I was thinking on the way players in some of my games have fallen into tropes during character creation that were a bit embarrassing. For example, in one game, there was a space on the character sheet for grade – the characters were in high school. Like, four people initially wrote that their characters had skipped a grade. Much weirder, two separate players came up with an idea of an uncaring father owning an expensive stringed instrument that their character stole during the course of the game. Violin boy ended up breaking the instrument in a teenage rage. Guitar girl just strolled and strummed, as one will. Those players had practically no interaction and came up with that stuff wholly independently. Wild.
So I had a two part idea for how to escape some of these tropes, or at least make characters less baroque and more dramatically resonant: One, come up with everything you think is distinctive about your character without looking at a character sheet at all. Two, when it’s time to fill out the character sheet, intentionally fill in any information you hadn’t thought of (character age, family, eye color, whatever) with something boring and bland.
Your character’s “bastard son of the duke” detail becomes less interesting the more bizarre details you add, and I think character sheets are where people go wrong. This is about RPGs, but the same could be true of fiction writing, if you’re using a questionnaire during character development.
The theory is that no one would have thought to have their character skip a grade if there had not been a question about which grade they were in on the sheet. As soon as you ask a question, there is a temptation to come up with an “interesting” answer. Make a character stand out by having fewer important traits. Hold off on the questionnaire, and round that thing out with bland. That’s the idea.