Tag: archetypes (Page 1 of 2)

Five and a Half Useful Archetypes: The Classics

Last week, I threw about 37 practical tips for using archetypes in your stories. I also told you that I would start compiling a master list of archtypes. Well, let it never be said that I don’t follow through. Here is the beginning of that master list. I have started with about five, and I will continue to add to this list and update this post as time goes on.

What’s the deal with the half archetype? As I said before, archetypes feel like stereotypes because they are shallow, one-sided characters filled with characteristics instead of contradictions. One of the easiest ways to battle this is to mix archetypes into a single character. For instance, a Mentor who is also a Trickster. That’s the half archetypes. Each time I update this, I will detail some new archetypes and give one example (the half) of how you could mix two of these archetypes.

A note on how I compile this list. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of theorists, artists, pyschologists, and others who have searched for archetypes and found them everywhere. Some of the most popular include Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Dramatica, and Michael Hauge. There are also archetypes hidden in places like astrological signs, the Chinese zodiac, and Maya calendar. This series will draw from all these places and keep them in one reference.

Finally, let’s remember why archetypes work. We have all been there. We can empathize with these characters, and often fantasize about what it would be like to be them.


These archetypes are some of the more popular (and vanilla or overused) character types. That doesn’t mean you can’t make them interesting, just be aware that we’ve seen all these over and over. Mix and match and flesh them out to make something interesting. Even if these are used a lot, they are still foundational.

1. Lovable Rogue

From tvtropes.com:

A person who breaks the law, for their own personal profit, but is nice enough and charming enough to allow the audience to root for them, especially if they don’t kill or otherwise seriously harm anyone. It helps that none of their victims are anyone we know or that they’ve made sure the audience knew they were jerks, which makes it “okay” to steal from them.

The Lovable Rogue is right up there with anti-hero’s, gentleman thief, and scoundrels. They have themselves in mind first. They fight for their own gain. If someone else happens to benefit, that’s great. Don’t mistake this attitude for lack of direction, though. The Lovable Rogue has a compass, a code, that that follow strictly.

At the heart of this archetype is the idea that “the rules don’t apply to me” or even more that “the rules don’t apply to this situation.” They aren’t evil. They aren’t bad. They aren’t trying to hurt anyone. They are just trying to get by. And, probably due to some trauma in the past, they feel like the institution (be it government, family, society, whatever) has failed them. No one else is looking out for them, so they are justified in doing what they must to look after themselves.

That is why this archetype resonates with us. We’ve all been there: lost in the system, failed by the school, a victim of some injustice. In someway, we’ve been let down. No one else looked out for us. So, we dreamed about what it would be like to look after ourselves. The lovable rogue is also special and confident. We all wish we were that confident.

Often, the Lovable Rogue will actually end up doing good for others, but you knew that.

2. Salty Old Soldier

The old soldier has been there and seen that, and has the badass scars to prove it. He or she has been through every war, seen every combat, and has lived to fight and keep on fighting. That is not to say they haven’t been damaged by the struggle. They are cynical, don’t make friends, and deal with a hatred of the enemy that borders on psychotic. The Salty Old Soldier is a complex character. Even with all the conflict they’ve seen, they never shy from a fight. Always in the thick of things, this character is typically the backbone of whatever unit, though rarely in the lead.

Moving on from a military situation, this character type can be used in any situation where there is conflict (and what story doesn’t have conflict). The defining mark is that they Salty Old Soldier has been there and is always ready to go there again. Not particularly likable, but a great source for mentoring and seasoning.

3. Wise Old Soldier

In many ways, this is the yin to the yang of the Salty Old Soldier. He to has been there through countless battles and survived, even thrived, in the conflict. However, the Wise Old Soldier has a calmer, more reflective personality. They see the conflict not as an outlet for their anger, but as an exercise in discipline, mind, and soul. Often, this character truly believes in the cause, whereas the Salty Old Soldier believes in conflict (or cannot escape it). This is your stereotypical (though not accurate) Zenified Samurai.

Don’t mistake the disciple and balance for weakness. The Wise Old Soldier is lethal and unmatched in the conflict. More of often than not, they will go out of their way to train or care for the younger soldiers. Also a great source of mentoring. Again, does not have to be used in war.

4. The Girl Back Home

There have been many recent twists on this age-old archetype. Traditionally, this is a female character who pines away and struggles at home as the hero is off on an adventure. In more modern times, this character has become stronger, living an adventure of her own as her partner is fighting a different (but no more intense) battle.

In all reality, “The Girl Back Home” is a lot more flexible than that. Think about why we use archetypes: We have all been there. How often have we been unable to help in some situation? How many times have we had to see someone else fight our battles? Or, how often have we been forced to do the work for two when the other is off on their own.

This can be a powerful, dramatic element for the adventurer as well. The reason he or she fights. Often, this archetype does not have to be a romantic woman or spouse back home. Children work just as well. As do the elderly.

5. The Book Nerd

This archetype is a writer’s best friend, especially in any situation where you are entering into a world or setting unfamiliar to the reader. J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) said it best (and I paraphrase): “Whenever I have to tell the reader something, I put it in Hermoine’s mouth. We can just assume she read it somewhere.” But, this character is more than just a repository for information. Often the most identifiable character, the Book Nerd strikes a chord with the part of us that wants to understand how the universe works, and find our place it it. Furthermore, most often, they are somewhat socially outcast for pursuing this part of themselves further than the norm.

How many of us have been belittled in the same way?

The Book Nerd is often a seemingly weak character who actually has a lot of strength. That, also, is an identifying point. Use the Book Nerd carefully, though. It is easy to fall into stereotypes or use the Book Nerd as an easy out for exposition instead of find a better way for the reader to discover information.

And a Half.

As promised, let’s look at how we can build a character by mixing archetypes. In this case, let’s do something really unexpected and create the “Lovable Book Nerd Rogue.”

Characteristics of our Lovable Rogue

  • Outside Society
  • Selfish
  • Charming
  • A hidden, good heart
  • Component and confident
  • Damaged

Characteristics of our Book Nerd

  • Curious
  • Shy
  • Outside Society
  • A good heart
  • Damaged
  • Intelligent

Already we see some commonalities and contradictions. Both are damaged, live outside society, and have good hearts. Contradictions exist, too. One is shy, the other confident. Contradictions make better characters. So, it looks like our new character will struggle between acting or being confident while really feeling inadequate around people. They will also be cunning and intelligent and well-read, though perhaps downplay that aspect of them.

Just to put me out of my comfort zone, an non-fantasy example:

Jenna is a political journalist New York City who has made a career by exposing scandals. No one is safe, though. She will expose anyone, and isn’t afraid to break the rules to find her source. She is charming, daring, salty, and hard as a rock in her business-casual suite, wining and dining and manipulating some of the most powerful men in the city. She was a victim of some scandal years ago, but the perpetrator made it away scott free. Now, she hunts everyone.

In public.

Her private moments, though? Poetry at a small coffee house in Brooklyn. A chance to unwind and forget about cover-ups and conspiracies. Hey, we all need a break from ourselves, right? 

I’m not sure where this story would go, but its an example of how to mix two archtypes. Keep an eye out, this is just the first post compiling a list of archetypes.

Some of My Sources

http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ArchetypalCharacter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stock_characters

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2013/12/8-%C2%BD-character-archetypes-writing.html

(37ish) Keys to Using Archetypes

We’ve talked about archetypes in some length, especially in the Hero’s Journey Series. Archetypes can be a powerful addition to your story, and I’m sure you’ve been using them without even realizing it. Mostly because “there is nothing new under the sun.” What you write is a mixture of what you’ve experienced and read, which is a mixture of what other artists have experienced and read. Don’t fight against this. Instead, focus on reinventing the wheel, but adding some of that flare that can only come from your creative genius.

People identify with archetypes because we have all been there. Each of us has been a Hero and a Mentor and even a Trickster at some point. So, using archetypes allows your reader to empathize with your character and enter the story. The primary goal of any story is to hold the reader’s attention. There is no better way to do that than to draw your reader into a character so they can live the adventure vicariously. I talk about this as Hero Audience Bonding.

We know, almost instinctively, that we should use archetypes in our stories. In this post, I have compiled some simple thoughts on how to use those character types.

So, without further adieu, here are 37(ish) character tips for using archetypes in your writing.

General Tips

  • Compile a list of character types. (I will be compiling one starting next week.)
  • Next time you watch a movie or read a book, keep this list of archetypes handy and try to identify them in the story.
  • Thinking back on stories you know and love, come up with a list of five characters for each archetype.
  • In your own work, ask whether any of these archetypes could strengthen a story you”™ve been working on.
  • You may be able to use one of your existing characters to fulfill the role of an archetypal character.
  • Clarify the character Arc– every hero must grow and change be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise.
  • Focus on the Present Tense-who is the character now? While it may be useful to know who the character was ten years ago, the story is being experienced now.
  • Use back-story only if it’s revelation- Back-story is only valuable if it surprises the audience or explains the character’s behavior.
  • Avoid decorative tags– don’t waste time coming up with imaginative eccentricities. What is the character’s self-assessment? What is the world’s? Is there a gap?
  • Show, don’t tell– Don’t tell the audience that a character is a traveler. Show the audience by the array of suitcases and travel brochures lying about.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of small moments– When information is revealed to the audience when the character believes they are alone.
  • Mix and match archetypes. Try a Mentor who is also a Trickster, or an Eternal Boy/Threshold Guardian.
  • Get to know your characters. Adding flesh to those bones will make them feel less “archetype-y.”
  • Try associating a character with one of the figures from the Chinese zodiac “” boar, dog, dragon, horse, goat, monkey, ox, rabbit, rat, rooster, snake, and tiger “” each of which is endowed with a complex array of both positive and negative traits.
  • The personality enneagram, a nine-pointed array of personality types, might also be a useful reference for character building.
  • Consider these psychological types based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator psychometric assessment: introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judgment/perception. (Everyone is a combination of both types in each pair, but in different ratios.)
  • Don’t focus on characteristics, instead build characters. (Read more about that here.)
  • Stereotypes are archetypes that are shallow. Give your character contradictions.

Archetypes in Primary Characters

  • If using the Hero’s Journey, understand the Major Archetypes.
  • If not using the Hero’s Journey, understand the Major Archetypes.
  • Give your main character growth. They need a flaw to be worked through.
  • Connect that flaw to the story. So they must grow through that flaw in order to make it through the story.
  • Archetypes (like Mentors) don’t have to be standalone characters. A mentor can also be a threshold guardian, for instance.

Archetypes in Secondary Characters

  • If using the Hero’s Journey, understand the Minor Archetypes.
  • If not using the Hero’s Journey, understand the Minor Archetypes.
  • Give your secondary characters a reason to be there.
  • Use secondary characters to play with themes.
    • For instance, if a theme is “truthfulness” have a secondary character who constantly lies.
  • Secondary Archetypes can reflect the hero by showing a past or future version of your main character.
  • They can reflect the hero by showing a more exaggerated trait of the protagonist.
  • They can react against the hero by being the opposite in some way.
  • Secondary characters should aid or hinder your main character’s journey.

Want, Wound, and Need

  • Use character growth, especially in your main character.
  • The hero”™s flaw and growth revolve around three aspects of the hero.
    • The want is the obvious desire they are striving for: the relationship; the elixir of life; acceptance into the secret club; etc.
    • The need is the subconscious desire that drives the want. It is not the specific relationship that is the key; it is the need to be validated. The elixir of life isn”™t really what drives; it”™s a fear of death. The secret club isn”™t the end all; instead the hero searches for acceptance.
    • The wound is one of the primary things holding the hero back. This may be inflicted by the villain or may be part of the circumstances. The relationship can”™t work because the hero comes from a lower class. The elixir oflife is out of reach because the hero is too old and feels useless. The secret club is out of bounds to someone who cannot read.
    • These wounds may be real or imagined, but they always bear great weight in the eyes of the hero.
  • The wounded (flawed) hero searches for a want, but grows as they address the need.

Wrapping Up

I notice, as I review this list, how important character growth is. Every character that is anything more than incidental should grow, at least a little. Not necessarily positive growth, either.

In any case, these are just some tips to think about. Next week, I will begin a master list of character types.

Some of my sources

Visual Storytelling Archetype Examples

I talk a lot about archetypes. I also talk a lot about visual stories. While doing research for my author blog, I came across a great article that show how to use archetypes in visual stories (like advertisements). Check it out. It changed my thinking about how to use archetypes to connect with audiences!

Five key campaigns using visual storytelling archetypes to engage audiences | Curve.

Educational Storytelling: Constructing the Tale, A Hero’s Journey

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

Finally its here! We have discussed the value of educational storytelling, the different elements of story (plot, setting, character), and one of the guiding principles of stories that teach. Now it’s time to dig into constructing stories for education. What is the skeleton of an educational story?

We will use the Hero’s Journey as a skeleton for our story. We first looked at this journey. There is a comprehensive series elsewhere on my blog.

I am a fan of simplicity. Many Hero’s Journey outlines include 12 or 15 stages plus a dozen archetypes. I have boiled this down to five pieces of the Journey, each with an important task.

  1. The Hero and the Cast of Characters
  2. The Hero and the Ordinary World, Broken
  3. The Hero and the Journey
  4. The Hero and the Moment
  5. The Hero and the Repercussions

We will walk through the first three this week and the final two next week. As we work through this, remember our first guiding principle: Hero Audience Bonding.

We create a hero the audience can learn through, vicariously. As the hero progresses through the story, learning and problem solving, the audience will learn the same lessons “” given they have bonded with the main character.

Learning Goals

As this is an educational story, there are objectives. We want the students to learn something. It is important to define what these objectives are. They can be identity oriented learning (morals) or process oriented learning (math) goals. And, there may be several goals. Perhaps along the road to learning the dangers of lying, the hero also learns the distributive property and bits of the scientific method? Whatever the case may be, establish theme to yourself early so you can keep on focus.

The Hero and the Cast of Characters

The hero is not the only character in your story. Supporting characters, villains, mentors, even talking trees all have a place in the tale. When we went through characters, we listed several archetypes essential to the Hero’s Journey. Those character types are also relevant here, and they each play a specific role in teaching.

Each character is an archetype and  has a connection to the hero.

Read More

Hero’s Journey: (Nine) Minor Archetypes

This post is part of a series exploring the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell studied hundreds of world-wide myths, finding patterns to virtually any story. This basic framework gives the stories we tell a universal, timeless appeal and resonate deeply with our audiences. This series is not about a “five steps to perfect stories” method, nor does it claim a best way to tell stories.  Today, we chat about minor archetypes.

Check out the rest of the series and a compare different versions of the Hero’s Journey

At its most basic, a story has three elements: Character, Plot, and Setting. A person (not necessarily human) doing stuff in a place and timeCharacters are what the audience identify with.

We have already touched on plot and discussed major archetypes. Today, we look at other character types.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Joseph Campbell titled his work on the Hero’s Journey “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” to show how the same basic hero exists in so many myths and legends. I am going to (boldfaced) steal the phrase, but turn it around to illustrate something else: The hero of a story wears a thousand masks, has a thousand personalities, and lives a thousand lives. People are complex; your main character must be complex too.

We know this. You hear constantly about three-dimensional characters. Let’s take this a step further and say that the secondary characters should also add to your main character. Nothing is by accident; all characters should contrast or attract attention to or counterpoint or enhance the hero and story in some way. In our Hero’s Journey, this is where Minor Archetypes come in. These are timeless types of characters that rise above cultural boundaries and resonate with human psyches.

As we said in “Major Archetypes,”

Archetypes are powerful characters because most anyone can identify with most any archetype at some point in their life. Archetypes are broad types that we all encountered in life, and (whether we like to admit it or not) have portrayed at some point. Each of us has been a Mentor. We”™ve all felt like the Hero going the road alone. We”™ve even been the Shadow trying to hinder another, though we never think of ourselves as evil. Even with minor archetypes, this is true. I”™ve been a trickster, a shape shifter, an ally and (yes) the wicked-step-mother.

In this way, archetypes are psychological functions. They are templates, not rigid, expressions of character.

I will elaborate on how to flesh out archetypes in a story in another post, “Keys to Using Archetypes” in two weeks. For now, it is enough to say that these secondary characters:

  • Reflect the hero by bringing out a specific facet of the hero’s character. Such as a child that shows the hero’s protective nature.
  • Counterpoint the hero by showing what the hero “could be” if circumstances were different. Also useful for playing with themes.
  • Aid the hero, most especially in growth.

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Hero’s Journey: Major Archetypes

This post is part of a series exploring the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell studied hundreds of world-wide myths, finding patterns to virtually any story. This basic framework gives the stories we tell a universal, timeless appeal and resonate deeply with our audiences. This series is not about a “five steps to perfect stories” method, nor does it claim a best way to tell stories.  Today, we chat about major archetypes.

Check out the rest of the series and a compare different versions of the Hero’s Journey

At its most basic, a story has three elements: Character, Plot, and Setting. A person (not necessarily human) doing stuff in a place and time. We have already touched on plot. Today, we begin tackling character.

Characters Along the Road

So, why are characters so important? Simply, we need characters to do the stuff in the story. They are as necessary to stories as hydrogen is to water. But what else? Characters allow storytellers to explore how different people react to different situations. Even deeper than all that, though: Characters are what the audience identify with.

Archetypes are powerful characters because most anyone can identify with most any archetype at some point in their life. Archetypes are broad types that we all encountered in life, and (whether we like to admit it or not) have portrayed at some point. Each of us has been a Mentor. We”™ve all felt like the Hero going the road alone. We”™ve even been the Shadow trying to hinder another, though we never think of ourselves as evil. Even with minor archetypes, this is true. I”™ve been a trickster, a shape shifter, an ally and (yes) the wicked-step-mother.

In this way, archetypes are psychological functions. They are templates, not rigid, expressions of character.

Read More

Hero’s Journey: Slaying the Dragon with Climax

This post is part of a series exploring the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell studied hundreds of world-wide myths, finding patterns to virtually any story. This basic framework gives the stories we tell a universal, timeless appeal and resonate deeply with our audiences. This series is not about a “five steps to perfect stories” method, nor does it claim a best way to tell stories.  Today, we continue with plot.

Check out the rest of the series and a compare different versions of the Hero’s Journey

The Journey Ends

In the last installment of this series, I talked about the plot or journey of the Hero’s Journey broken into  five steps:

  1. The Hero and the Ordinary World, Broken
  2. The Hero and the Quest
  3. The Hero and the Passion
  4. The Hero and the Moment
  5. The Hero and the Repercussions

We talked about the first three. Now, we turn to the climax of our story and discuss some final notes about plot.

The Hero and the Moment

It all comes down to this. This is the climax. This is the Moment the Hero faces her worst fear, the most powerful adversary, the greatest challenge. This is almost always faced alone. This almost always connects to the unconscious desire more than the conscious want. This moment is made even more powerful by the Passion, because that is what drives her here. This should also be the moment of change in the Hero”™s character arc. Lastly, many of the most powerful stories involve a resurrection of some kind. We will discuss this in detail in a later installment.

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Hero’s Journey: One (Plot) Step At A Time

This post is part of a series exploring the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell studied hundreds of world-wide myths, finding patterns to virtually any story. This basic framework gives the stories we tell a universal, timeless appeal and resonate deeply with our audiences. This series is not about a “five steps to perfect stories” method, nor does it claim a best way to tell stories.  Today, we continue with plot.

Check out the rest of the series and a compare different versions of the Hero’s Journey

The Journey Continues

In the last installment of this series, I talked about the plot or journey of the Hero’s Journey broken into  five steps:

  1. The Hero and the Ordinary World, Broken
  2. The Hero and the Quest
  3. The Hero and the Passion
  4. The Hero and the Moment
  5. The Hero and the Repercussions

We talked about the first three, but only in general terms. Today, we will look at specific plot elements from the Hero’s Journey as they move from the call to adventure (The Ordinary World, Broken) to the Climax (The Hero and the Moment). This is about all those steps that can be in the Hero’s Quest from the moment they leave their front door to the moment of decision at the climax.

Please note: a lot of these elements can be moved, changed, and even dropped. Some stories may be better sticking to a strict Hero’s Journey (like Tolkinien Fantasy), while others may want some more leeway (like Romantic Comedy). In any case, these elements will create a sense of timelessness for any story.

Read More

Elements of Story: Character

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

See also Elements of Story: Plot and Elements of Story: Setting

Building Blocks of Story

Before we can dive into educational stories, we must investigate stories in general. Scholars and storytellers share a favorite past-time: arguing about the elements of a story. Some definitions include close to a dozen like setting, plot, character, theme, motif, symbol, point of view, and so forth. Since this is an introduction, and not a series on the elements of story, we will stick to a simpler definition of a story:

A person (character) doing something (plot) in a place and time (setting).

I will stand on the shoulders of three storytelling giants to look at each element in turn. Robert McKeeChristopher Vogler, and Donna Cooper are three of the most respected screenwriting and story construction teachers. While they teach screenwriting, the principles they have discovered are effective in any medium.

Character

So, we begin with character. What exactly is a character?

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Hero’s Journey: Stepping Onto the Road With Plot

This post is part of a series exploring the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell studied hundreds of world-wide myths, finding patterns to virtually any story. This basic framework gives the stories we tell a universal, timeless appeal and resonate deeply with our audiences. This series is not about a “five steps to perfect stories” method, nor does it claim a best way to tell stories.  Today, we begin with plot.

Check out the rest of the series and a compare different versions of the Hero’s Journey

The “Journey” in Hero’s Journey

The Hero”™s Journey (or the Writer”™s Journey as Christopher Vogler calls it) has been analyzed, redefined, tinkered with and taught a million different ways. The point of this series is not to make that a million and one, but to simplify it a little. Stories are simple. They are powerful. That”™s why its been a primary occupation of man since that first campfire. We will break down the journey into five steps:

  1. The Hero and the Ordinary World, Broken
  2. The Hero and the Quest
  3. The Hero and the Passion
  4. The Hero and the Moment
  5. The Hero and the Repercussions

For the geeks out there (of which I am unashamedly one), here is a more extensive list of the Writer”™s Journey and Joseph Campbell”™s original Hero”™s Journey.

The Hero and Character Growth

We use these five steps because they are a more character-centered way of organizing the Hero”™s Journey. Each of the five steps is completely connected with the Hero”™s growth and character arc. As we will see in more detail later, the main character (and really most of your characters) must grow. They must change, becoming a different person by the end of the tale. That may be literal (zombie to human) or more internal (grumpy to happy). It can even be negative growth (happy to grumpy), though handle this with caution. The point is: the journey itself (all the stuff the hero goes through) aids this change. Most commonly, a hero has a want, a wound, and a need. You may also think of these as character flaws. More on this later.

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