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
I know the details of PTSD, but i would like to know if it is a bad cliche-even if it is a logical thing to happen to a character that has gone through horrible things.
If it helps, my character was tortured for information during a war before the story takes place.
Could you please help?
Remember that things like mental illness, PTSD included, have "shades" of sorts; some people get it really bad, and some people don't get it as badly, but in the end, they all fall under the same umbrella. If you're worried about a character being too cliche because of PTSD, think about why the character needs to have it. Obviously, it would be part of the history of the character, right? But think about when it pops up again. Are you only using it once? Is it being illustrated rather than told? Is it crucial in order to understand the character's reactions to things?
A lot of times we're told to make the character and let the scenarios play out, but this might be a good time to look at how the character would react to the rest of the plot. Look at what symptoms your character would exhibit (don't just use the laundry list given by the DSM-IV; most people react with a few of those, not with all).
The only way you can really make it super cliche is to have it be almost irrelevant to your plot, revealed in secret to the protagonist as part of a romantic scenario and is never brought up again (though even that can be subverted; for an example, look at "Audition" by Ryu Murakami).
My recommendation is to look at how and look at why. Fight to make it an accurate representation, and you should be golden.
Hope that helps! Feel free to ask more questions!
What I might caution against, however, is having your main characters (if it's not this character) figure this as a given. For example, "oh yeah, obviously (name) is asexual/aromantic because he's always been more interested in science than (insert gender here)". If the character is just discovering it, it should be gradual. It's not something they're just going to share with all of their friends because it's new to the character. If the character knows it and has processed it, remember that they may still hide it from people. And if it gets shared, remember that it will probably need a reason to be shared, and the character will likely not just randomly one day decide to tell everyone unless they're feeling pressured (such as, to be honest because they're hiding something from good friends, etc). I probably wouldn't attempt to tie your character's love of science into the asexual/aromantic thing (such as, they've always been interested in science because they're ace/aro), because then you're compressing a good portion of your character's entire life into their sexual/romantic views, and as such, reducing the number of facets in the character.
Hope this helped some (sorry it's kind of all over the place though)! If you have any more questions, let me know!
Also, as an aside, in the interests of fair representation and because I know how hard it is to find aromantic people at times, I myself am at the very least grayromantic (more probably aromantic, but I hesitate to call myself that because it seems so final), so if you have questions about how aromanticism feels. I can try to help out. Of course, this is assuming you or someone you know isn't aro, but there's so few of us that I figure I might as well offer.
"protagonist discovers his/her powers by accident"?
1. Have the accident be a catalyst for how they discover their powers, but not necessarily be just that moment. For example, protagonist does something, narrowly escapes a dangerous situation (or something; "by accident" isn't overly descriptive here) by what they think was luck, and tries to look into how they escaped before realizing it was their own abilities that saved them. This avoids some of the "superhero syndrome", where characters realize their powers when saving themselves/someone else, and immediately realize that yes, it was them, and yes, they can do something amazing (and so decide to use it for good or evil depending on what you're reading).
This is also a good tension-builder. If you can pull it off so that the audience believes that the incident itself was an accident up until the protagonist themselves realizes that it's not, they can start asking the same questions as the protagonist, which not only builds rapport between the reader and protagonist, but also keeps them reading.
The downside to something like this is that it's going to be difficult to keep the reader in the dark, so it'll have to be done efficiently enough that the reader doesn't get bored, but built up enough so that it has the proper amount of impact. Depending on which viewpoint you're writing from, it may also be difficult to limit the reader's information. A third-person omnipotent viewpoint is going to be a lot more difficult than a first-person viewpoint, for example, since the omnipotent voice is likely going to give clues that the protagonist doesn't have (and if the protagonist suddenly makes a jump of logic that may make sense for the reader, but not necessarily for the protagonist themselves, since they don't have the omnipotent narrator in their head, your protagonist loses credibility).
2. Have the reason that the protagonist discovers their powers explained later. This one borders on cliche still, but it's generally done badly, so doing it well may give you a few points for originality. The thing about this is that it needs to be explained REALLY well, and it needs to be relevant. Say that your protagonist's powers emerged because of a near-death experience (which is not something I recommend, by the way, since it's one of the big cliches). Can we really believe that in all of your protagonist's years of life, they've never had another near-death experience, even as an infant? Outside catalysts tend to be done well though (something else happens and it sets off the protagonist's abilities).
This can help strengthen your plot. One of the best examples of this is the video game Ghost Trick (not sure if you've played it, but I highly recommend it, and it works fantastically in this without spoilers). The protagonist has powers that they can't explain, and later, it's explained why they have them, using the other characters involved to complete a full picture of how it happened (and it's related to the main plot directly; it's not some side off-shoot that is sort of mentioned and then never again). Everything in the game relates back to one another, creating what is more of a "plot web" than a plotline (meaning that everything connects together in different ways, unlinear and densely, and not relying on coincidence to explain it).
As I said before, however, this can border on cliche. You really have to think about how it needs to be executed. Does it have a reason? What does it do to your plot? Is it necessary? Would your plotline be incomplete without the reason? If any of the answers is no (or nothing), you don't want to use this one, because it's going to fail to accomplish what you want it to.
Without knowing your plot further, I can't give you many more options (although if you want to talk about it further, please, I'm more than happy to help!), although I'm sure there's more out there. I think the biggest questions to ask yourself about whether it's cliche or not are:
1. Has it been done before?
2. Do I have a reason for doing it like this (or can I just not think of a better way to do it)?
3. Is the way I am doing this revealing something about the character? There is acting and there is reacting; the first reveals hidden truths about the character, and the second is merely the character having to make the best of a situation. Make sure in major scenes that your character is acting, not simply reacting to the situation.
Hope this helps!
one more question. is there such thing as setting clichés?
Interesting question. I had to think about this one for a bit before answering.
I'm assuming you mean setting as in environment, which is a fantastic question. Cliches happen when something is overplayed in the genre, so theoretically, yes, there could be setting cliches. That being said, it would be kind of hard to execute that in a piece of writing.
To illustrate my point, imagine you have a character who is a prince waging war against another kingdom. Obviously, one of the final fights is going to be in the other castle (because that would be where the other ruler lives). This isn't so much cliche as necessity; it makes logical sense for the battle to be fought there. The reader is expecting it because of their own logical reasoning. You could attempt to subvert the genre by having it take place elsewhere, but in the end, you're still going to have to end up in that other castle eventually, and it's likely been the goal of the character to begin with, so subverting it is probably not in your best interest.
However, having the battle at on the roof of the castle, Beauty and the Beast style, (. . . I know there's others, but that's all I can think of at the moment) is a lot less necessary, especially if it ends with one party falling off and the other standing at the highest point of the tallest tower while the sun rises behind them. (Note: there is something called the objective correlative that I'll come back to in a second.)
What makes these different? Why is one cliche and one not? It all boils down to the purpose of the environment. The castle is a necessity. Its purpose is clear: not only does it serve as a pretty awesome place to have a battle, but it also has symbolic meaning. The castle is the stronghold of the kingdom. If the castle falls, so does the empire. You see a lot of battles waged in castles in the throne room because of this reason; it has symbolic purpose. Meanwhile, what is the purpose of having the characters duking it out on the roof? Unless there's a logical reason (such as, your character is a dragon and can't fit inside the castle or something), it's likely done for dramatic purpose, for the possibility of falling off. Not only is it going to be difficult to get your characters onto the roof in the first place (I mean, who has a fight and says, 'you know, I think I'd like to add in the possibility of sliding off to my death'?), but if you go with the falling death, your character really hasn't had much to do with the victory, and that's going to keep readers from identifying.
The reason why setting cliches are around is mainly because of movies. In books, setting is important, but it's more important how your character interacts with the setting. In a movie, the setting acts as its own character. The setting is literally in every scene because it has to be. This is why it's harder to have a setting cliche in a written work; if the character doesn't interact with the environment, then the reader isn't going to notice it. No one reads through three pages of environment description anymore (thank goodness!). If the writer creates a cliche, it's pretty damn obvious. For example, standing at the highest point of the tallest tower with the sunrise behind the character. There's a lot of things that have to come together to create that image, and it becomes obvious on a readthrough that the image is cliched.
As I mentioned earlier, there is something called the objective correlative that we use in fiction. It's a really complicated term, and you'll probably go crazy trying to find a definition that makes sense, but the idea is that you're creating mood through inanimate objects. For example, rain for sadness. There was a worksheet in one of my creative writing classes that used the example of a rainy day funeral, where all of a sudden the clouds open up to have one ray of sunlight fall on a single flower growing on a grave to represent hope. Both of those are really heavy-handed examples, but you can use it skillfully if you remember that people see items differently based on their emotional state.
The point of this was the highest point of the tallest tower plus sunrise thing. The reason why this is used is because it is an objective correlative way to announce triumph or victory. The reason why it's cliched is because it's been used SO many times before to illustrate the same thing that we all know what it means at this point. In order to subvert the cliche, you'd have to do it differently, but still use the same feeling. For example, having the sun shine through the stained glass window in the throne room to have the victor bathed in white light and the loser in red (not the best example, but you see what I mean). All you have to do is become creative with it.
I think that answered your question, but feel free to ask more clarifying questions about this one; it's a quite interesting idea!
Beauty and the beast, royalty, evil king, mythical creatures are all used including the main characters (Angel, werewolf,witch, neko, vampire etc). I've made up a bit and used some creatures that aren't used often.
As for mental illness, I gave a few of my oc's mind disabilities (Autism, BPD, OCD,Dyslexia). My manga won't have a happy ending. I also tried to make the characters as real as possible (and by that I mean close to real people).
The abused/hated child trope is one where the protagonist believes that their parent hates them/abuses them, and the reader has no ability to see that there is a difference in the protagonist's view and the view of the parent. There are a few problems with this trope, mostly that using it generally collapses the bond between parent and child down to one problem rather than many. Your protagonist doesn't get along with his mom because his dad died in a war. What does the mother feel? Does she no longer love him? If not, why? (Note, I wouldn't recommend going down that path unless you have a REALLY good reason for it. The bond between parent and child is generally one of the strongest bonds that people have, so making that believable is going to be quite a pain.) Remember that for every conflict, there are two sides. Your protagonist is not the only one who has a goal in an interaction; maybe the mother is fighting to make the protagonist understand something about how his father died. I'd be interested to know why the protagonist has turned against his mother due to his father's death. Is she hiding something from him? Has she moved on? The fact that you have another character supporting your protagonist (the sister) makes me think that it should be a fairly solid reason, since two characters are (assumed to be) coming to the same conclusion to go against a parent. Make sure the reasoning is solid in that case. A reader should be able to understand both viewpoints if it's done well.
I should point out that using tropes isn't necessarily bad, but it is important to realize when you're doing it and attempt to subvert them whenever you can. Using mythical creatures is a gamble because of their viewpoints. Put yourself in their shoes; what are their goals and their thoughts on certain situations? To subvert that trope, you're going to have to make sure that the culture they come from is rich, and not the same as human cultures (think about the cultures of different races if you need help understanding what I mean. I come from a mixed-race family, so I have Japanese traditions, such as not wearing my shoes indoors, etc, and French ones, such as expecting wine at dinner. These are both really superficial examples, but hopefully that communicates what I mean). Think about their interactions with other magical creatures. Think about their histories, their feelings of membership in communities. Resist the urge to collapse them down into their specific creatures; in the end, they should be as detailed and real as your human characters.
As a recommendation (and I can't say too much, since I haven't read any of your manga, so I have no clue how you're doing this), instead of thinking of them like real people (which does help sometimes, don't get me wrong!), think about their motivations. As humans interacting with one another, we forget that other people have different aims and goals from us, but that's exactly what is happening. Sometimes our aims mesh well, creating harmony, but other times, we want things that are different from other people in an interaction. Don't just stay in your protagonist's head. Every time a character does something, ask what that action is doing. What is it accomplishing for them? Are they acting in their own interest? If not, why? It'll be strange to think about it that way at the beginning, but it becomes easier, no worries!
Final bit of advice, don't use my recommendations as a checklist! In a perfect work, everyone and everything would be represented authentically, but let's be honest; that's not going to happen unless your work is three million pages long. Make sure that if you tackle something like mental illness, do your research. Represent it well and represent it authentically. Don't just use Google; find people who have it! Talk to them! Get their viewpoints, try to get in their heads! That'll be a lot more effective than merely having a laundry list full of characters who have disorders or problems that affect them once and then never again.
Hope that helps! If you have any questions, feel free to reply back! I should be much quicker this time; no finals! =______=;;
(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.