There are people who will argue that by avoiding clichés the characters you create will be bland and uninteresting. There may well be a good reason to allow your character to be a cliché, but it is very important to always be careful when you do. We all remember a clichéd character that we can identify with from a blockbusting movie or a top selling novel, but readers will soon lose interest if there is nothing new about your character. So yes, you want to create characters that are memorable, but you don’t want them to be a cliché.
The easiest way to keep a character from being a cliché is to make them personal. The closer you are to a character, the more real they are and the less they will be a cardboard cut-out of someone else’s vision. One of the keys to this is creating flaws. Flaws are especially useful when avoiding cliché characters because it is rare that someone will pick out a flaw as the reason a character is similar to others. Giving your character internal conflict is a good way to capture your reader’s imagination.
Don’t just apply this rule to your main characters but try to avoid using stereotypes or ‘stock’ characters even in secondary characters – for example… a boring accountant, an inarticulate footballer, vain film star, world-weary detective, old-fashioned elderly person, and so on.
Divide your characters into two groups; flat and round characters.
1. Round characters – are multidimensional and fully realised
2. Flat characters – do not have such detail or complexity – often background or secondary characters, but they sometimes play an instrumental role and they do need specific and vivid details however briefly they appear.
Ford Madox Ford taught that you couldn’t have a man appearing in a story long enough to sell a newspaper unless you put him there with enough detail to make the reader see him.