Posted by: Phil Anderson | August 18, 2014

What Makes Someone Real

I have found the solution to the world-wide problem of prejudice and discrimination!

It’s a bold statement, I know. And even stranger is that fact that I discovered it while working on my writing.

One of the things that sets a really great novel apart from a mediocre one is the characters. A good story must be inhabited by interesting, compelling people. The reader has to care about them, their concerns and desires, their goals and aspirations, their very survival.

A sympathetic character has to be more than a trope. It’s not enough to designate him the hero/sidekick/villain/love interest. The reader has to relate to the character, to understand him and empathize with him. The character has to feel like an individual, a real person.

How does this all relate to prejudice and discrimination? The word “prejudice” means a pre-judgment. You look at someone and judge them based on a superficial categorization like race, gender, socio-economic status, or even general appearance. You assume you know what they’re like based on a stereotype. You categorize them into a monolithic class in which all members are the same. Basically, they’re not a real person.

So the way to overcome prejudice is the same way a writer creates a compelling character. You have to get to know them, to go beyond the superficial, to understand their motivations, to realize they’re an individual who’s not necessarily just like everyone else. You have to see them as a real person.

Does this make sense? Do you care more about characters who are better developed? Do you find it harder to discriminate against people you know well? Should I win a Nobel Peace Prize for my solution to prejudice? Leave comments below.

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