(I was in the passenger seat when this photo was taken. Please don’t photograph and drive. And please don’t see a photo and steal it. Same principle. Less dangerous, but the second one will hurt my feelings.)
Hyperbole can be fun. Check out the amazing Hyperbole and a Half blog by Allie Brosh if you don’t believe me.
Hyperbole is a way of making things more interesting. Instead of it being an awful trip to the grocery store, you can turn it into the worst trip to the grocery store ever.
You ran into your ex and his/her new significant other? Well, you’re totally better-looking than that new person. Or is it the other way around? Exaggerate your jealousy or feelings of satisfaction. BOOM. Interesting story.
But hyperbole can be bad. If you create a character based solely on stereotypes or something, then you just end up looking like a jerk. Let’s go with the one about blondes. Not only is the blonde in your story dumb, but you’re pretty sure you’ve never seen anyone less stupid! Har har. Stop being a jerk, dude. Sure, you can have a dumb blonde character, but make her redeemable! She’s an awesome friend, even though her friends crack jokes at her expense all the time. She’s secretly into calculus. Something. Anything. A character that only runs on stereotypes is the bad kind of hyperbole. Avoid at all costs.
It’s okay to use a stereotype as an example sometimes. But balance it out with someone who you’d think would follow a stereotype but doesn’t. Or something. You need characters with depth.
I don’t care if your character only appears briefly. Give them a story. Why is she a ditz? She’s secretly not, but your main characters don’t get to see that. She pretends to be dumb because no one takes her seriously because of her hair color.
You don’t have to show the characters’ back stories. Just give them one. And let it reflect in what the characters and readers are shown.
The iceberg comparison is a favorite of mine. Ernest Hemingway compared stories to icebergs. All the readers see is 10% of its surface. The other 90% is invisible and underwater. But it’s still there, and it influences what is seen.
Your assignment: Write for 10 minutes using a character that seems to perpetuate a stereotype but eventually proves to be the opposite.