So what do you do? Like all good writers, you try to make your characters deeper by giving them some interesting baggage from their pasts. Or you rewrite their dialog to make it a little more edgier, a little more witty.
But what about when this goes wrong? What about when the traits or back-story you pick actually harm your characters instead of enhancing them?
Here are three examples of what you shouldn’t do; three ways to turn your dull characters into generic ones.
1. The Victim
How about a character who was abused in the past? That hasn’t been done more than a few million times, right? The worst are when the character has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Topics like that are far too disturbing for me to write about and even worse to read about. And they’re done to death. Just watch any movies made for the Lifetime Cable network.
If you do feel the need to give your character the back-story of being a victim, make it relevant to your overall storyline, don’t just insert it with hopes to make your character “more interesting”.
2. The Addict
Here’s one I fall back on to far too often. Looking back, I think I can say that something like 90% of the main characters in my fiction have drinking problems and a nicotine habit. I think it’s something I picked up from reading too many Stephen King books when I was a kid.
If you are in desperate need of a character flaw, there are plenty of options other than drugs and alcohol. Try road rage, overeating, gossiping, cannibalism. Anything. Just stop making them drink so much.
3. The Juno
This is the worst. You’ve got a Young Adult novel with a female lead. That means she needs to be snarky, intelligent, anti-authority, and sarcastic, right? Wrong. For the love of God, wrong. Everyone has seen Juno, and everyone hates it. Or at least they should. The last thing the YA world needs are more novels that read like Juno. So if you’re writing that awful movie in book form, stop it. Stop it right now.
These are only three example, but there are dozens more out there, so it’s up to you to figure them out.
It’s important to make your characters original. Make them flawed and realistic. And make sure their flaws and character traits aren’t generic either.
What other generic character flaws am I missing? Leave a comment!