Monday, January 24, 2011

Characters and Cliche

By Julie Daines

Dear Cliche,
We are always taught to avoid you. But, isn't there a way for you to be useful?
Troubled Writer

Dear Troubled Writer,
Why, yes. There is.  Let me explain:

I can be very useful when you use me in the form of Stereotypes.  You want to develop characters with depth.  I can help you get started.

Look at your cast of characters.  Assign them each a stereotypical trait.

Harry: Reserved
Ron: Funny
Hermione: Bookish

Then take those stereotypes and dig deep until you unearth a whole world of complex traits that grow and take shape throughout the story.

Harry: Reserved, self-doubting but with quiet determination, resourceful, temperamental, brave.
Ron: Funny, coward, complainer, envious of other's accomplishments, loyal friend.
Hermione: Bookish, smart, condescending, sure of herself, opinionated, honest, responsible.

And the list could go on.  But if you, dear writer, can find a starting place for your characters in the world of cliche, you can grow them into something individual, dynamic, and unforgettable.  Work with them and mold them until you know the secret desires of their hearts--and what they do when no one is looking.

Good Luck.


Yamile said...

I love this! Great examples.

Scott said...

There's another fun way to use cliches: turn them on their head. Lead the reader on. Make him think he knows what's going to happen by telegraphing a cliche. Then surprise him by taking that cliche and turning it upside down. It's a playful writing technique, and if used well, will delight the reader.