10 Character Cliches To Watch Out For

Start with the archetype and mold it into something personal and unique, and you’ve got a good character. Start with the archetype and end with the archetype, and you’ve got a weak, cliched character. Here are ten character archetypes to watch out for in your manuscript:

The expendable grunt

Their sole purpose is to kidnap the girl and punch the hero. Of course, they’re only competent when it advances the plot.

The guy with the funny accent

What easier way to provide comic relief than to have a character that talks funny? Misspell his witty one-liners, and presto!

The tough girl

She’s the tough-talking cutie who takes care of herself and doesn’t have room for affection, sympathy, or other basic human emotions.

The pretty girl

All eye-candy and no personality. She’s gorgeous and talented, but don’t give her too many dialogue lines or she might think she can contribute to the plot.

The sidekick

The sidekick is your hero’s buddy, but it turns out he’s only there because the hero needs someone to talk to during all those boring scenes.

The villainous villain

He’s got the evil laugh, the mustache, the dark lair, and the expendable henchmen. Don’t forget to let him deliver his evil-plan-revealing speech that conveniently lets the hero know just how much evil he’s up to!

The mysterious stranger

He’s the hooded fellow staring at you from across the bar or lurking in the alley, popping up when least expected and following your hero all around for no apparent reason.

The sage/mentor

This fellow likes to hang out in speculative novels, where he can puff on a pipe, stroke his beard, and spit out wise sayings like a vending machine. His only purpose is to mentor the hero just long enough for the plot to get going, and then he dies.

The damsel in distress

Whether it’s dragons, kidnappers, terrorists, orcs, or her own incompetence that gets her in trouble, we couldn’t do without her. Otherwise, who would the hero ever rescue?

The Chosen One

We need Joe Schmo to leave his ordinary life to go on a thrilling journey, and since giving him a tangible motivation is overrated, let’s just slap the title “chosen one” on him and send him on his merry way. After all, now he has to go. It’s his destiny.

Remember, none of these character tropes are inherently bad early on, as long as you take the time to develop them out of that trope into a multi-faceted human being.

Have I left any out? Let me know in the comments!

13 thoughts on “10 Character Cliches To Watch Out For

  1. Useless Adults should be on this list too. The teenagers/kids must save the world from evil–only they can do it–because not one single adult (except perhaps the bad guys) is competent at being an adult. Those years of experience mean nothing. The adults are just parents/teachers/nurses/etc. who only react to the actions of the teenage/kid main characters.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Reminds me of Katniss’ mom, Bella’s dad and a few parents from John Green’s novels. No offence but they should have been given at least one side plot or important moment.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. The best friends who later turn into lovers only to prove that a boy and a girl can’t be just platonic friends. I hate when that happens. One of the many reasons why I don’t like Ron and Harmione and didn’t root for Laurie and Jo March.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’d like to see less characters in non-modern settings that have the exact same moral view as the average modern American. If the don’t start the book with modern views, they seem to have them by the time the book is over. (To be fair, I don’t read that much historical, but the few times I have read or watched it, I notice this.)
    I hadn’t seen any “guy with the funny accent” characters of late. I have one in my book, a Russian who got stuck in the US after the apocalypse, but he’s more quiet and shy because his English is bad, not a comic relief character.


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