15 Cliché Character (And How to Un-Cliché Them)

I found this article while I was cleaning out the Writing file for my emails.


Go ahead, I’ll give you a few moments to scan the post over.


Read it? Good.

There are fifteen, but I’m not doing them all today. Just the first seven.

The one thing that struck me with this article was just how encompassing it was, but apart from a few ideas, it didn’t really expand on good ideas as to how to re-create them. Not the writer’s fault. Probably had a word limit. So let’s do it here.

1. Antihero: We’ve all seen these. Books are full of these characters now, because we’re told no one wants a ‘real’ hero anymore. I think making your antihero more hero-like;  showing that he wants to make a difference, maybe allowing him to show he cares in a round-about way, could breathe new life into this character.

2. Absent-minded professor: I never understood these characters. In order to be a professor, I would think you’d need your wits about you, especially if you’re character is dealing with volatile chemicals or situations.  Being absent-minded raises doubt not only about his competence (and if you need a professor, you need a competent one), but about the realistic sense altogether. The blog post suggests this trait should be as part of a deception, but that’s just as predictable. Why not have him with odd quirks instead. Perhaps something over-the-top when it comes to clothing or character trait. I think this would make him more appealing to readers, and more fun to read.

3. Boy/girl next door: I think this character type is the only kind you can use as a front for something more devious. The Norman Bates, as it were. Other than that, I agree with the original post and relegate it to a secondary character.

4. Clown/fool: I’m not too sure about this type of character. I would think the constant joking would get on my nerves. You would have to show a deeper side of this character to counter act the joking.

5. Damsel in distress: I agree with the original post, but I’ll add this–let’s just get rid of this stock character all together. No one wants to read about some poor, weak woman who needs a man to come rescue her. Put some balls on your female characters, fer cryin’ out loud!

6. Everyman: I think everyone has written at least one of these characters. I’m pretty sure I have. Like the original article states, make sure the character possesses enough distinguishing characteristics to be interesting, even intriguing, but I wonder, if you add these traits, does it then change your character from an Everyman to something else? Would you lose the appeal?

7. Femme fatale: The exact opposite of #5, I think showing a softer side, something that makes her look less dangerous than she is, would add depth to this character. Give her a heart, but make sure she keeps her softer side in check. Strength often has nothing to do with muscle.

Next week, the last eight!


About Darke Conteur
Darke Conteur is a writer at the mercy of her Muse. The author of stories in several genres, she prefers to create within the realms Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy. A pagan at heart, her personal goal it to find her balance within nature; exploring the dark through her stories and the light through her beliefs. When not writing or working with crystals, she enjoys knitting, gardening, cooking and very loud music.

6 Responses to 15 Cliché Character (And How to Un-Cliché Them)

  1. Excellent suggestions! I especially agree about getting rid of the damsel in distress all together.

  2. When you start turning these on their ear, it poses some interesting possibilities, even for the most tired (namely the damsel in distress). What if the clown is the evil wizard. What if the Damsel in Distress is anything but. Maybe she is in league with the enemy? Maybe she only appears to be in distress or is only in distress because she got trapped. You have to be careful how far you go, because you can end up exchanging one cliche for another and that doesn’t really help.

  3. Darke, I love your comments, but must respectfully disagree on one point. I *am* the absent-minded professor. Though I teach college math, I’ve done actuarial exams, and I’m the head of the pricing department at an insurance company, yet my desk is covered is papers and magazines and napkins and who knows what else. I sometimes hunt for my car keys while the engine is running to warm up. I have forgotten to take my kids to school. I can’t find my W-2 forms because I filed them where they’re supposed to be. That’s why I never put things away–if I do, I’ll never find them again.

    • LOL! You’re not absent-minded, your overworked. 😀

      When I hear ‘absent-minded professor’, I think of some feeble old person who knocks over things and generally is a complete disaster to be around.

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