Characters #7 - The Nerd, The Virgin, & The Detective

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This will probably end up being a pretty short chapter, but hopefully helpful in some way.



Hopefully by now, you've figured out that most nerdy characters are way too stereotyped or overdone, and there are ways to avoid your nerdy characters from falling into this category.

1 - Not all nerds are unsociable or friendless. I speak as a fellow nerd, who loves all things nerdy. Trust me, we have fellow nerd friends, and we also have friends that we just share other things in common with. We know that not everyone wants hear all about our obsessions, and we know how to have a regular conversation. People don't look at nerds repulsively now-a-days, so it's really not realistic to have a shunned nerd character any more unless there is another reason behind his/her friendlessness.
Nerds are generally people who are overly enthusiastic about particular subjects. They aren’t afraid to love things that might seem “unpopular” or “pointless” to a lot of other people. They don’t often follow trends and can often be seen as outsiders or just misunderstood. However, someone can be a nerd and have lots of friends and be extroverted. Don’t be afraid to mess around with your characters and change clichés.

2 - Diversity. Stereotypes such as the Asian kid being a nerd while the girl is too dumb for it are really things to avoid. Switch it up.

3 - Realism. Are they really a nerd? Or did you just put some glasses on them and give them a Star Trek shirt? Are they really obsessed with nerdy things or good at math and science? Because if you title your character as a nerd just to make the book about a "player and a nerd" or something, then at least do nerds justice and make the character an actual nerd. Not some over-glamified, sexualized version of a nerd. Because if all they have is a pair of glasses, what you're really writing about is a fake nerd.

4 - Find their passion. You say they're a nerd, but we're in their head (thanks to first person POV) and see no sign of an obsession with something. Figure out what your character is passionate about. Like, actually put some time into developing their taste and interests, because it's a vital part of their personality. Don't just stick with cliché nerd stuff (however awesome it really is) like Star Wars and Star Trek, but venture out. Explore other things. Find some different TV show your readers may not have heard of, and maybe you'll get them interested through your character's passion.

5 - Be familiar with their passions. If you can, watch a little of whatever your character is obsessed with. Most likely, that show or character will influence or shape their personality or humor. You can maybe find ways to slip in references, once you know what you're talking about.



I want to include a fairly brief article....external link on side.

There are a LOT of writing tropes surrounding sexuality in young adult fiction (I guess in ANY fiction, but I’m specifically focusing on teen lit). There’s the idea that “evil” female characters are more sexual and use their sexuality in order to get what they want. There’s also the opposite idea that “good” and “pure” female characters are virgins, so they haven’t yet been tainted by their sexual urges. These ideas are STUPID and HARMFUL and if they’re still in your writing, you really need to rethink where your work is going. We really need to rethink sexuality in general.

In my most recent novel, The Serenity Compound, I tried to explore these themes through my character Alva. I wanted to write something with a female character in a society where sexism doesn’t necessarily exist. She is then thrust into a community where sexism runs rampant and she has to find a way to survive without losing what she believes in. Basically, I wanted to explore the (sane) idea that a girl’s value isn’t tied to her virginity or her sexuality. I think that’s a message that’s missing in a lot of YA lit.

As writers we need to remember that having or wanting sex doesn’t make you a bad person. We also need to remember that NOT having sex doesn’t make you a saint or pure or better than everyone else. Young women are often taught that morality and sex are somehow tied together and that it all goes hand in hand with self-worth.  Sex and morality have NOTHING to do with each other.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with sexuality in your novels:

No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable about yourself or your own body. No one has the right to tell you what to do with your own body. No one should use their sexuality to make someone else uncomfortable. Rape is not a good way to make your villain more evil. Using rape in your novels is serious and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Verbal harassment is not flattery and it shouldn’t be used to bring two characters together romantically. Someone harassing someone else until they get attention is not a good idea. No one owes anyone anything else. You never owe someone sexually, even if you’re dating or married. Keep these things in mind.

Things to keep in mind:

-Virgins are still socially accepted, adaptable people with great social lives.
-Just because they're virgins, doesn't mean they've never been around guys or kissed or anything.
-It doesn't mean they're ugly and unwanted.
-It also doesn't mean they're pure, necessarily.
-They are perfectly normal people, and there should be no difference between the virgin and non-virgin characters based solely on that fact...If their personalities are completely different, that's understandable, but don't bias your readers based on the fact that they're a virgin or not.



 Cliches involving cops and detectives:

-The incompetent cop: Usually pictured with a donut and a cup of coffee, probably unable to do anything right, and despite all training still has no idea what he's doing.

-The dirty cop: Usually known for blackmailing, stealing, or using the law to his or her advantage, the dirty cop does whatever it takes to improve their own situation. This is sometimes a cop who has “gone bad” and discovered the advantages of being a cop and used them for his or her own gain.

-The clueless detective: He’s a detective, yet somehow he has no idea what he’s doing. By some luck, there’s always someone to help him.

I generally avoid writing cop or detective stories, because I don't know much in that field, and I don't want to portray something wrong. However you should be afraid to experiment and try something new, just be sure to:

-RESEARCH: Do all the research you can, depending on what aspect of the field you're writing in. Try not to make stuff up regarding the police, because it will most likely seem obvious and you'll become less reliable.
-MAKE IT REALISTIC: Cops and detectives don't have to fit into one of the three stereotypes I listed. They can be perfectly normal people, and it's just a job.
-DEVELOP A PERSONALITY:  Their job isn't their personality. For a moment, put aside all the qualities you associate with cops and detectives, and develop this character like you would any other. Likes, dislikes, flaws, qualities, goals, dreams, etc.
-PLOT: You can have a story about a cop, and write about his work and the case he's working on, but don't forget to develop his personal plot outside of the plot of the case he's working on. You can spend a lot of time coming up with a complex villain and case this cop has to figure out, but make sure you also develop his own character development, home life, etc.

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