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The Clichéd Stereotype? by Helen Hollick

In this guest blog, Helen Hollick asks what makes a good hero, a good heroine or even a good (bad?) villain? Cliché? Stereotype? Or something original? 

Is the clichéd, stereotypical hero, heroine or villain expected by readers? Do they want the familiar, the predictable? Do readers want novels to be like run-of-the-mill TV dramas where there is more action and dialogue, rather then delving into the intricacies of characterisation? We rather expect the TV cop to have some sort of ongoing personal or family problem or trauma; we expect the hero of an exciting drama to be the good guy; and the baddie of that Regency Costume saga to be the nasty one who takes all the money and leaves the nice family destitute. We expect one of the TV soap couples, supposedly happily married for years, to have an affair. We know the young girl bunking school will become pregnant...etc. 

But are these clichés or merely tried and tested (albeit trotted-out) plots? Possibly, but a good author of a good novel will change these expectations by including twists and the unexpected. This was one of the reasons why I so enjoyed TV’s Game Of didn’t know which characters would survive to the end of the episode, let alone the entire series!

For novels, of whatever genre, a good series following the lives of the  same lead characters through various situations as a background to the next, new story, will draw the reader in, leaving them at the end of each book with a thirst for the next instalment. Wanting to know more, wanting to know what happens next to these familiar, often much loved, characters.

I was delighted when the most recent of my nautical adventure, Sea Witch Voyages, was published (Gallows Wake, Voyage Six) to receive an email from a new ‘fan’. He had wanted to read something nautical, found Sea Witch (Voyage One), sailed through the entire series ending with Gallows Wake on the day it was released – and reading it in a day.

His email asked: ‘When will the next one be out?’  


I suppose my Captain Jesamiah Acorne, who started out as a pirate in the first book, Sea Witch, is a little clichéd in the fact that he is tall, dark, and good looking. But he is the sort of hero you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley if you’d previously upset him – quick to smile, formidable when angry, although you can rely on him to be there (cutlass or pistol in hand) when he’s needed. Trouble follows him like a ship’s wake, but he isn’t fazed by danger, won’t tolerate unnecessary cruelty or disrespect to women, but is not always ‘polite’ with his language. He is more than capable of getting drunk if the rum is available, and his morals might slip when there’s a good-looking woman around. But he is loyal to his men, and would give his life for his woman, Tiola – indeed he took a flogging on her behalf in the second Voyage, Pirate Code.

Equally, a heroine needs to be tough-minded, to know what she wants and be determined to get it. She must be true to her cause (be that her ‘quest’, or her man), capable of chucking the teddies out of the cot when riled, but balance that with love without condition. On the other hand, she needs to be true to her time period if this is a historical novel. Is it, perhaps, too clichéd to always have the heroine a feisty female who stands up for herself? 

Sea Witch

But then, do readers want to read about the quiet little mouse who sits embroidering in the corner? Would we all admire Elizabeth Bennet as much, had she been more like Charlotte Lucas? (Who was a wonderful character, but you know what I mean!)

As for the villain, well, in my mind,  the more dastardly he or she is the better – as long as there’s a retribution of justice awaiting them somewhere along the line – and whether that’s a clichéd stereotypical plot or not!

Sometimes, the expected is what we want to expect!


Sea Witch Voyage one

Pirate Code  Voyage two

Bring It Close  Voyage three

Ripples in the Sand  Voyage four

On the Account  Voyage five

When the Mermaid Sings  A prequel to the series  (short-read novella)

And just published...

Gallows Wake - The Sixth Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne

Where the Past haunts the future...

Damage to her mast means Sea Witch has to be repaired, but the nearest shipyard is at Gibraltar. Unfortunately for Captain Jesamiah Acorne, several men he does not want to meet are also there, among them, Captain Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, who would rather see Jesamiah hang.

Then there is the spy, Richie Tearle, and manipulative Ascham Doone who has dubious plans of his own. Plans that involve Jesamiah, who, beyond unravelling the puzzle of a dead person who may not be dead, has a priority concern regarding the wellbeing of his pregnant wife, the white witch, Tiola.

Forced to sail to England without Jesamiah, Tiola must keep herself and others close to her safe, but memories of the past, and the shadow of the gallows haunt her. Dreams disturb her, like a discordant lament at a wake.

But is this the past calling, or the future?

From the first review of Gallows Wake:

“Hollick’s writing is crisp and clear, and her ear for dialogue and ability to reveal character in a few brief sentences is enviable. While several of the characters in Gallows Wake have returned from previous books, I felt no need to have read those books to understand them. The paranormal side of the story—Tiola is a white witch, with powers of precognition and more, and one of the characters is not quite human—blends with the story beautifully, handled so matter-of-factly. This is simply Jesamiah’s reality, and he accepts it, as does the reader.”

Author Marian L. Thorpe


Amazon Author Page (Universal link)

Where you will find the entire series waiting at anchor in your nearest Amazon harbour – do come aboard and share Jesamiah’s derring-do nautical adventures! (available Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in paperback)

Or order a paperback copy from your local bookstore!


First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now also branching out into the quick read novella, 'Cosy Mystery' genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write...


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Twitter: @HelenHollick



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