I saw this via S F Signal blogger John De Nardo’s Facebook feed today and it made me laugh.

The 10 Most Clichéd Character Types in Sci-Fi:

10. The Robot Who Wants To Be Human

9. The May-Or May-Not Be the Devil Guy

8. Pure Energy Beings

7. The Accidental Time-Tourist

6. Genetically Superior Smug Humans

5. The Monocultural Alien

4. The Captain Ahab

3. The Bumbling Robot

2. The Evil Twin

1. The Over-Obsessed Scientist

Click on the title link above to have a breakdown and examples of each of the ten – very amusing. But it also got me thinking. I’ve been working pretty hard on a story recently for a particular market and one of the real issues is making well-rounded, believable characters. And that doesn’t just count for my most recent story, it counts for all stories.

Not only do characters have to seem real, they have avoid being cliches like the examples above and they also have to avoid being Mary Sues. I don’t have so much of a problem in longer fiction when it comes to building characters, but creating solid characters that the reader cares about in short fiction is really, really hard. Definitely planning your characters as much as you plan your story is a good start. I need to apply the same methods in my short fiction that I apply in my novel length work and really get inside the character’s heads. Just because the story is shorter, the characters are no less important.

I think it’s one of the things that really sets apart great short fiction writers from good writers. The other things that set them apart are expert storytelling and excellent writing, naturally. All of which I aspire to. Ever onwards. For the writers out there, what are you methods for building good characters? For the readers, what do you like to learn about your characters?

Anyway, go and read the list of ten cliches linked above. It’s funny.

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