Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cliche in Character

You wouldn't think this will still be an issue with writers. We should have mastered it long ago. None of us enjoy watching TV shows or movies that cliche certain groups. It is soooooo politically incorrect, unless you are bashing Christians. Then it's humorous or done as a statement against the narrow minded masses who occupy pews every Sunday.

But it's still done. Maybe not so much with political or ethnic groups, but it happens. So how do we keep from it in our fiction while keeping our writing real. I noticed after my 5th or 6th book that they all contained domineering, intolerant, often self-righteous, older female characters. These characters were usually mothers, grandmothers, or aunts to my heroine. The heroine couldn't just tell these characters off or walk away from them because they were an integral part to her life. She had to endure as we all do with these characters in our lives.

I'm sure you've noticed that more movies have capitalized on this theme than probably any other. Why? Because we can all relate to these moments.

Not to mention it's downright funny. Creating these characters is one of the things I enjoy most about writing.

Can we create a strong mother figure or precocious child without annoying the socks off the reader? We want the reader to relate and empathize with our beleaguered heroine, but we don't want our antagonist to look like every other Mommie Dearest ever written.

A good technique is to imitate something from these characters in your own life. Oh, come on. We all know you have at least one. Don't use this character to get back at your own mother. But what would it hurt if you gently incorporate a few characteristics of people you know into your character? It helps make your character more real and more unique. Everyone you know is going to accuse you of plagerizing them for your book anyway.

Even if we all have strong, often domineering women in our lives, no two are exactly the same. Focus on some unique qualities, no matter what the character, and avoid cliches. Have fun with these characters. We all know they are having fun with us.

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