Beware the Everyman

It frustrates me when I sit down to watch a new movie and am faced with yet another cleft chinned hero with an arsenal full of one-liners and a leading lady whose greatest feature appears to be her tiny waist and large bust size. These cookie cutter characters that flit from one movie to the next, even though the names in the credits change, with nothing to distinguish them from well built robots. I can tolerate it, though. In movies. Not in books.

I’m not talking about the “sex sells” concept, though that could be another post. I’m talking about the Everyman Syndrome. In the movies, more often than not, the characters are placeholders. Hero= guy with guns and self-righteous attitude. Villain= guy with guns and malevolent intentions. Love interest= non-intimidating super-model with unexplainable attraction to Hero who gets herself into situations where she needs saving. Whatever. With few exceptions (the exceptions generally being adapted from books), they don’t grow as characters, they don’t overcome internal obstacles. They’re the Everyman. The Everyhero, the Everyvillain, and Everyhenchmen by the dozens.

But, in books, I need more. If I read one more character being described as “average” or “normal” I’m going to scream. What is average? Pluck ten people from the populace at random, are any of them going to look the same? Will they have the same interests, the same mannerisms, the same anything except, possibly, the same number of fingers and toes? Describing someone as normal or average is the same or worse than not describing them at all. We all have details that make us interesting and if you’re not going to draw those out of your characters you’ll have a story populated by stick figures.


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