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Writing Tips: Character Archetypes

In some logic, I should discuss plotting next, but I'm a character driven writer and I like to know them before I plot because their personalities help to determine how they may react to any given circumstance in the story and therefore can change the direction of the plot substantially. I always do my character development second only to deciding the very basic structure posted last week.

In order to understand characters, they need to be well thought out and multi-dimensional, much like real people. If they aren't your reader will not be able to form an emotional connection to them which is why proper character development is essential.

In literature, you should be able to find some common threads among characters in your favorite books. This is called an archetype. In other words, we can find examples of character archetypes that reoccur throughout literature or movies. Let's take a look at some of the most common ones.

The Hero

Hero is almost always the protagonist, even if your protagonist isn't a hero (if that confuses you, think about Dexter--he's a protagonist, and technically the hero of the story, but he's also a serial killer—so far from our traditional label of what makes a hero heroic). The hero seeks to attain their goal or objective and always has to overcome obstacles and roadblocks along the way. They usually have a good moral compass which will challenge them as the story progresses. Their gumption to stay true to themselves or their beliefs are what makes them heroic, not to mention that often, the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.

The Mentor

Mentors are as common as heroes in literature. They usually have greater experiences and wisdom which they will draw from to help the hero complete their journey. The hero will often learn enough from the mentor to help themselves, but sometimes when the task is too great, the mentor themselves will intervene. Think Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Hamitch in the Hunger Games, or Yoda in Star Wars.

The Everyman/woman

A normal person who is expected to face dire circumstance. They can be the protagonist, or maybe his or her sidekick. The difference between an everyman and a hero is the hero feels obligated to take on his or her quest in someway, whereas the everyman is in the wrong place at the wrong time and finds themselves in a situation they often can't control. They aren't trying to save the world because it's their duty, they're trying to save themselves and if saving the planet happens to be the way they must do it, then so be it.

The Innocent

Often children. Pure and unblemished by the harsh reality of life. They have yet to become jaded or judgemental of others even if the most bleak surroundings. Nothing can dull their brightness and good hearts.

The Mother Figure

Usually offers guidance and direction, and emotional and spiritual love. Can also alternately be the "evil" stepmom (think Cinderella) but is usually closer to the Fairy Godmother.

The Villain

Kind of self explanatory here, but the person who wants to stop the hero from reaching his goal. Often evil but usually with a reason to be evil or a true belief that they themselves are doing the right thing. They seek control and power. They should be the moral opposite of the hero.

Like just about anything with writing, there are more archetypes out there and with a simple google search, you will find many so read up and get ready for some crucial points all characters should have, because that's up next. :) 

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