There are cliches you should destroy root and stem: cliches that stereotype people by their race, ethnicity, religion, appearance, sexuality, gender, income, and/or ability. Those cliches perpetuate inequality and oppression. You, being a decent human being, should not include them - or, if they are included, to show them as wrong or not encompassing the character’s entire personality. Use tropes and plot or setting cliches if you will, but do not put people in boxes made of false generalizations.
I get a lot of questions reading, “If my character does this/if my story does this/if this happens, is it cliche?” And in many cases the asker’s “cliched” situation is actually a trope. What is the difference? tvtropes sums it up best:
Hunger Games on the Rez: Filmmakers Plan Dystopian Pine Ridge Drama
It’s 2085 on Pine Ridge. The reservation has been quarantined and borders guarded by the military for 30 years. Sparked by the ramifications of the Keystone XL pipeline, the war between the government and the insurgency lasted for eight years and resulted in the dystopian setting that provides the background for “The People,” the inaugural project from Indigene Studios.
Do they have a fundraiser going for it? Oh, pleeeeeeeze make this movie!!!
The first act of insight is throw away the labels. In fiction, while we do not necessarily write about ourselves, we write out of ourselves, using ourselves; what we learn from, what we are sensitive to, what we feel strongly about—these become our characters and go to make our plots. Characters in fiction are conceived from within, and they have, accordingly, their own interior life; they are individuals every time.
Write about a character in the middle of a battlefield. The city they once called home is being torn in two. Any other person would rush to leave, but this character is running into danger. What would push them to do this? Are they looking for something, or someone?
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