Developing Stock Characters into Main Characters

Not all characters in a story are whole. Some of them exist only to reveal certain details or simply as passersby in the life of the protagonist. However, some of these characters have been used way too often that they fall into the pit of stereotype.

Here we have five stock character types and a few tips to help you transform them into relatable and realistic main characters.

  1. The Vampire

    Vampires have sadly moved from one stereotype to another, thanks to the surge of YA supernatural fantasy fiction that swept the late 2000s. They went from terrifying, pallid, monstrous creatures of the night to broody, superattractive, (occasionally) sparkly attractive young men. Darren Shan in his series, the Saga of Darren Shan, has a refreshing take on the vampire stereotype. Try writing your vampire as a newbie, as opposed to a vampire who has existed since hundreds of years ago.

  1. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

    This is yet another archetype that has turned into a stereotype. The manic pixie dream girl is a quirky, eccentric, enigmatic female character, often depicted as spontaneous and outgoing in contrast to its silent and introverted counterpart. The problem with the manic pixie dream girl trope is that despite the length of the story, she is never depicted as anything beyond quirky, eccentric, enigmatic, and female. If you’re using the manic pixie dream girl as a stereotype, be sure to write her as a whole person, with hopes, fears, and flaws.

  1. The Villain

    The villain is not in itself a stereotype, but it’s easy to vilify the villain. Meaning, it’s easy to write the villain simply as a bad guy. There are plenty of ways to make a villain more compelling. Make sure that your villain’s motive goes beyond “total power” or “world domination.” To do this, ask why. Why does your villain have these goals? Why is your villain so set on antagonizing your hero? By finding out your villain’s motives and allowing your audience to see it, you show the kind of person your villain actually is.

  1. The Ugly Duckling

    We’re all familiar with this trope in many rom-coms. A shy and timid girl who has her hair up and wears glasses goes through a makeover, removes her glasses, and becomes more outgoing. Transformations don’t just happen on the outside—one’s character or personality can be made over just as well. You can start out with a disagreeable character who slowly learns to become a more agreeable one. You can also stick with the physical transformations but then show that the girl with a new look is still the same girl deep down.

  1. The Rebel Bad Boy

    No one can resist a bad boy, but he can be annoyingly overdone. The bad boy likes to break rules, doesn’t go to class, wears dark colors, and rides a bike. He is rebelling for some reason, such as his parents don’t understand him or he is tired of making excuses for not showing up. An interestingly twisted take on the rebel bad boy is someone who doesn’t look and act like one. But once you get to talk to him, that’s when you realize how rebellious he actually is.


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