Standard thinking is that good characters avoid being stereotypes. I think that’s a bit oversimplified. Consider a character named “Joe.” We first meet Joe at a gun show in Alabama. He’s around fifty, long hair, beard, wearing blue jeans, motorcycle boots, and a t-shirt that reads: “Always outnumbered, Never outgunned.” He has a southern accent. We see him talking with one gun dealer about the best weapons for home defense, then see him buying reloaded ammunition for this .357 magnum. He finally buys a machete before leaving.
What kind of vehicle does Joe drive away in?
a. sports car
c. pickup truck
d. a hybrid
What level of education do you think Joe has?
a. high school only
b. college degree
c. advanced degree, (MA, PhD, JD)
d. high school dropout
If you selected “c” for the first question and either “a” or “d” for the second one, then you’re doing what most readers do, you’re buying into stereotypes. Readers will say they don’t like stereotypes but they use them all the time to guide them into a story. And if you suddenly break stereotypes as a writer you run the risk of losing the reader.
Characters should avoid being complete stereotypes, of course, but the writer usually needs to bend stereotypes gradually rather than snapping them all at once. You have to lead the reader into your character, and remember that almost all readers will make certain assumptions about your characters based on stereotypes.
By the way, Joe is essentially me. The gun show mentioned was in Louisiana instead of Alabama, and was a composite of several gun shows I’ve visited. But other than that it’s me. And I don’t drive a pickup.