Hey! you're cloning your characters, Mr. Writer!

In another thread I can’t be bothered to search for right now, someone comments that Robert Heinlein’s protagonists are all exactly the same. While I don’t think that’s completely true – Manuel from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is very different from Lazarus Long, f’instance – I think there’s some justice to the complaint. Which makes me wonder: what other writers (of fiction, drama, tv, or cinema) do you see as using the same character types over and over?

I’ll start by nominating someone I know will be popular on this board: Joss Whedon. Joss isn’t actually a flagrant offender–his characters tend to be well-drawn, when he’s given the time to develop them (muttering curses against FOX), but it seems to me that http://www.buffyworld.net/foto/willow702.jpg, Winifred Burkel, and Kaylee Frye all bear strong similarities:

  1. All are very attractive women overshadowed in their own minds by other women close to them (though feeling overshadowed by someone else was less Fred’s problem’s than the other two;

  2. They’re all extremely intelligent and markedly more gifted in technical matters than anyone else in their circle;

  3. All have a tendency to amusingly eccentric speech patterns;

  4. Each was shown pining for the love of an apparently-blind man who didn’t seem to notice or acknowledge her affections for a long time (Wesley, Angel, and Simon, respectively);

  5. Two of the three had surprisingly dark sides (Fred was quite vengeful, and I’m in the Willow-was-always-evil-just-charming camp).

Any other examples?

pokes head in

I’m sorry…I thought this thread was going to be about David Eddings…

In what sense of the words "thread,’ “about,” “david,” and “eddings” is this thread **not ** about David Eddings?


Ed McBain’s “Fuzz” “Downtown” and “Alice in Jeopardy” all had the police looking for a woman with blonde hair to her shoulders who turned out to be a man.

The first time was clever, the second time was redundant, and the third time was just lazy.

Dick Francis’s mysteries all have the exact same protagonist. They’re all told in first person narrative, and the protagonist’s personality is identical in every book, in every thing that’s important. OK, this one’s an orphan and that one has a tyrannical father, and this one’s a jockey and that one’s a caterer, but they’re all the same tough guy under the skin.

Doesn’t detract for me, the books are great fun and very entertaining and well-written anyhow. And, deep down inside, it’s probably better to do it that way than to have the same character in all those different books…

Spider Robinson’s novels all have various friends and families of his as walk-on characters–the big hairy biker guy, the short skinny hippie girl…

All of the protagonists of every book Juliet Marillier has ever written.

Well… you could argue about Fainne-- but the rest all follow the same archetype.

Niven and Frederick Pohl both do this, IMO.

Alistair MacLean
And, you know… David Eddings

Piers Anthony is terrible at this. I think he has about five characters, that he just sticks different names on.

David Eddings does this, doesn’t he?
Carl Hiaasen has used his alter ego in way too many books. It’s transparent bordering on silly and made me give up on him.

This thread is pretty much worthless without actual examples of the writers doing this.

Just a list of names isn’t interesting or helpful.

I hold that it isn’t true in any sense of the word. There are certain archtypes he uses, but so has every writer since Homer. But anybody who reads RAH with any care can differentiate between Wyoh, Gillian, DeeTee, Hazel, Dorcas, Star and Maureen, for example.

Stunningly HOT is more like it.


I think you mean Xander.

We just didn’t get the chance to see Kaylee go all bad-ass on someone.

Seeking male for position as first-person narrator. Actual age irrelevant, but appearance should be 30-35 yrs. Must be immortal, macho, have soul of a poet and be irresistable to women. Music skills a plus. Must enjoy camping, smoking, armed combat. Contact: Roger Zelazny, PO Box 100…

Surely you meant to put Xander in Wesley’s place in that list, correct? The actress that played Willow ended up with the actor that played Wes, but the characters never had anything between them, even in a unilateral way.

To the OP, James P. Hogan always seems to have main characters that have found themselves incapable of ‘fitting in’ to the hierarchy of the corporation or government agency they work for (they are always some sort of techie/inventor/scientist that actually spends most of their time troubleshooting in areas outside their specialty), but lucked into finding a boss that can work with their quirks. Each ended up much more sucessful than anyone around them that does ‘fit in.’


Spoilers abound -
Not just the characters, but even the plot is cloned between Where Eagles Dare and The Guns of Navarone (wiki cite)
Many of his heroines are named “Mary” and the hero is named “John”
Several of the heroes (Night Without End, Bear Island, Ice Station Zebra) present themselves as medical doctors, rarely good ones, but they’re usually not only specialists in their fields but also secret agents. (Way to Dusty Death has a race car driver/secret agent)
Many have a Dirk Pitt like ability to struggle back from the edge of death to save their new found love (in The Satan Bug, of course, he’s already married to her so she’s not “new found”)
Seawitch is a radical departure in that he has TWO guys that are in love with stunningly beautiful women (sisters) who are way above them (daughters of multi-billionaire in love with P.I.)
Almost always has a trusted friend/associate/something turn out to be a bad guy while the person suspected the whole time turns out to be innocent and proves it by producing a gun at just the right time to save the hero

And yet, they are still damn good books.



I agree, but what’ll you do? We have no evidence of Kaylee having a dark side anywhere near Willow’s, or even Fred’s.

Gary Jennings. A damn fine historical writer, but all his protagonists, from hermaphrodite Goths to Venetian explorers to Aztecs to 19th Century circus artistes come from the same mould: adventurous, fearless, vengeance-seeking red-blooded American love-machines with a healthy interest in sadistic violence and perverted sex. His women are even more two-dimensional - and certainly doomed, if they’re the love of the hero’s life: which will, of course, instigate his vengeance-seeking and sadistic violence. Like I said, a damn fine historical writer.

Wait…when’d Fred pine after Angel, then? I thought, actually, you’d both gotten Fred and Will backwards when you were making the list and accidentally swapped Angel for Xander, since Fred did spend most of the time between when they got put in charge of WRH and when Illyria ate her soul trying to get Wes to notice her.

I remember her hero-worshipping him a bit early on, but I don’t remember her ever pining after him.