Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:icongmyuna: More from GMYuna

Featured in Collections

Writing Aids by DragonKnight007

Tutorials by ChloeTeufele

written by White-Feather

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
September 1, 2010
File Size
6.8 KB


10,932 (11 today)
203 (who?)
Character Cliches to Avoid (Like the Plague)

This tutorial-suggestion love child will be split into two parts :: 1 for cliches that should NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVUR be done by anyone, and the second part being ones that shouldn't be done by beginning writers.

Section One: The Black Plague

These are character cliches that are so overdone that they should NEVER be done anymore.  EVER.

Underdeveloped Characters
Not a lot to say on this one.  There's nothing worse than reading a piece of writing though with a main character or side character that never got the character development that they deserved.

"Stone" Characters
This is my name for characters that never change through the series/work.  Your character should always grow with each obstacle they're faced with.

Characters with Atrociously-Spelled Names
Let's just say that if I have to get out the pronounciation guide to get through the first half of your character's name, it shouldn't be done.  Neither should flailing your fingers around on the keyboard until you find something "usable" or finally giving up and picking a name with no vowels.

Characters with Names that Describe a Physical Attribute
Sorry, this rule is relegated to parents that are psychics and kids under the age of 6 who are naming pets.  Enough said?

Characters with Nicknames
This one needs explaining, obviously.  If no one calls your character by their real name, then don't even bother giving it to us.  I don't care if your character has the prettiest first name ever; if it's not used, don't give it to the reader.

Characters with BAD Nicknames
Yeah.  If you've ever played Final Fantasy X-2, you know what I'm talking about with Leblanc and Nooj.  For those of you that haven't, think of your character as a human being before you give them a nickname like "Noojie-woojie".  

Complete "Loner" Main Characters
Emo and goth characters are the most criminally loner characters (although if you look at them in real life, I don't think that I've ever seen a goth person as a loner at my school) ever created.  If it's integral to your story, keep it.  If it's not, and it's to allow a "paranormal" person near them without anyone noticing, you've got a HUGE plothole.  Just a hint.  At least give them a best friend or something.

Fanfiction-type Characters
We've all seen one; something that's trying to pass itself off as an original character, but it's really a thinly disguised fanfiction?  Honey, changing names isn't the only thing you have to do to make your character original.

Most common mistake that beginning writers make is making a Mary/Gary Sue.  Unfortunately.  However, if you just want to use the name Mary Sue with a real character, I say all hats off to you.

The Abused/Hated Child
This one seems to be dying down this year, so hopefully it's at its end, but making your character "always hated by their parents" is not a character flaw, and only makes for an angsty character.  And really, angsty characters aren't attractive at all.

Section Two: Bubonic Plague

These are character cliches that an experienced writer might still have a chance at making the million with.  Unfortunately, against the beginning writers, the odds are about three million to one still, so I'd recommend leaving them until later.

The Missing Prince/Princess/Royal
It might so be that your character is a royal in disguise, but if they don't know it, you're bordering on a huge cliche here.  Seriously, it's been done for ages; just ask Grimm and his Sleeping Beauty.

The Loner Because of Fear
One of the main rules of thumb is that if they did it in Sailor Moon, don't do it now.  Makoto (Lita, in the English version) is a loner because of the rumour that she beat up a kid in her other school.  This applies to powers too; don't discriminate because of fear - there's always the stupid kid who doesn't realize the danger.

The Beauty and the Beast
Kind, sweet heroine meets sulky, cruel hero?  Sound familiar?  Usually doesn't happen that way in real life.

Royalty in General
Issues of class will always ring true to readers, but the royalty is getting a little much, especially when paired with a beggar.

Evil King
Or Queen, depending on who you are.  Back it up with war, but please, don't get so cliched as to say that even his/her own daughter/son despises him/her.

Blinded by Love
"She kicks puppies for a living, but I still love her!" Sound romantic?  Only in sappy romance novels.

Two Love Interests for the Main Character
Bella had Jacob and Edward.  Katniss has Peeta and Gale.  Don't create teams.  Please?

Mythical Creatures
Unicorns?  Fine.  Vampires and Werewolves?  Those were so the 2000s.

Section Three: The Cure

These are some things that I think are drastically underused in fiction (or at least YA fiction).

Mental Illness
If Shakespeare did it, you know that it's gotta be good.  Hamlet still rings true today for many fans.  Unfortunately, the last book that I read real mental illness in was from the 1990s.

The End of the Happy Endings
For me, if the book/series doesn't kill someone off by the end, it's not worth reading again.  It just tells me that the stakes weren't as high as the author made us assume.  Again, think Shakespeare.  Romeo and Juliet both die at the end, and it's still known as one of the greatest love stories of all time.  It's a little messed up, and a lot of fun.

The "Different" Supporting Character
Give me an alien.  Or a wizard.  Or even a vampire, but don't make it the main character, nor the contrasting character.  Make it a side character who really doesn't have much input in the story.

High Stakes
Again, going back to the fact that someone needs to die at the end?  If it's not the main character (who can be saved at the last moment, if needed), then the stakes aren't high enough.

Real, Quantifiable Jealousy
Ever wanted to do a bitchy character?  Me too.  Too often, the main character becomes friends with the bitchy character and the bitchy meter goes down.  For some people, that's just how they are.

Real Characters
Give me something to justify with.  An unreliable narrator?  Perfect.  A compulsive liar?  You could say that all authors are liars who make money off of it.  Whatever it is, make me believe it.
Yeah. After surfing for a bit, I realized how many bad characters there were, and this is my solution.

Well, that and leaving angry comments. ;D

Bella, Jacob, Edward (c) Stephenie Meyer
Katniss, Peeta, Gale (c) Suzanne Collins
Makoto (c) Naoko Takeuchi
Nooj, Leblanc (c) Square Enix
Add a Comment:
CupCakeHug Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
I've only got one question (I really like it, helps me a lot, though I've never really used this kind of cliches), are angels safe to use?
GMYuna Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I think it depends on what kind of spin you put on it.  Angels have lots of different details associated with them; now, if you're doing the same thing as the rest of your genre, yes, it sounds like cliche.  But, if you can make it unique, there's no reason why it shouldn't be safe.  I think it's all about working uniqueness into your cliche.

(To answer what I think your actual question was, I tend to put angels in the mostly-cliche category and don't tend to use them unless I have a better idea for them.  They're not something I've really used a ton of, due to their western religious influence [as someone who was raised Shinto, I don't feel comfortable working with them unless I redefine the archetype], but I think that there's a lot of flexibility in working with the idea to make it unique and therefore escape cliche.)

Hope that helps!  Feel free to ask any more questions (or ask me to clarify this one; my apologies, it's early morning, so this may be mostly gibberish . . . )!
CupCakeHug Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you for your help. No, I wasn't planning on going the cliche way with my angels.
My angels will be quite unique as far as I know. Again, thanks for your help :)
CastleUnderTheMoon Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014
The underdeveloped charaters part I agree with ALOT. I watched an anime, and I was so angry because I watched the whole series but only one charater had some character development, if any. And the end was stupid. I still like the show, but still. 
GMYuna Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I think it's happening more and more these days, where characters are sort of thrown out there and it's expected for the plot to carry the story.  Plot is only one part of the equation; if the characters aren't affected by the plot, it doesn't matter, and the entire thing feels ineffectual.  I think that's one of the reasons why people still subscribe to the idea that you throw your characters into the worst situation possible for them; it forces the characters to change.  

Of course (and completely beside your point, but now that I've started typing it, it's apparently determined to come out), these days, if character development happens, too often it's positive change, I think.  Negative change tends to either be ignored or have supervillain angst.  I think if I was writing the same piece today, I would probably capitalize on that; there are a lot of things that I've missed in this piece, and a lot of things that people have pointed out over the few years it's been on this site.

Thanks so much for your comment!
CastleUnderTheMoon Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2014
Thanks for replying to my comment. And I agree with you.

Honestly,  I was thinking about writing a fan fiction for the show, but I don't know if I should.  Should I?
GMYuna Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'm probably the wrong person to ask that question to, because if it comes to a question between writing and not writing, write.  Always.  I don't know about you, but I get crazy when I don't, so I have to assign myself little things to write about.  

That being said, if it's not a question of whether to write, but a question of what to write about, you might find it an interesting exercise.  I love giving characters more character development; it's something I do for fun because suddenly, a lot more comes out of the character than meets the eye.  I do think that if you do it though, you're going to need to know exactly what is happening in the fanfiction to know what to account for.  Don't be afraid to be flexible though; sometimes characters start changing in ways you don't expect.  Let them, and don't let your brain tell you not to do it; overthinking things is going to be your downfall.

In other words, if you do it, I suggest doing it in a way that changes what you didn't like about it to begin with and go from there.  Figure out a plot, stick the characters in there, and just let them play around for a while.  Then decide if you have enough to make a full fanfiction off of.  Sometimes characters just get too stilted to work with, unfortunately.
CastleUnderTheMoon Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2014
Thank you for the input and the suggestions.  Usually,  I am lazy when it comes to writing. I have a great idea, but then after procrastinating for awhile,  I lose interest in wanting to write,  especially when I lose ideas or get too busy to write.  Ill take your advice to heart when I start writing. 
GMYuna Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Absolutely!  c:  I find that a lot of writers like to be dodgy or mysterious when it comes to their creative processes, so I am to be truthful, sometimes too much so.  xD  If you have any questions or more things that you'd like advice on, you know how to find me.  ;D
Gearogenix Featured By Owner Edited Jul 13, 2014
I'm glad i've avoided making these mistakes myself from the beginning Ule 
I looked back on all the characters i've created and i definitely feel like i've given them enough character.Smile 
i do have to make some changes to some characters but i dont think i've done too many bad things with my work development-wise.onion head "so what" 
Cept the drastic mistake of giving myself the position of being the main character maybe but i'm not perfect ay?onion head "smug"…
Add a Comment: