrassed about), my husband assumed I was a spoiled princess. Luckily, both of us persevered past our initial snap “stereotyped” judgments, found true love, and lived happily ever after (with three children, one of whom is still sleeping in between us in bed ensuring we never touch – ah, romance,).

I had a similar experience when I met my best friend. I met her in the cafeteria of one of my first jobs. Her friend at the time went out of her way to welcome me, while my later BFF stood a foot or two back, scowling. I don’t think I made any particular judgment about her race (Caucasian/Jamaican), but who knows? Sociological studies have shown that the power of stereotypes can be immediate and unconscious. (They also show that we are all prejudiced – a theme which I can’t seem to stop writing about.) I did consciously assume, however, she was anti-social/misanthropic (now I’m thinking she may have been the inspiration for Queenie…hmm). My friend, also, made all sorts of assumptions about me. You see, my father was one of the bosses, so, yes, I got the job in large part through nepotism. I’d kind of hate me too. Luckily, my friend has an incurable need to help people when they are in need, and as I floundered my first couple of days on the job, she took pity on me, and put me under her protection. She eventually decided I wasn’t half bad.

These were two pivotal experiences in my life which I think, in part, explain why I write the way I do. Every character in Sidekick makes offensive and/or stereotyped assumptions about every other character in my book. They do so in such an over the top way that, I hope, it is both shocking and therefore to some degree uncomfortably funny. The plan, however, is for these characters to get to know each other on a deeper level…and then form a Scooby Gang and save the world. Bremy St. James, my stereotyped dumb, blonde, rich girl is offensive. She is meant to be offensive. But my hope is that her offensiveness is forgivable because it is based on ignorance and she is willing to learn. The one problem I have run into is that I can’t explore every relationship in the first book. I always intended Sidekick to be a series, so some of the stereotyped characters have to be put on hold – a dangerous notion because I have left some stereotypes hanging, but I do think there has to be a balance between the story and the messaging.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I write in stereotype. Now onto my new revelation. I did it again. I made assumptions. I assumed that everyone would read my book the way I intended (Suddenly I can hear millions of authors all over the world laughing hysterically). I thought everyone would get where I was coming from. Admittedly, that was a pretty arrogant assumption. I thought my offensive jokes were so over-the-top offensive that everyone would know, that I know, they’re offensive. What I didn’t take into account, maybe, (I’m assuming again), is that many people regularly do face over-the-top discrimination so my over-the-top jokes/satire/parody would fit right in. Also, there is the possibility, that for some, my writing just doesn’t do a good enough job of getting the point across. Totally fair.

Here’s the thing. I still plan to write in a way that reflects my experiences/point of view of the world. Sometimes I will get it right. Other times I will not. I would like to say that I do hope people relate to where I’m coming from, but I appreciate that that is not within my control.

Thanks for reading!



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