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September 18, 2012
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Crazy, psychopathic, murderer ladies

Sexy, butt-kicking girls

Crazy/random/hyper self-inserts

Depressed emo/goth/always-dresses-in-black types

Angsty/moody/hot teenagers

The brown-haired girl with no personality

The mean, popular, snobby girl

Unreasonably cruel bullies out to make life harder for the main character

The best friend (if they were a good character who *happened* to be a best friend they wouldn't have to be described as this)

Fun fact: Making victim OCs is cliche
Another fun fact: how someone dresses is NOT their personality
Yet another fun fact: People who claim to be random really are not and they know it.
Super bonus fun fact: A character's breast size need NEVER be stated. The end.

Super de duper bonus fun fact: Please, spare us the paragraphs on what the character looks like. It is a story, not a fashion show. A few sentences with mentions of hair color or other select features you find necessary to point out(KEYWORD: NECESSARY) are perfect. After all, how many paragraphs did JK Rowling describe Harry in? And yet we all know what he looks like... Plus, there are always these things called *pictures* you can take advantage of! especially on this fine art site ;)

Super de duper bonus fun fact part 2: When you're describing a character (or explaining a background, etc.) you don't have to do it all at once. Pace it reasonably throughout the story or it will become too overwhelming for the reader. Think of creative ways that make describing things seem more necessary. Example: She pulled out a piece of her curly orange hair.


Turned crazy from being abused

Turned depressed from being abused

Turned anything from being abused

Family was murdered

Anything to do with a fire or a car crash

Anything that was invented for the purpose of making the audience feel bad for them, just to get their family out of the way or just for the sake of being dramatic/emotional.


Over-dramatic/emotional scenarios specifically designed for "fluff" (aka unbearable corny-ness that you will someday wake up and realize you feel like complete fool for writing)

Making it up as you go (aka no plot)

Romance/romance related

Fun fact: Dramatic scenes do require more skill to write than casual scenes and most of the times less is more. If you base a whole story on the most dramatic/emotional things you can think of you WILL regret it.
I repeat, less is more (I don't necessarily mean less dramatic scenes, but also less drama IN the scenes too. The less drama, the more surprised we'll be when your character pours out their heart or whatever, so save the drama for when it's really important).

Another fun fact: There is this come in handy-ish thing called suspense. Drama is the anti-suspense. Create a suspense that the drama can have fun destroying, because drama without suspense is dead. It needs something to feed on.
I know you're dying to get to the part where your character is sobbing their heart out, but let the readers get to know them first, or they won't care as much (if at all...).
In most cases the only way for us to get to fully know them is through light-hearted, casual, every-day scenes and situations (sometimes far more than just the dramatic ones). It's up to you to make THOSE interesting too, you know.

(Also consider whether the sobbing their heart out part is too corny or not. A lot of the times it really is. Be careful).

Example of over-dramatic/over-used scenario (a short and undetailed one to be precise): Your character is completely distraught and broken. They sit in a corner with their arms around their knees sobbing. Then their boyfriend comes up and comforts them.

If you have an emotional/dramatic scene like this think very carefully: Is this the kind of thing I want my grandchildren to see in years to come or is it something I'm going to want to burn in humiliation?

Yet one more fun fact: Stories don't HAVE to have romance in them *shockety shock shock*

The last fun fact: Don't look up to animes when you write. Things that pass in anime don't always in literature. They're all full of Mary Sues for one.





Saying "I like *insert type of cute food/animal/object here*"

Barfing rainbows

Basically anything else you got from internet memes or fads


Lyrics/links to songs (sorry, but music is personal and no one is going to think of it the way you do. Plus, adding lyrics that you didn't write in the middle of a story is unprofessional)

Rewriting a story just to add a love interest
(anyone who writes down scenes of a movie word for word frankly has no life)

Sex, drugs, alcohol, racial issues (basically anything you can report someone on clubpenguin for talking about)

Fun fact: The more swearing in your writing the more immature it sounds. It's a scientific fact.
(Granted, it could be realistic if it's the way of a certain culture etc., but I think it's safe to say: leave that to those who know what they're doing).


Please, read my new post: How Not to Tell a Story…

Clarification: I am not saying that all these things are necessarily BAD. I am saying they are cliche and can usually be associated with unprofessional/amateur/inexperienced beginners.
I am not saying that none of these can sometimes be UNcliche when handled with care. Many good stories do involve car crashes or fires after all.
This is simply a list of cliches I put together of things that I have honestly encountered at least eighty million times each. Make of it what you will.

My take on Mary Sue [link]

A deviation I made as an example of one of the cliche stereotypes on this list:

And here's a video I highly recommend for people who write about romance.... [link] (I highly recommend a lot of their videos actually. They're worth taking a look at, especially the ones about relationships!!).
Add a Comment:
earthwasim Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014
thank you  so much! i have only just really got into DA, and the moment I found your Literature critiques I had to read them from top to bottom :3 really helpful to set me on the right track with my own writing ideas and I agree with what you say, stories nowadays (although definitely not all of them)  have a tangible, repetitive pattern and several issues with the structure and charácter constructs.

Your one about Love in YA is also very, very useful and helpful. All good constructive tips to keep in mind.
morakke Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2014  New member
I read a creepypasta called 'The Undertaker', where the main character is crazy, but not because of abuse. No spoilers.
MsTalksALot65 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014
I just noticed in some stories that I have read in dA, y'know the random ones you speak of, most of the authors usually have some kind of pattern when will the 'random characters will blurt out something.

Just saying.

By the way, good job on stating out your opinions.
SELI-book Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Somebody (not me, not talented enough) should write a story where the nerd/geek is the antagonist because she thinks she's so cool 'cause she's smart and likes Doctor Who, Firefly, Sherlock, (list any other fandoms you're in here) :)
MakingFunOfStuff Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014
LOL, that would be epic.
smileykaya Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2014  Student Filmographer
FINALLY! Someone who recognises that love interests aren't always necessary! Also, you share a hate with Nostalgia critic, he sees 'The bully' as one of the worst clichés of all time. :)
MakingFunOfStuff Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014
Does he? He sounds like a wise man.
smileykaya Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014  Student Filmographer

Oh he is indeed :) In fact I'll post you a link to the video with his worst clichés, I have to say I completely agree with everything he says, these clichés are annoying as hell! (technically these are clichés for films, but they sometimes apply to writing.)…

TaranJHook Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I have a question for you, since I love your articles and would like your opinion on whether or not this is a cliche` idea.

In a project I'm working on, the main character lost his parents in a car accident at a young age and so grew up with his aunt and uncle. The fact that his parents died isn't a main focus in the story, in fact it's not even discussed until about half way through the story, and even then it's more of a brief mention and not really an 'omg feel sorry for me' moment. 
 The only effect that this has had on the character is his general outlook on life, and that being (in a nutshell) 'appreciate what you have because you don't know when it'll be gone'. The character has stated that he doesn't have an specific religious views and doesn't really believe in an afterlife (but if there is an afterlife, then hey cool).  He also says that because he didn't grow up with his parents, he doesn't really know what he lost and therefore isn't really sad by it.

Upon reading that part of my story, would that information be acceptable (guess that'd be the word for it), or would you consider that a cliche, even though it's a minor detail. Being that it's my first big project that I'm trying to make public I'd like it to sound as professional as I can and not sound like some internet web story. Even though I encourage constructive criticism and for people to ask questions if anything confuses them, I still get the 'omg these are so great!' comments.  Like you said in a previous article, if you don't understand it, your audience wont, but if people aren't asking me questions I can only assume that I got my point across and we're all on the same level of understanding about what's happening.

I agree with a lot of what you say in your articles (having seen a lot of it floating around myself) and I want to make sure that I don't fall into the same traps.
therebeunicorns Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2013
[Wall of Text Warning!]

I enjoyed reading this, especially the fun facts. You really hit home with a lot of these cliches, because I really have seen them all before to one extent or another. I just have some bones to pick....I like to pick bones....-W- . . .Ahem, sorry. These are just my opinions, mind you.

"Super bonus fun fact: A character's breast size need NEVER be stated. The end."

Yeah, it's not really necessary for the most part. But what if your character has very large breasts that makes it difficult to shop for clothes? Every shirt in her size that she puts on stretches across the chest, so she ends up having to buy clothing that's larger than her real size or have her clothing custom made. What about the grown woman with an AA-cup who feels self-concious that she might never compare to women she deems "prettier." The women she thinks are "prettier" are all more endowed than her. It brings something out about her character--- she's full of self loathing about her figure and she may be just a tad superficial.

Granted, these are both on extreme ends of the spectrum. My point is that breast size can be used to bring something out about your character. Not always but occasionally a woman feels like she is affected by her breast size. I'm not saying that the character should outright state their breast size: "I was a 32C cup." That's kind of...silly. I'm not saying that every single female character needs to give their bust size either. But I'm just saying, every once in awhile, it could be slipped in another way. Take my first example of having large breasts:

"Martie slipped the shirt over her head. When she went to pull it down, it snagged on her rather large chest, bunching up, and she had to work to pull it to its full length. Looking in the mirror, she could see her midriff was exposed; the fabric over her chest stretched, tautly hugging her body--- the shirt was clearly meant for someone else, someone shorter, someone less endowed. Frustrated, she yanked it off and threw it back in the pile with a decisive huff."

In most cases, this scene would be meaningless, and yeah, I wouldn't even need to include it. But if one of my character's obstacles becomes finding clothes that fit for a date, it could belong.

Turned anything from being abused

Are you saying the abuse itself is cliche? Yeah, I have to admit it is. But if your character was abused, how realistic is it that they don't change at all? What you wrote makes it sound (to me) like you're saying characters can't change from being abused, or else it's a cliche that is associated with "unprofessional" writers. Please correct me if I'm wrong in my assumption, but I have to beg to differ.

I think it is an unprofessional writer that writes an abused character who does not change and is still perfect despite what happened. A professional, on the other hand, would write an abused character whose personality and/or mind was/is affected by the abuse that is/did happen(ing).

It could be a "minor" thing like depression, though depression is not really minor for those who struggle with it. Depression is quite common among abuse survivors. It could be even more minor, like general distrust.  Or it could be major. Many with Dissociative Identity Disorder were abused  as children, and developed different personalities to cope. A different personality would experience the abuse while the real person went into hiding.

It could also go to the other side of the coin. Maybe an OC becomes *stronger* as a result of the abuse, and uses her new-found strength as ire to take revenge or something?

I just feel, as an abuse survivor myself, that change as a result of abuse is realistic. I changed as a result. I also developed a disorder. (My disorder may not totally be the fault of the abuse, in fact I may have had it all my life, but the abuse played a role in it worsening, at least.)

Indeed, I pulled a little bit of a self-insert trick with my OC, though she's not really a self-insert because she differs from me in many respects.....but I did use my experiences to draw from in order to create a realistic character who was abused and developed a mental disorder later in life. I think that, as long as it is done with realism, meaning that the abuse/result is researched or in my case already understood (though I prefer to do more research anyway, as I feel my own understanding isn't enough), such a "cliche" can work for the purpose of your story.
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