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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
(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 . . . )!
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!
Honestly, I was thinking about writing a fan fiction for the show, but I don't know if I should. Should I?
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.
I looked back on all the characters i've created and i definitely feel like i've given them enough character.
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.
Cept the drastic mistake of giving myself the position of being the main character maybe but i'm not perfect ay?
I'm also available if you have any questions, so come back with any!
Thank you for reading it! <3
I think that it's impossible to tell if your character is a Mary Sue just from that list. Sure, she has a lot of positive traits to her personality, but oftentimes those traits backfire and become our worst traits as well (for example, someone who's very kind can become a doormat when manipulated, or someone who is classy can be immediately prejudiced by things that she deems to be "lower-class"). Until you start working with the character and making them do things, it's impossible to say. Now, if this character never has a problem that she creates due to one of her own failings, but rather, comes to save the day from everyone else's or is merely externally conflicted, that's where someone becomes a Mary Sue.
Now, as a bit of an aside (because I'm in the business of fixing people's characters; it comes second-nature at this point, so sorry if it's unwelcome), you may want to focus on your character's dislikes more. I mean, everyone dislikes rude people, right? And attention whores? You haven't distinguished your character in a meaningful way. Start looking into things like pet peeves; those can reveal some really interesting character traits.
Hope this helps! I may do something on what makes a Mary Sue sometime soon, since I get enough questions about it!
“I wait for no man!” she shouted, squeezing me in a bone crushing hug.
“Nor woman, apparently,” I responded. “Breathing is kind of a required thing.”
“Ah, right,” she held me at arm’s length, looking me over with icy blue eyes.
“You got your hair cut?” I asked. Her brown hair was cut into a pixie cut. The look suited her.
Also, do you know any villains for a telepath? I'm having trouble thinking of anything besides scientist, and that's a bit too Maximum Ride for me.
"Samantha (blah, blah, real sentence here), called Sam by her friends"
If she's never called Samantha, there's no reason to explain it. The reader already knows it. It's a cliche to introduce us to the character without actually telling us about the character. It's one of the subtler ones in the list.
Now, if you're talking about switching it in the actual narrative voice, I wouldn't do that. You run the risk of confusing your reader (especially if they're only skimming and you have two similarly named characters!), but unless you're in the first person POV, there's really no reason to. Both the reasons to use the nickname (if it's never used at all in the story or ever in the narrative), would include irony, which is a completely different issue.
This was helpful, I think.
I guess with me, I like to take an idea, sometimes an extremely cliche idea, and write it in my own way with my own characters. Even, sometimes especially, with the ones in the Bubonic Plague section. (Aren't the Bubonic and Black Plague the same thing?) It's just to see how well I can change an idea, if it's recognizable or still interesting to read, because if you take an idea and change the cast, it becomes a whole new story. With a new cast (should) comes new personalities and new ways of thinking, allowing for the plot to advance in different ways than before.
By the way, another thing to be added to the list - Demon forms
Hell, I love em when they're pulled off right (Fleetway Super Sonic etc.) but there's a fine line between good and bad. Like quite often (In the Sonic fanbase especially) in they're demon forms they overpower themselves so much that first they can't do crap to mouses and next they can beat off Gods easily.
Mini rant over!~
Anyway I think the annoying cutesy nicknames can work if someone just trying to annoy the character in question ^^.
I seriously don't know why I referenced the Sonic fanbase so much, oh well!
The annoying nicknames need to be used for a reason, as you suggest. Of course, for every rule I put up, there's almost always a counterexample you can put as for why that's a bad rule. Oh, writing, how confusing you are but I love you so.
Thanks for the review!
For example, would it be wrong to have a character named Charles that is called Charlie by his friends?
It's more that we don't need a character's full name if they're never called by it. For example, if your character's name is Charles, but he's called Charlie by absolutely everyone, we don't need him called Charles in the narrative; it's confusing to readers and just generally a bad idea.
For the record, I adore nicknames and give them to almost every one of my characters.
but I think I understood this, and by the way, you forgot amnesia...
Amnesia is a great one! Should I ever rewrite this (and seeing as many views as it seems to get, it looks like I should), I will certainly add that one in! Thank you!
Some of those I don't see much I was actually interested in unique literacy, something...not fan-fictioney...
Otherwise amnesia is a god awful backstory and anybody who uses that needs to get slapped...
I think it's important to remember that in first drafts, a lot of these things get added as Deux ex Machina, and are eventually revised out in good literature.
But agreed. Now, if only the video game industry would think the same way . . .
Ack, misspelled it. A Deus ex Machina is literally translated from Latin to mean God from the Machine, and basically means that it's a sudden solve-all with some character or ability, etc. Quoted from Wikipedia: "A deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved, with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. Depending on how it's done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, or to bring a happy ending into the tale." My point with it being that a lot of people aren't quite sure how to bring their characters together or get themselves in a place where their story can be started/continued, so they pull one of these to fix it.