Archetype is defined here as a type of person whose typical behaviors are the same as those of others of the same type. For example, cowards exhibit some typical behaviors. They fear danger, lack courage, and avoid or quit dangerous situations.
Before I list 79 archetypes and a way to use them, here are some of their benefits in fiction.
Why Archetypes Are Useful in Building Character
They can help to
define the roles of characters.
narrow our characters so they’re not like all the other characters in our story.
expand and deepen our characters so they are multidimensional.
add interest to a character when using a distorted version of an archetype.
make a character original when choosing an unexpected archetype.
make realistic and identifiable characters because archetypes are built on real typical behaviors.
create conflict, tenderness, and tension when characters appear together in groups because each has a unique mixture of archetypal behaviors.
remind us to make characters act, react, and make choices in accordance with or occasionally the opposite of their archetypes.
bring out flaws in a character that he can conquer by story’s end.
An Easy Way to Use Archetypes
For each character above, choose two to three archetypes from the list below. Mix up archetypes across characters.
Start with the Protagonist and understand from his combination of archetypes, how he thinks, acts, and reacts and what he dislikes in others.
For the Antagonist, perhaps he’s the epitome of what the protagonist dislikes. Or they have characteristics from a same archetype that helps them understand each other.
Since readers like the idea that opposites attract, choose at least one archetype for the Love Interest that’s opposite to one of the Protagonist’s.
The Mentor doesn’t have to be wise. Possibly, he’s accomplished in the area where the Protagonist is weak.
The Sidekick could be a combination of archetypes, some the Protagonist likes and others he tolerates. Possibly, the only thing that makes them a team is how loyal the sidekick is.
Protagonist: an analyst, an explorer, and an imposter.
Sidekick: an addict, pessimist, and loyalist.
What came to mind is:
Dickson is a young college man. One summer, he poses as a census taker and travels from town to town to collect data and write a paper on the perfect single woman. While he charms young women, he records 1-10 ratings for twenty traits he deems important.
Dickson’s teenage brother, Dean, travels with him. The only things that placate and keep Dean with Dickson is the promise of receiving a used jeep and a daily supply of three six-packs of diet soda loaded with caffeine. He believes Dickson won’t find the perfect women going door-to-door, and he reminds his brother daily of the fact. But as long as he has his caffeine fix, he faithfully keeps the truck running in case he spots a cop cruiser or Dickson’s interview ends badly.
79 archetypes and how to use them to create interesting characters. Click to tweet.
What archetypes could you pull together to make an interesting character?
Most writers have heard they must read, write, and rewrite often to become a better writer. True, but here are other tips to improve our writing.
Subscribe to a writers’ magazine.
I find the articles in Writer’s Digest supply fresh ideas and writing techniques. When I try them, I improve my writing.
Obtain at least one critique partner.
My partner combs my manuscript for what doesn’t work. Her comments make me rethink what I wrote. When I critique her manuscript and question something, I ask myself why what she wrote doesn’t work. Sometimes I dig into my writing references to look up the answer. From either side of the process, I learn much.
Join a writer’s group.
The encouragement and fellowship helps to keep us writing. During our discussions, we absorb what others have studied and shared. I’ve learned about writing trends, helpful resources, audiences, genres, and techniques. Some groups perform critiques during meetings.
For most conferences, potential workshop leaders must submit proposals and outlines of what they’ll present. Therefore, this screening usually produces workshops whose content is well thought out and worthwhile to writers. This has been my experience.
Be a mentor.
To me, mentoring someone is a big responsibility. I don’t want to lead my mentee astray, so I do my homework before I provide help, which hones my own skills.
Write blog posts on writing.
While helping other writers, researching and producing such posts helps me understand and remember the techniques and principles better. And in my archives, I have easy access to what I’ve selected as important to know.
Lead a workshop.
I started leading workshops in my writers’ group. Preparing writing examples for what I presented stretched me to come up with ones that truly showed the technique. Later, I applied to lead workshops for a conference. The prep work for the workshops helps embed in my memory what I present.
These tips will grow you as a writer. They’ll help you learn writing techniques, principles, and style. But the work involved also helps you own what you learn.
7 Tips to become a better writer that are in addition to “read, write, and rewrite.” Click to tweet.
Which of these tips, or other tips, have you tried and found the most helpful?