The titled, rich young woman longing to break free.
The cynical, rough-around-the-edges hero, haunted by his past.
The heartless, psychotic villain who has no conscience.
The beautiful and cruel "other" woman.
We've all seen these character archetypes, templates (dare I say the c-word?) a hundred times thanks to the rise of novels, movies and TV shows over the years. Do you ever tire of them? For me, its not the template I get tired of (its hard to come up with a character that doesn't fit some type of character template these days), its the way the character is portrayed. I believe its possible to create original, outstanding characters from an overused template by focusing on believability. Believability is the game changer.
So how does one do believable? Don't start with quirks (although you'll need them), start with a personality paradox. Because real humans are such complex creatures, especially the interesting ones. ;-)
The cowboy who loves classical music and can name a composer within the first few bars of any music piece.
The rich, titled heroine who collects and studies bugs as an amateur entomologist.
The judge who's killing off his blackmailers to ensure his family's safety.
The nobleman with callused hands that testify to his love of farming.
Basically, you want to give your character an occupation or status that strongly contributes to their personality make-up, and then come up with something that is totally out of character for someone of that occupation or status. There's your endearing paradox.
Can you think of any others? I'd love to hear your input!