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Stocks, Tropes, and Clichés

July 18, 2017

 

 

There is no such thing as an "original" character in the same way there's no such thing as an "original" story. All characters fall under a stock category. Every story has a Hero, a Villain, Love Interest, Best-Friend, Evil Lieutenant, etc. Your character might combine these stocks (such as the Love Interest is also the Best Friend) or they could be just one—such as a die-hard, through and through Hero—but every character, even the Town Drunk and Grumpy Bartender, have a basis in Stock.

 

This is not a bad thing.

 

In fact, it's actually a good thing. Every now and then, a person will branch out and think "I don't want a clichéd character, I want something original!" and try to go against the norm by making their Hero character actually turn out to be the Villain, and because of that, the Villain wins in the end. Can you think of a single book/movie/play/game that ends that way? The Hero and the Villain may die together, the Hero might actually be the Villain but is then vanquished by another Hero, the Villain might have a heroic change of heart and become the Hero, but no Hero has ever been the Villain and then actually won. People don't want to read that. And that would be why you never have.

 

Despite what consumers say, no one ever wants evil to win. The whole point of reading a book or watching a movie is to root for one character and condemn another and to wait, on the edge of your seat, for the Hero to win because you know it has to be coming. The Hero always wins, because if he doesn't then the audience is angry.

 

Now, that being said, there are stock characters in every story. The High School Story, the RomCom, the Epic Fantasy, the Space Opera, and Literary Prose all have the same characters. The important thing is to learn how to take those stock characters that are so well known and received and then turn them into something that is unique, relatable and, above all, yours.

 

Happy Writing!

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