Art has been developing almost since the beginning of the humankind. History has hidden a lot of great books from us – some of them lost, some destroyed, of some we never got to even know. It has been thousands of years since people create fiction, so it is true when writers say it is hard to think of something truly original when it comes to plots, ideas or characters. Well, following the standard is an easy choice, but if you want to create something that gets stuck in your reader’s head, making them open your book again and again, the first thing you should NOT do is use the stock characters in it.
Who Are the Stock Characters?
Stock characters are the images recurring in many works, like novels, movies, comic books, short stories and cartoons. They are labeled; they are predictable; they are barely likable if you do not manage to make them truly outstanding, which is a good challenge to try.
Here is a list of some of the stock character in alphabetical order, which can be found in art pieces throughout the world.
If you want to see the illustration of what a stock character is, just google this one. There is a whole Wikipedia page devoted to him, and an impressive list of where he was used already. Overall, this is a scientific genius, to the extent of being lost in the surrounding as a result of his deep-thinking-blackouts. The first person who has described this stereotype was Diogenes. Pretty old, ha?
The stereotypical Bad Boy was described by Kristina Grish as “the irresistible rogue who has the dizzying ability to drive women wild.” They are usually the men who are very charismatic, but not at all loyal, with a long list of names in their “Affairs” notebook.
This is the strong and dangerous antagonist, mainly featured in action genre. As an opposite to the White Knight, the Black Knight is associated with death and fatality. The history of this character can be traced back to the tales about King Arthur and has not changed the idea much since then.
Usually it is a single, therefore lonely, woman caring about many pets. The most well-known example is Mrs. Figg from the Harry Potter books, but she has stopped being a typical stock character after she appeared to be a brave person who lives undercover and is a spy to one of the sides.
Damsel in Distress
Remember the appearance of Fiona in Shreck? First she is shown as a typical Damsel in Distress, a princess in a need of being rescued from a dangerous dragon. The princess can also be a teenage girl, while her parents stand on the place of the dragon, but it will still seem a little bit too boring if you do not take time to spice it up.
This is a beautiful, but traitorous woman who can use her charms to manipulate others. She is seductive, hypnotic and gets men laid to her feet easily. As easily as a reader can get bored while meeting such a lady in a book again.
Usually the narrator, as well, this is the female that appears to be alive in a horror movie after her friends were murdered.
He is a leader of the team, he is not afraid of taking risks and is usually never hurt physically, despite of any fights and conflicts he was in the center of.
This boy is always very muscular and strong, sometimes quite attractive, but his head is as empty as a poor man’s cellar. He is usually there to humiliate the main character, being rude, self-centered and surrounded by the friends with the same characteristics. Ironically, he is in 99% cases the one humiliated in the end.
They are usually naïve, young and a little bit too romantic to come up with practical decisions. Lovers are clear to be meant for each other, but their life is filled up with the enemies who want to do everything possible to set them apart. The classic example is a Shakespeare’s couple Romeo and Juliet.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Infantile, eccentric and changeable are the best adjectives to describe this character. They are unpredictable, and therefore completely charming. Just remember Holly Golightly, this absolutely girlish astonishing always-a-child, and you will have a classic example of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
It can be a girl or a boy, an idealistic person who lives their everyday life, just like anyone else, and then suddenly (and usually breaking every law of logic as a result) they reveal the hidden abilities. Mary Sues look average but are extremely attractive and all the local pretty faces fall for them. They appear to be good cooks, great friends, by the end you will not be surprised they are able to fly to the Moon.
This person knows everything, it is a walking database of all the knowledge the world can offer. If they do not know something, they will not be able to sleep until they have found the information needed. Commonly are used by their less educated but more cunning classmates or friends.
He is perfect in his ability to show up where someone needs him and save the poor soul. Of course, he possesses unrealistic powers, usually has a costume which makes him recognizable but keeps his real identity private and a helper or an inspirer, who will be leading the lost character through the twisted paths of life.
Supervillain is the antagonist regarding the superhero. His life goal is usually making the superhero’s life more interesting and an endless desire to kill him in the end (usually there are no logical reasons for this). They are mainly comic books’ stock characters.
Everybody around the place knows where to find him (it is usually a man). He is drunk more often than sober, and may serve as a bad example of a person who has lost everything because of this habit. They are also a good source of information, ready to share for a drink.
He is known for being stupid, suspicious to anything new and any kind of risks. However, he usually appears to be underestimated, and is actually brave and able for a self-sacrifice. The best example here is Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series.
Wise Old Man
He shows up exactly when the main character needs him and provides all the help required for the antagonist to succeed. He is mainly kind, wise, but speaks in a puzzling way, full of riddles, which makes his advice less obvious for the main character.