Welcome to my stop on the Deadly Burial, by Jon Richter, blog tour hosted by Neverland Book Tours! I am thrilled to be able to bring you a guest post, by the author himself, discussing how to avoid cliched characters!
First, let’s get into a quick synopsis of the book:
When DI Chris Sigurdsson is assigned a grisly murder case on remote Salvation Island, he knows that it might be his strangest yet.
A forgotten wrestling star of the 1980s has been poisoned whilst in the ring, and amidst the slippery lies of his dangerous opponents, unravelling the victim’s murky past is almost impossible.
And as a storm threatens to cut Salvation Island off from the mainland, the race is on for Sigurdsson to find the ruthless killer before he strikes again…
Sounds pretty fantastic right?
Avoiding Clichéd Characters
This is really, really hard. I will let you judge for yourselves whether I’ve managed it in my debut thriller, Deadly Burial (a gripping murder mystery set on a remote and sinister island – with the added twist that the cast of suspects are all professional wrestlers!), which is now available on Amazon to download for your eBook reader. I suspect I haven’t, at least not entirely; there are some tropes and stereotypes that are just so deeply ingrained into our collective cultural ‘hive mind’ that it requires an enormous effort to wrench yourself out of those modes of thinking. Only this week I found myself writing a scene that required a pathologist, and without thinking about it, I’d immediately written him as a middle-aged white man.
The issue of representation (of women, of different races, of different sexualities and gender identities) is of course massively important – if we want to accurately reflect the reality of our culturally diverse society, we need to do more than drop in some ‘token’ characters in minor roles – but that isn’t my sole focus here. Good writers should constantly scrutinise their work for clichés, whether it’s a hackneyed phrase (‘he took the plunge’) or a stale opening line (‘she was rudely awoken by the beeping of the alarm clock’).
This approach certainly applies to your characters too. In Deadly Burial, I wanted to avoid the tired trope of a middle-aged, world-weary, alcoholic detective, so my main character is instead young and clean-living. I’ve tried to make him as human as possible, which includes making him fallible, a man struggling with complexities of a difficult case, and a sufferer of anxiety attacks. Interestingly, one or two of my less positive reviews focused on this as a downside, i.e. that the character isn’t an absolutely brilliant detective, as though that is somehow a ‘rule’ of the genre. (Another important tip for writers is of course that you can’t please everybody!)
I do accept that many tropes and clichés exist because they are tried and trusted, and that you need to be wary of deviating too far from what will entertain and enthral your reader. You may consider something and decide ‘yes, I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but it fits perfectly’. The key point is that you considered and decided… rather than falling into the trap without thinking.
As a final thought… I’m a horror fan and an avid consumer of books, films and video games (the technical term I think is a ‘nerd’…) and I’d like implore anyone working in this field to steer clear of mental hospitals for any future projects!! This has got to be the most over-used trope of the last decade… surely there are other creepy settings we can think of?? (A haunted blog, maybe…) I’m hugely interested in your ideas so don’t hesitate to fire them at me on Twitter if you have any great ideas for sinister settings… although I can’t promise I won’t pinch them!
About the Author:
Jon Richter lives in London and spends most of his time hiding in the guise of his sinister alter ego, an accountant called Dave. When he isn’t counting beans, he is a self-confessed nerd who loves books, films and video games – basically any way to tell a good story. Jon writes whenever he can and hopes to bring you more disturbing stories in the very near future. If you want to chat to him about this, or about anything at all, you can find him on Twitter @RichterWrites, or at his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/richterwrites2.
Be sure to visit the other stops on the Deadly Burial blog tour!