This is a follow-up to some points Marissa made in her recent post about characters. When creating a character it’s important to think about who they are, their desires, and where they come from. We’re products of our environment, your characters should be too. A good place to start is by studying archetypes and clichéd tropes. The first is a good base to build from, the latter is the result you want to avoid.
I’ll start with some easy definitions:
Archetype: something that fits fundemental human motifs and is reused without becoming trite or stale.
Example: A mentor character, a Loveable Rogue.
Trope: culturally specific person or theme that is already present in the reader’s mind. Often becomes a cliche.
Example: Magical Native, Broken Bird.
I’ll get this out of the way now: your character is going to fit into some archetype. And that’s OK. It’s even good. Get over the whole “They’re an original perfect unique snowflake!” Now, tropes in and of themselves aren’t inherently bad, but they are often used poorly and become a shallow, lazy way to create a character that the term carries a pretty negative connotation. Lets take the above examples.
Tropes and archetypes are a great instance to learn the rules so we can break them. There are many sites that have extensive lists on Tropes and their appearances in main stream culture. As authors we need to make sure we’re not perpetuating something negative — Manic Pixie Dream Girls(Boys) and Token Race characters are too common. Learn common archetypes and tropes in your genre. Why are they so often used? What are we doing to make them different (and we should be doing something). And above all, write characters that are People.
Let us know some of your favorite archetypes or pet-peeve tropes in the comments!
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