Cookie Cutter Characters

Everyone knows what a cookie cutter neighborhood is. It’s a neighborhood where every single house is the exact same model, are all painted similar colors, and looks like something out of a syfy totalitarian government take-over.

One of my friends lives in one, and if we forget to bring the house number, we are stuck trying to remember which shade of gray it is, what car they have, and if they have a basketball hoop or not (though my friend is fairly good about putting signs up, and we never actually miss her house 🙂 ).

My point is, they all look alike, as if the builders used the same cookie cutter.

A cookie cutter character is my name for a character type that is used to much in one author’s stories.

A scenario in which a cookie cutter character could be created in would be the following.

Say you just finished a draft you’ve been working on constantly for months. You happily lay it aside for a while before editing, and decide to work on a new project. After a while, you go back to your old draft. You slowly begin to realize as you read that your characters seem to behave exactly like the ones in your second story.

You’ve created cookie cutter characters.

Basically, a cookie cutter character would be one with similar personalities or temperaments to another character of yours in a completely different story.

Being an author, you can be rather protective of your characters. To you, each is their own individual person.

Sometimes it takes an outside reader to say, “Hey, this Aaron person reminds me of Billy. They even have the same sarcastic edge!”

Uh oh….

Luckily, cookie cutter characters are easy to fix as long, as you catch them sometime before your second or third edit.

Here are a couple ways to fix those pesky twins who were never meant to be.

1. Change their voice: This one may sound silly, but if you take a cookie cutter of a southern belle, and give her a thick Scottish accent, they’re not destined to be twins for long. It’s difficult to keep a Scottish lass acting like a Southern Belle, no matter how skilled an author you are. Eventually, the character’s new heritage and accent will take affect.

2. Give them an obsession: Make your character obsessed with something their cookie cutter would be totally repelled by. Does one like rap? Great! Make the other absolutely hate rap, and have a heart rooted in classic country. This will open up a whole new character.

3. Move them down the scale: What does this mean? Well, does your queen have an icy temper? Does she simply grit her teeth, and become cold and distant when angry? Make her rebel leader cookie cutter a fiery hot head!

Each personality trait has a range of response.

Temper: Hot – Cold
Nervousness: Chatty – Silent anxiety
Excitement: Squeals and childlike glee – composed, broad smiles

If you move a character up or down the scale of one or more personality traits, BAM! Instant new character.

Those are all the brilliant changes I have to suggest at the moment, but feel free to share in the comments bellow what you think is a good tool for dispensing with pesky cookie cutter characters.

Happy writing!

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