The over bearing, ‘protective’ (and ever so slightly creepy) romantic lead. The brooding antihero. The gifted, chosen one…know what I’m talking about yet? Why, I’m talking about character archetypes in literature, of course! (In case you somehow missed the two occasions where I wrote the title of this post in very large lettering)
Every genre – from horror to historical epistolaries – is filled to the brim with character clichés and I, wonderful as I am, have decided to whittle this extensive list of clichés down to what I think are the top 5 most overused.
1. The Brooding Antihero aka the dickhead who needs to get a grip. You know the kind of character I mean. The one with the dark, mysterious past. The one who is often violent and dangerous. The one who is cold and aloof. The one who isn’t actually that nice a person, yet the romantic lead can’t help but fall head over heels in love with. Seriously, while I love my bad boys, this character cliché is so overused. These guys don’t seem to realise that you can have a tough past and be a semi-decent person. You can brood and be dark and dramatic without hurting the feelings of those around you.
2. The gifted, chosen one. A favourite of YA and paranormal romance novels. The gifted, chosen one is often a young woman who goes about her life quite ordinarily until, one day, something happens that forces her to unleash her powers which is often a cue for a tall, dark and handsome man to enter her life and teach her how to wield said powers. While stories of mental and physical growth are often inspiring, it would be refreshing to read a novel where a woman owns her powers. Hell, even a little bit of gender role reversal wouldn’t go amiss. I would definitely read a book where the gifted, chosen one is a guy and his mentor is a bad ass, powerful woman. If you know of any such book, please do recommend it in the comments below.
3. The overbearing and protective romantic (and often male) lead. These types of characters are often the ones people tend to swoon over the most. Christian Grey putting a tracker on my phone? Oh lord, please don’t say another word lest my knees give way when I’m overcome by lust for that eligible bachelor! On a serious note, though, stalker-like behaviour is too often passed off as being ‘protective’ and ‘sweet’. There’s nothing sweet about a guy putting a tracker on your phone, or entering your home unannounced and watching you sleep.
4. The Disbeliever. A character often populating the pages of horror novels, the Disbeliever refuses to take any seemingly supernatural occurrence at face value. They pass off moving furniture as shifts in tectonic plates (maybe, I don’t know, I’m not a scientist) and brush off the creepy laughter emanating from the basement, happily informing their family that it’s nothing more than the wind. Their disbelief takes them into dangerous, possibly life-threatening territory when they refuse to vacate the period property they’ve just moved into, despite the messages daubed in blood on the walls and the levitating children. There’s no shame in admitting your new home is freaky as shit and moving out!
5. The femme fatale. The ethereally beautiful yet dangerous woman. The one who’s usually an assassin and is something of a loner and doesn’t believe in true love until she meets the one. I love strong, independent female characters but this character cliché makes for a predictable story. We all know the guy is gonna thaw the femme fatale’s icy heart!
What character clichés do you think are overused? Let me know in the comments below!