15 Cliché Character (And How to Un-Cliché Them) Pt. 2

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

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/15-stock-characters-and-how-to-restock-them/

Several weeks ago I took a look at the first seven, then came down with an appendicitis which is why I’m finally getting to the rest.

~~~~~

8. Hooker with a heart of gold: The article calls this a stale stereotype. I mean, what’s the first story that pops into your head when you hear this? PRETTY WOMAN. Yeah, me too. It almost feels like an oxymoron; call girls or a high class escort are one thing, but how many hookers do you hear about who do things from the kindness of their heart? Maybe if something traumatic happened to her, something that made her realize the bad choices she made.     

9. Knight-errant: These goodie-goodies might not be prominent in literature, but for good reason. The knight in shining armour, with his perfection is not a realistic character, unless you’re writing a historical romance, but even then, what drives him to be so charming? Is there a darker side? A good question to ask is; what would happen if this character failed in his quest?  

10. Manic pixie dream girl: This character drives me nuts. Honestly, I don’t like them. Perhaps because I don’t see them as a relevant character. How to un-cliché this? Perhaps, give the character a darker side; something that would contradict what others would see. A Jeckle/Hyde type thing.  

11. Nerd: With today’s more sophisticated readers, a nerd is no longer considered the social outcast it was say, ten or twenty years ago. As a matter of fact, I’d say the word ‘nerd’ is outdated  as just about all main characters have to be smart, or at least very knowledgeable about in his or her chosen profession, to make the story believable. So what can we do to fix this? Is there something about him that makes him unlikeable? Arrogant? Maybe he’s not as smart as people think he is, or he’s pretending to be something he’s not. This could get the character in all sorts of trouble. 

12. Sidekick: Seriously? A side-kick? Why is it every time I hear this word I think Superhero? Do people even write novels with a side-kick? Traditionally, the side-kick was the Hero’s right hand, but what if he wasn’t? What if he had an agenda all his own? Perhaps something that went against what the Hero was trying to do? I’m not talking Antagonist, but helping out the Hero for his own good and not for the overall cause. 

13. Tomboy:  Ah yes, the girl-next-door-who’s-more-of-a-jock-than-the-jock character. Changing her into the beautiful girl next door is boring, but then conformity is rarely exciting. I have to agree with the article and say maybe it’s a good thing to be stronger or just as athletic as the guys. Why is that so wrong? Why is that something that has to be changed? Maybe explore her reasons for not wanting to conform. There might be a hidden idea there.     

14. Tortured artist: Where does it say that one must suffer for their art? What handbook is that written in? Seriously, how can you write or paint or create anything if you’re starving? The idea that one must suffer to understand or delve more deeply into their creative side, to me, is bullshit. What would happen if the artist had success easily? What would his/her life be like then?    

15. Wise man: All fantasy stories have one of these; the elder of the clan who is revered for their years of knowledge about life and other things that are important to the story.  Many stories need this character to help our Hero determine just what he should or shouldn’t do, but I’m wondering if we need him anymore? How can you un-cliché this trope when his whole purpose is to help the Hero? You can’t even have him deceive the Hero, because that is also cliché. Sorry, I’m stuck on this one? Any suggestions?

So, what do you think about all these cliché characters?

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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.

10 Responses to 15 Cliché Character (And How to Un-Cliché Them) Pt. 2

  1. Re: Nerd
    The Big Bang Theory has taken nerds to a whole new level. If I ever write a nerd, I’m going to take lessons from them. 🙂

    Re: Wise Man
    Maybe the wise man comes with baggage–something awful he doesn’t want the hero or the community to know. Maybe he offers help as a way of making penance.

    I like the wise man, but I don’t want him to be too all-knowing, or too transparent. I’d like to know that even the wisest of us has demons.

    • jwtroemner says:

      I think Dumbledore may be the best example of turning this trope on its head. When we first meet him, he’s goofy and fun and silly, and only later we learn that he’s not even the Wise Old Man– he’s a chessmaster in a Wise Man’s clothing, and an ex-racist scumbag to boot. Even after death he’s running the show. Now THAT takes talent.

      What makes him such an incredible character is that he’s got so many layers. He’s not a stereotype or a cliche, but a very complicated man with an entire lifetime of history behind him.

    • That’s a good one, Maria. Yes, I think that’s what’s made this character so stuffy. Great observations! 😀

  2. jwtroemner says:

    I’ve currently got a story on the backburner that involves a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl… who becomes the Great Gatsby to his Nick Caraway.

    • Lol, how are you handling her?

      • jwtroemner says:

        My Manic Pixie isn’t human, and so all of her weird habits aren’t eccentricities so much as attempts to reconcile her instincts and impulses with a society built on obedience and empathy– our society. She feels her options are either 1) Destroy all who oppose her, or 2) dance in the rain and throw parties in the park and be generally silly. She’s trying very hard to stick with the second option.

        In the beginning the POV character seems to be convinced that she’s his personal muse/Manic Pixie, sent to bring him inspiration and raise him from his humdrum life. The fact is, she keeps him around because it’s easier to like and sympathize with one flawed and stupid person, who you know and generally like, than with an entire world full of flawed and stupid people. When one does it, it’s adorable. When a lot of people do it, you start wanting to reach for a chainsaw– and she’s very willing to reach for a chainsaw.

  3. I think Verbena is my wise man in Moon Over Donamorgh. She’s does some of the stereotypical things, but her actions also bring the ultimate danger. That was kind of fun.

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