Motherlode of character ideas

If you are in the business of creating characters, it’s good to have a wide knowledge of characters found in drama and literature. I ran across this wikipedia “category” of stock characters. It’s an alphabetical list of stock characters, each linked to a page describing them. This is in addition to the standard wikipedia page for stock characters. It’s fun to peruse the list, and educational, if you visit the pages for characters you’ve never heard of.

Stock characters

From wikipedia:

A Stock character is a [fictional character] based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes, but they are often more narrowly defined. Stock characters are a key component of genre fiction, providing relationships and interactions that people familiar with the genre will recognize immediately. Stock characters make easy targets for parody, which will likely exaggerate any stereotypes associated with these characters.

A stock character is not one you necessarily want to recreate, but it’s certainly good to know something about them.  They are often easily recognizable characters who exist because they were, or are, successful in some way.  They represent some aspect of human nature that many people can relate to.  You might find one that is naturally interesting to you, and use it as a starting point to expand, or create a new interpretation of. In forms of theater that rely on stock characters, the audience becomes acutely aware of the quality of the actor’s performance, and it is challenging to keep them fresh and alive. 

I looked over the list to find unfamiliar titles to widen my knowledge.  Here are some I found interesting:

An archimime is a chief buffoon or jester. Among the ancient Romans, archimimes were persons who imitated the manners, gestures, and speech both of the living and the deceased. At first, they were only employed in the theatre, but were afterwards admitted to their feasts, and at last to funerals. At funerals, archimimes walked behind the corpse, imitating the gestures and behaviors of the person being carried to the funeral pyre, as if they were still alive.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a stock character in films. Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, describes the MPDG as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up, thus their men never grow up.

Malandragem (Brazilian Portuguese:) is a Brazilian Portuguese term for a lifestyle of idleness, fast living and petty crime – traditionally celebrated in samba lyrics, especially those of Noel Rosa. The exponent of this lifestyle, the malandro , or “bad boy” (rogue, huistler, rascal, scoundrel), has become significant to Brazilian national identity as a folk hero, or, rather an anti-hero. It is common in Brazilian literatureBrazilian cinema and Brazilian music.[1]

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