"The dark alpha type..."
"The smarmy blonde villain..."
"Onyx eyes of passion and immortality..."
Stereotypes. In writing, they are everywhere. In our heroes, heroines and our villains. Even in the sub-characters.
But how do you know what kind of character to use? How do you decide how they look? How they act? Talk?
I might be a minority here, but I can't use real people as the inspiration for my characters. They usually come to me as their own people. Dark, light, short, tall. Rather than using (as an example) the expected norm such as all vampires are dark and brooding, I like to know a little bit about where they come from. Such as with Diego in The Eternal Kiss. He's a Spaniard. A warrior. A fighter. He's dark, fierce, commanding, but not because he's a vampire. Because of the man he was before he became a vampire. Those lessons piled on top of his condition make him doubly hard on the outside-or so it seems.
So how often do we use stererotypes? Considering the above, without knowing about the character, he sounds like several of the same vein (no pun intended) that we've all read. Alpha, dark, brooding, mysterious, a tad dominant.
Believe it or not, those traits belong as much to that character as to my own husband, although he's not quite so mysterious these days. Stereotypes are found in written fiction-but they are found just as much in real life. The mold of every character we write began as a kernal of some teeny bit of intriguing information and it was then layered like a delicate truffle dessert. Each layer bringing a new surprise, a new facet of that character.
Some authors know all those layers before they start to write. Some *cofmecof* don't. So while characters can and are often a shadow of a recognizable stereotype, they are just as likely a version of some person in real life. Which is where knowing real life habits, accents, quirks and interests (back to Z's post) can make a character come alive. And no matter how that one character came to be, we all want him to be "alive" for the story.
So the next book you read, or write, think about the characters. Think about people you know that share the same traits. Personalize the character and they will always be alive, and memorable.