FOR THE artistic & imaginative WRITER

Character Archetypes

Character Archetypes: who are they really?

Archetypes… “Archétype” in French, “النموذج الأصلي” in Arabic, “arquetipo” in Spanish…

What is an archetype? That’s a question we must get into before we actually start talking about different character archetypes used in storytelling. And don’t worry, I didn’t know what it meant either.

What is an archetype?

For now, think of the archetype as a model. Think of the archetypes as the earliest, ancient models of human behavior and personalities.

Now we have this guy, Carl Jung. Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He founded the concept of the archetypes. This concept falls in his theories about the collective unconscious. Why collective unconscious? It’s because our human unconscious links all of us humans together whether our civilizations communicate or not. You see, archetypes exist in different cultures and at different times of history. 

The rebel has existed all throughout history everywhere in the world. This is an example of the collective unconscious. All humans have a rebellious side in their personalities. This is a common pattern of human behavior. Take Joan of Arc (1412-1431), who is considered a heroine of France. She became the leader of the French army during Hundred years’ war and rebelled against the English. Take Pancho villa (1878-1923), who was a Mexican revolutionary general one of the most prominent figures of the Mexican Revolution. He joined Francisco’s Madero successful uprising against Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz.

Both Joan of Arc and Pancho Villa had that same rebellious trait even though they come from different cultures and countries, and even though they existed in completely different times of history.

This is pretty much how we can define the archetypes.

Keep in mind that the archetypes, those ancient models of human behavior are used in writing to shape characters and form their personalities. And now, I’m going to tell you how to write them, and what they’re like.

Breaking down Jung’s 12 main archetypes:

Before I start explaining Jung’s main archetypes and how to write them, there is a rule you should remember to write them all.You should remember their characteristics during the writing process. Remember who they are and how they’re supposed to feel from within. To expose their archetype, you must put them in certain situations where their personality breaks out of its shell and sees the light of day.

1. The Innocent 

They want to be happy. They have nothing but love for others and are optimistic, naïve to a certain extent. They have dreams, they are romantic. The innocent fears punishment and seeks to do everything by the rules, the right way, the good way. I can think of Prim from the Hunger Games and Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. 

How to write them:

You can spot the innocent during war, when they believe that it will somehow be alright, when they try to cheer people up. Again, see Primrose Everdeen in the Hunger Games. You can find them in a group of people making fun of them. See Luna Lovegood being bullied but still thinking nothing of it. The cheerful date of a rich guy in a room of woman who are looking down on her, making fake compliments that she accepts with a smile on her face… this is where you can usually find the innocent. They can be the secondary main characters of your story.

2. The Everyman

The everyman is a normal character. He’s like any of us and we can all easily relate to him. When I think of the everyman, I think of a side character who’s rooting for the hero or simply the neighbor next door, the colleague in an office. The everyman is down to earth and they try to connect with others in order to belong. 

How to write them:

The bakery owner who gives a regular customer free croissants sometimes just for the sake of it. The teacher who turns a blind eye when her favorite student is late for class. That man who got a loan for the bank to pay his bills… We can find ourselves in those people because we are one of them. They are the everyman and can often be side characters or maybe even secondary main characters.

3. The Hero

What can we say about the hero? The story revolves around them. They want to save the day and they’re always ready for a fight. They are courageous, the warrior. Just as well, they can be arrogant. Basically, we’re talking about the whole Gryffindor house. We’re talking Percy Jackson. And though he was a bit deranged after all, this archetype reminds me of Don Quixote. 

How to write them:

The hero is mostly the protagonist of your story. He’s generally in all the chapters. You write the hero by giving their character importance and giving them opportunities to act. The hero wants to achieve greatness and doesn’t run away from a fight. Don Quixote wanted to be a great knight even though he was fighting his own illusions. Faced to the “giants” who were actually nothing but wheat mills, he didn’t hesitate to fight. Remember, he’s the protagonist and he’s about to embark on a journey.

4. The Caregiver

The name says it all. They care, they help others, they understand, they’re empathetic. They would go to the end of the world to help those whom they love. The caregiver is generous. The caregiver supports those they cherish through their battles. A real living example for the caregiver is Mother Theresa. We have Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings and I don’t know what’s up with Harry Potter today, but this archetype reminds me of Ron Weasley as well.

How to write them:

The caregiver will sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Remember when little Ron sacrificed himself during the game of chess so that Harry and Hermione would safely go on? The caregiver will place a plate of food next to the hero and remind them to eat when they’re too engrossed in battling strategies or whatever. The caregiver will make sure everybody has enough blankets. The caregiver will take the first watch. They are generally one of the main characters.

5. The Explorer

They are the free spirit, those who seek adventure and suffer from wanderlust. They want to explore the world, find new things and be free. They want to escape the boredom of their daily life and wander away to somewhere more interesting. This reminds me of Alice from Alice in Wonderland and of Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia who found the entrance to Narnia.

How to write them:

Just like Alice, the explorer is going to be odd, weird and different from the rest. The stars will fascinate them and they will be wild. They would rather be in the forest inspecting some weird radioactive mushroom than attending a party. Everything odd will draw them in and they usually love to learn new things. Does the name Dora the Explorer ring a bell? Let them be just like Dora. They can be the protagonist or a secondary character.

6. The Lover

The lover is passionate. They want to love and be loved. And though the lover has many dimensions, the love of friends, family, the love of God and life, the lover archetype wants to balance all. The lover never wants to be alone and unloved. They have a desire to please. The lover archetype takes form in the greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

How to write them:

The lovers are the poets who continuously write about love, about the memories of their lovers. The lover is the man with many mistresses, the girl who’s trying to find her true love. The lover is mostly found in the romance genre and it could be any character because all of us fall in love. It’s inevitable. Literary works, at least for me, are not complete without a romantic subplot because if you’re realistically writing you story, people in real life fall in love and are attracted to each other all the time. The lover archetype has to represent at least one of your characters.

7. The Artist

They see beauty in everything and they want to represent this beauty. They will dance and they will merge the colors on the canvas.  They will sing their song. They have a story to tell. They’re gifted and magic comes out of their fingertips when they’re working on what they love. They’re imagination is wild and sometimes, their perfectionism can be their downfall. The artist archetype is also known as the creator archetype because scientists, in a way, are artists too. Think of Vincent Van Gogh, the tortured artist and of Rapunzel who spent her days painting in her tower, playing the guitar, dancing… think of Albert Einstein.

How to write them:

Like I’ve said before, they see beauty in everything. That makes them question everything. What is that? Why is it here? How did it get here? And you can never say you’re character is a singer, for example, if they never freaking sing all throughout the story. If said character doesn’t sing, doesn’t attend concerts, doesn’t rehearse or doesn’t write any music, you’ve failed to represent their archetype. Your character should often be in a state of wonder and they can be any character in your story.

8. The Rebel

They want the revolution and justice. Sometimes, they rebel against the good, other times, they want to achieve what’s good. They want to remove the vile ruler from their throne or cruelly rule over the kingdom. There is no in between. It’s either the rebels who kill the innocent or Joan of Arc who rebels against the foreign army on her country. The rebel never want to feel powerless and they want to break the rules. Their strategy is to gather followers and disrupt the current system, whether in a good way or a bad way. In The Selection series, those two types of rebels are represented. There were those who were violent in their journey to destroy the system, and those who were peaceful and who looked for important books and manuscripts who could help change their society.

How to write them:

The rebel is living in a society where something is wrong. Take Katniss Everdeen. Her society was so cruel it’s almost ridiculous. It is no surprise there were so many districts ready to rebel. Your rebel should be furious against a certain rule and must seek to have it changed. They can be any character is your story.

9. The Sage

He’s most commonly the wise old man or that crazy smart granny. The sage seeks to find the truth. They want answer and they use their intelligence and knowledge to understand the world. They hate being ignorant or misled. They are the thinkers, the philosophers. Besides Dumbledore and Gandalf who are obvious examples of the sage, this reminds me of another funny example. In a little cartoon show for kids called Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, there’s an old elf known as the wise old elf. He’s a very funny character and he’s called upon whenever the other characters are facing troubles and need guidance.

How to write them:

The sage is generally old because deep knowledge isn’t acquired in one year or two. Some spend their whole lives researching to gain the knowledge they have. The sage is there to guide the other characters and to give us, the readers, good lessons and sayings we never forget. This is why Dumbledore and Gandalf are so appreciated. We all really want to have someone like them in our lives and this is the significance of the Sage’s personality. They are usually main characters in a story.

10. The Jester

He’s the prankster, the joker, the fool. He’s the one who lightens the mood whenever something is going on. He wants to have fun in life and doesn’t take things too seriously. The jester is easily bored and waste a lot of time trying to have fun. We can think of the Weasley twins from Harry Potter and the Stoll brothers in the Percy Jackson series. These four are ever the pranksters and are somehow always laughing and making others around them laugh.

How to write them:

The jester has a good sense of humor and is always ready for a laugh. There’s a quote that says “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough,  but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” The jester will be the one telling that joke. It could be during war when the team is all depressed and the jester somehow makes them laugh. This is the easiest way to do it. Your characters are all sad or serious, and you bring the jester to lighten the mood. They can be any character in your story.

11. The Ruler

The ruler is the leader, the king or the queen. They desire control and try to avoid chaos. Their greatest fear is to be overthrown. Power is what matters most and for some of these rulers, the life of the weak is cheaper than grass. On the other hand, some rulers are good and what they want is to reign over a peaceful community where everyone is safe and happy. We can think of many rulers. One of them is president Snow who sent out kids to kill each other. He’s not a good guy.

How to write them:

They are usually in a position of power. They’re royalty and they have significant influence and connections. The ruler mostly wants things to go his or her way. They want order. Remember Umbridge? She did so much to maintain order and follow the rules that she’s seen as crazy. From her perspective, she was trying to bring peace and harmony to Hogwarts. The ruler can be any character in your story.

12. The Magician

The magician has a vision. And they live by it. They want to make dreams come true and make things happen. They try to understand the universe and find a solution for other situations. They help the hero along their journey and come to their aid when things get tough. The magician is also known as the mentor. I can think of Haymitch Abernahty from the Hunger Games who is the embodiment of this archetype. Even though he seems cold-hearted at first, he immediately takes action when things get tough for Katniss and Peeta in the arena.

How to write them:

The magician cares for the hero. Not like the caregiver, but like a trainer would care for his players. The magician advises them and sometimes even follows them in their journey. The magician can be a teacher helping a troubled student fix his path in life, an uncle helping his niece when her parents don’t care about her. The mentor is usually a secondary main character.

Do you have to write according to those archetypes?

Of course not. Those are just the main archetypes. There are many others. And it’s going to be different according to the character, their overall personalities, what they’ve been through and the situation they’re in… the list could go on. What I want you to do is to remember who this character is. Who are they?

Now as I’m editing my novel, I realized that I wanted a character to fall under a certain archetype. But as I kept focusing on the story during the writing process, I completely drifted away from my original vision. 

Don’t neglect your character. I cannot stress this enough but seriously, don’t. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Remember who they are and how they’re supposed to feel from within.

If not, well, you can always fix your mistakes and re-write, right? We are writers, not surgeons.

A Ghost Writer, Murielle Azzi

Thank you all for reading this week’s Ghost Authors. If you enjoyed today’s post, please let us know by commenting your thoughts below. Our Ghost Writer this week was Murielle Azzi. You can find more of her stuff here and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. We hope this aids and encourages you in your writing journey this week!

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