We're looking at making "rounded" characters by taking a stereotype and adding a contradiction to give them depth. Several of us have pointed out that some of this is already clichéd - the woman in a man's world who does well by being more technical and aggressive than the men, for instance, taking all their stereotypical behaviour and beating them at it. Latest exercise:
"Write a brief scene, around 300–500 words, in your notebook, in which you portray a character in a complex way, going against the usual expectations for such a character."
After a bit of thought, this is semi-autobiographical - names have been changed to protect the guilty, but this is a condensed summary of a few real conversations and situations. It's also in excess of the 500- words...
She leaned back in her seat, cradled the phone more comfortably.
"Yes, Brian, I heard you the first time. We deliver this project by Thursday, or the sales director who promised it by Thursday looks like an idiot. Guess how much this worries me? If he doesn't want to look like an idiot, he should stop being one."
What worried her rather more was that the promise had been made to one of their best customers, and if they lost that contract, they lost their main source of income. At the other end of the line, the panicked babbling had been continuing.
"Yes, I've seen your project plan. It won't work. You've got the man-hours - call them woman-hours - nicely charted, but there is no way that server can handle that data analysis load as well as running your main website, and it'll take twice as much coding time as you've put in, even without allowing for contingency planning. You know when I recommended investing in new architecture last year? And again last month? Right. This is why."
She could have recited the excuses from memory, but she'd had enough.
"Stop it. We can emote about this, or we can fix it. Tell them I won't be in today, tell Steve to take over the routine code fixes, tell Tony to remember to watch the database open threads and give it a kick when it starts to slow - I've shown him how. I'm going to download the lot to my home machine, process it here, write the scripts to produce the reports, and upload the lot Wednesday night in the 2-3 slot in the morning when the network's quiet. It won't be what they were promised, but it'll do the job for now."
She listened a little longer. "I can tell them that, and if necessary I will, and if they want to sack me, have fun getting your precious project in this year, never mind this week. I won't be doing timesheets. You don't want the hours I'll be working in writing anyway, God knows how many regulations I'll be breaching. I'll send you an expenses claim for pizza and Coke."
She put the phone down. Yes, the M.D. had been known to sack people in childish fits of temper, but some employees he knew were just too good at their jobs to lose, and she was most definitely one of them. Also, Brian knew from experience that her threat to tell directors in general exactly what she thought of them was not a bluff.
She fired off the data transfer - the network would still be quiet now, before most people got into the office. Pulling her pink fluffy dressing gown round her shoulders, she wandered back from study to bedroom, and contemplated the assorted teddy bears eyeing her expectantly from the pillows. "Right, guys. Bradley is on coding duty, so I'll take you through now and sit you next to the printer. Cody and James, downstairs with me, I want company over breakfast. No, sorry, I won't have time to knit you that new jumper today, I have work to do."
They sat quietly while she poured the orange juice, lifted the fresh bread from the breadmaker, poached an egg, and whisked up a quick Hollandaise sauce. "Camomile or green tea this morning, do you think?" She listened to speech that no-one else present would have heard. "Yes, I know, camomile has honey in. All right, consider me talked into it." She didn't like to hurt their feelings, after all.