As I said in my letter about female character clichés, one cannot avoid talking about gender when considering clichés. Male characters have just as many cliché’s as female characters and today we will be exploring some of the clichés that irritate me the absolute most.
Usually, this type of character will be the perfectly normal nice chap on the surface, the guy next door type of character. He’s happy with his idyllic life, usually with his family and doesn’t seek anything else. Everyone thinks he’s just boring old Bob from number 22. But then something or usually someone, from Bob’s super-secret past that he never talks about will turn up.
This person might be a friend in desperate need of help, or they might be an old enemy who murder’s Bob’s family. Either way, Bob is suddenly taken out of his perfect little life (normally by his wife and child being killed or possibly kidnapped) and suddenly it turns out that Bob is a badass! Maybe he used to be the best secret assassin the world has ever known, perhaps he was in MI5 or some super-secret spy service that no one knows about. Either way, Bob will now proceed to kick ass and take names, he’ll be calm (although angry underneath the calm), he’ll be tough and amazing at all weapons. Bonus points if he can fly a plane or helicopter.
In this cliché, the male character will take being stoic to whole new levels. He’ll have no emotional spectrum at all, straight-faced and serious ALL THE TIME. No matter how the other characters behave or treat him, cold indifference is his way, yet somehow everyone loves him or respects this emotionally constipated asshole. He’ll spend the majority of the story brooding about something or other but never speak about it, usually, some kind of exposition will have to take place to stop this cliché being a total brick instead of a person. Sometimes they’ll have a cute sidekick to balance out all the dark brooding, cute sidekick will also do nearly all of the talking and explaining.
Bonus points if Grump has a kid to look after. Think Logan or God of War as examples (both awesome BTW, examples of how to do a grump right).
This cliché’s main attribute will be his body, he’ll be strong and that’s pretty much it. A lot of description will go into the size of the muscles, or the feats of strength. All problems will require physical force to overcome (handy that). Think Conan the Barbarian as a good example, big strong guy is big and strong, the end.
The Tank can usually go one of two ways, either they are big, strong and angry, or big, strong and wouldn’t hurt a fly. Big, strong and angry usually tend not to speak a great deal (too busy being angry), but the big strong and pacifist is usually played for laughs. Sometimes the character won’t realises his own strength (cause yeah, people get abnormally huge and strong completely by accident) and will be unable to control their epic muscles.
There’s not really much else to say about this particular cliché, it’s very straight forward.
Bonus Cliché: The Combination of the Above.
It’s not uncommon for the male character to be an amalgamation of clichés, they can be epically strong and also very broody, they can be a secret badass and also dark and broody. It’s a common sight to see many clichés in one character. But writers must remember, using more than one cliché does not make a character, it just makes a bunch of clichés’s on legs.
That being said, you can still have some of the above clichés and have a character work. The trick is to have it be realistic, people can be broody but not to the point where they don’t talk to anyone ever, super secret spies do retire (I think) and might have to deal with problems afterwards. The trick to managing this is to give your character’s reasons for their personality traits. Have your character be broody but have a good reason why and don’t let ‘broody’ be his only character trait, no one is that two dimensional and your characters shouldn’t be either. A Cliched personality trait does not make a character but that’s not to say a character can’t have a few typical habits.