I learned about writing from Sandman:
4. Break Those Stereotypes
Death is one of Dream's siblings. What is the picture that just popped into your head? A hooded figure? Perhaps skeletal? Definitely male though. Not in Sandman. Death, in Neil Gaiman's universe, is a cute Goth teen. And it works.
Gaiman shakes things up in other ways as well, taking what we think of as fact and flipping it upside down and backwards. In The Sound of Her Wings, my favorite story from Preludes and Nocturnes, Dream is in our world. He is sitting on a park bench, feeding the pigeons, and he sees Death. They discuss humans. Death says, "Mostly they aren't too keen to see me. They fear the sunless lands but they enter your realm each night without fear." Dream replies, "And I am far more terrible than you, my sister."
I've been called out by my critique group on stereotypes and cliches in my work. Never intentional, but that doesn't really matter. one of the things I'm working on is really shaking up expectations with my characters.
What do you think? Can dreams be more terrible than death? Are there ways you can surprise your readers by not living up to their expectations?