Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Guest: Susan Mac Nicol (part 2)

In my Guest Post this week I am featuring the second half of a previous guest's post. This time the writer tackles a common problem from the perspective of her own novels. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Susan Mac Nicol

Character Stereotypes

The first part of this guest post was all about the process of research and the rather weird and wonderful things I came across in the course of performing it. To recap, it was fairly run of the mill stuff - S and M, 101 uses for a flogger, gay man sex,  female on male rape, retributivism, cults, Stockholm Syndrome, male sexual abuse, psychopathic serial killers and more sex. Everyday topics for a Romance author really.

You might think that was the sum of all the weird and wonderful insights into the genre in which I write, which is gay male Romance. Well there’s more.

I am a straight woman writing about two men falling in love and having sex. Now while I think most of us have an idea of what this might entail, it might surprise you to look at a few statistics on the gay man world, and give yourself food for thought. I came across so many stereotypical views so I thought I'd look at this in more detail.

available 2nd Oct  -  Link
Firstly, there are a lot of myths about the gay life style out there.  Assumptions such as all gay men love anal sex, they can all do wonderful interior design or be a woman's BFF when it comes to choosing clothing (someone's been watching Father of the Bride or Will and Grace), they are promiscuous, love to have sex in bathrooms, and they are more likely to be paedophiles.

Yes, as in everything else in life, there are stereotypes and one of the things we as authors try not to do, is propagate the myth in our books unless it's what we choose to do for the story. We might not always succeed but we try. We all know some real doozies. That Irishmen called Murphy are supposed to be idiots. That all Englishmen love to drink tea. That anyone who wears a tattoo is a complete skank. That all priests are paedophiles. I mean, what a load of horse pucky. Yes, there might be a village idiot called Murphy somewhere in the world but that's just the way it is. I'm sure there's one called Einstein somewhere too.

This article by Simply Psychology was a fascinating look into what stereotypes are and how they get to be perceived as such:
[McLeod, S. A. (2008). Stereotypes - Simply Psychology]

Stereotypes are defined as “...a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.” (Cardwell, 1996).

In the Romance genre we see this a lot. The beautiful heroine with her heaving bosom and flashing eyes who probably came from a wealthy family and is now trying to assert her independence. The handsome, muscle bound hero, with cheekbones to die for and a devil may care attitude. The dark, brooding villain who somehow manages to sweep away said heroine (or in my case, hero) to a life of lustful sex and enjoyment, a happy ever after. And you know what, there's nothing wrong with this. The Romance trope depends on the burgeoning love relationship between a hero/heroine, hero/hero, who meet through some unforeseen circumstance, normally piss each other off, then come together in the realisation that they are meant to be together, leading to the inevitable HEA- Happy Ever After. The creativity comes in HOW we tell their story, what creativity we put into their development, how we define and develop their flaws (because they have to have some) and how we get said happy ending.

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and this is what they been quoted as defining the plot of a romance novel -
According to the Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."

This is it in a nut shell. But making your characters non-stereotypical, trying to give them their own identity and personality while not making them so reflective of what people expect them to be, that's where the challenge lies. And sometimes we may not succeed and succumb to the lure of the stereotype. If this happens, all I can say is that as long as you enjoy the story, it entertains you and makes you feel emotional, whether it be sad, happy, angry, disgusted or just plain horny, then who really gives a damn. As a writer we've achieved what we set out to do - make you, the reader, believe in our characters, their lives and leave you with the feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, you might like to do it all again. With our next book of course - that goes without saying.  :)

Read PART 1 of Sue's post here


Sue Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. At the age of eight, her family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where she stayed for nearly thirty years before arriving back in the UK in December 2000.

Sue works full time in the field of regulatory compliance for a company in the financial services industry in Cambridge. But she still finds time to work until the small hours of the morning doing what she loves best – writing. Since her first novel, Cassandra by Starlight, was penned, Sue has written the other two books in her Starlight trilogy, four other novels, two short stories and a screen play based on Cassandra. Her passion is keeping herself busy creating worlds and characters for her readers to enjoy.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. She is also a member of a rather unique writing group, called the Talliston Writer’s Circle, which in itself has a story all of its own to tell, and lives in the rural village of Bocking, in Essex, with her family.

Her plan is to keep writing as long as her muse sits upon her shoulder. Her dream is to one day get that big old house in the English countryside overlooking a river, where she can write all day and continue to indulge her passion for telling stories.

Sue can be contacted at:

Personal website: 

Cassandra by Starlight Facebook page:

Thanks for another great post, Sue. Er... don't all Englishmen drink Tea?

Eric @
Post a Comment