Surprise perspective – Stock Characters

by juliusmsanz

Now that I’ve actually set my mind to it, I’ve decided to write a really short story that can help beginners with the english language. It should be easy enough, I think, I hope.

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today, I’m going to talk about stock characters.

You might know that stock characters are also flat. This means that the character is an archetype, a cliché if you will. This also means that the character will not change and it will display mostly the same personality and actions throughout the story. They are the opposite of round characters: characters that evolve and are more three-dimensional. Stock characters are easy to write, the town drunk, the air-headed scientist, the menacing thug, the list goes on and on. We recognize these characters through tv shows, films, books, every single sort of media available. Remember the helpless princess?

Now let me get this straight: I’m not a very big fan of stock characters. And it’s only because rules are meant to be broken, at least in the literary sense, don’t go out there and start destroying public property! Stereotypes mean opportunities.

I’m going with the example that motivated me to write this post:

In one episode of The Simpsons Moe ends up in a relationship with a dwarf (is that the right term? or little person? My apologies as I sincerely don’t know.) and things don’t go the way they should. Moe ends up alone in the end of the episode, after unknowingly driving the girl away from him. It happens. And then Homer gives out one very interesting piece of advice and encouragement. We all know Homer to be a drunk and fairly oblivious, you can even say, to a certain extent, that he’s a stock character. Here’s the quote:

“Moe, this is a great thing for you. You went from sitting on the sidelines to getting in the game! Sometime, when you least expect it, you’ll realize that someone loved you. And that means that someone can love you again! And that’ll make you smile.”

These words coming out of Homer’s mouth are a great example of how some stock characters can surprise us in some very positive ways. He doesn’t offer Moe a chance to get drunk or says something stupid, like he more often than not does, he shows how great of a guy he can be and cheers up his friend. Now Moe will see that as a positive experience, he won’t shy away, he won’t sulk, he’ll remember the whole experience fondly. I could expect Marge to say something like this, not Homer, and that’s what made the moment. And gave me another reason to like Homer (he’s my favorite by the way).

Now what does this mean? Stock characters aren’t just there for us to spam on our stories, they aren’t there for us to mock or completely transform; they offer us some chances to play some gentle twists, if you will, on our stories.

As a writer it is sometimes easier to follow the common, less laborious path. We are so consumed with our main characters, our complicated plots, our schedules and our outlines that we forget about these little things.

Let me tell you: little things matter in a big way, that’s why I remembered the episode and the moment, and that’s why I’m writing about this in the first place.

See you again tomorrow.

Have a nice day!