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Monday, January 25, 2010

Is your character cliche?

I didn't get any writing done this weekend, even though I woke up at 6:30 both Saturday and Sunday and everyone else was asleep. Well, almost everyone. My two year old is the one who wakes me so early. In between fussing over which cartoon he gets to watch, and insisting on sitting on my lap while I type, and having to reach up to the counter to get his own apple (which requires that I pull the chair up for him), well let's just say that it's hard to get anything done. Then there's my recent book obsession. I had six books left to read before I have to return them to the library next week, and I knew that I had to get cracking on some of them. So I finished The Tale of Desperaux (ok, but not as good as I thought it was going to be), Pictures of Hollis Woods (I highly recommend this for MG) and Jinx (my first Meg Cabot read, which was ok, but I kept wondering what all the hype is about Cabot. Maybe her other books are better?). I now have three books left to finish by next Sunday, and I think that I'll manage as they're all MG and should be fairly easy to coast through. Lesson to all of this: don't plan on reading 15 books in one month if you still want to be a writer! I think that I'll just check out four books for next month. I have a set of the Percy Jackson books coming from my son's Scholastic book club so I'll be reading those too, but it's time to slow down.

I did get some work done on my book though, not actual writing, but plotting and thinking. Specifically, I got to thinking about cliche characters. There have been a lot of threads on this subject in AW lately, and I thought that I had managed to avoid that in my own WIP, but it got me to wondering if I really had. Was my character cliche without me realizing it? No one intentionally wants to write a stock character, but sometimes it just happens, especially to new writers which I still categorize myself as. So I did a web search for cliched character types and after looking through them all, I think that I'm safe as far as my MC, Nikki, goes. I do have a few minor characters who fit the cliche, most notably a villain who is just 100% evil without any depth at all. I may have to do something about that, but I'm not overly concerned about it. I think that it's probably ok to have a few minor characters that fit the cliche because they're minor. They don't have many scenes devoted to them, and it's hard to fit in a lot of depth when there's very little space to do it, and in the case of villains, you still have to make them look mean.

Anyway, I thought that it might be helpful to others if I compiled a list of cliche characters. These are from a few different websites and really just the ones that I came across most often. You'll notice that some of these character types are present in a lot of popular literature from hugely successful authors. You may wonder, what does this say about the cliched character? If so and so did it and they had no problem, then why should I? And that's a good question. I mean people like these characters because they are fun, easy to love and even easier to write -who doesn't love a peasant who becomes a king, and really how likable could he be if he were rich and noble already? But ask yourself, would you rather do something that has already been done, or would you prefer to stand out from the crowd? I want people to say that my characters are unique, that they sit with the reader long after that last page is turned. I don't know if I will actually accomplish that, but I think it's a good goal to strive for, and doing a cliche character is not the way to go about that.

Non-inclusive cliche character list:

1. The girl who believes she's an ugly duck but it turns out that she's really pretty, she just needed a guy to tell her.
2. Princess with rebel princess syndrome
3. Bitchy popular girls, and they tend for some reason to be blonde
4.The "I am just as tough as a man and need to prove myself every five minutes" girl.
5.Hunky, moody and mysterious guy
6. The evil clergy man
7. The old Native American who knows all the old stories and traditions of his tribe.
8. rich boys and girls with boring parties where everyone gets drunk and the big problem is who's sleeping with who
9. Fat, jovial type
10. intellectual loner
11.Evil villains who are evil to the core
12.Character who has no idea where he/she is from but there is some random piece from their childhood that they use to discover who their parents are
13.Peasant who becomes a king
14.Hero who is cocky and arrogant and must be tempered by his wise mentor - usually some old guy.
15.Evil wizards who plot to take over the world.
16. Green eyed, red haired girls who have a temper - and often tend to be witches!
17.Evil villain's son or daughter who has turned to the good side.
18.Insecure girls who are insecure for no reason.
19.The perfect vampire who is always hot and sexy. Hello? He's dead!
20.The comedian side kick.

If you have any suggestions that you think should absolutely be on this list, especially if they are common in YA, then please let me know and I'll add it in!


Bailey McKay Clement said...

That's a great list. I don't think my characters fall under one cliche completely, except one is maybe the fat, jovial type. Except he's just a little chunky, not really overweight

Wow the way I wrote that made it sound really awkward. Lol.

Nice post



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