Character Archetypes in Storytelling
A character archetype is a specific set of universally recognisable behaviours that is embodied by an individual, or individuals, within a story. They are like guide books for writers because they help to populate their worlds with personalities that their audience have encountered before. In today’s blog, we’ll look at 12 character archetypes that you can use in your own writing.
The Warrior – The Hero Archetype
The Warrior is the hero that will conquer the enemy by the end of the story. This is done via a particular set of skills and a strong will. They usually suffer some kind of crisis in confidence which they must over come before the final battle. Their strengths lie in their courage, physical or mental strength, and abilities. Their weakness are their overconfidence and their ego. This archetype wants to save the day and prove their worth. You might recognise these characteristics in Hercules or Beowulf.
The Child is a young or naive character whose innocence is lost. They are taught a lesson about the world. They are optimistic, enthusiastic and imaginative, but are weak from their naïveté and physical powerlessness. An example of this character archetype is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
The Orphan is an individual in search of a new “family”. They often have a keen survival instinct, empathy, and perseverance. However, their lack of confidence and willingness to please others can sometimes get in their way. Harry Potter is an excellent example of this archetype.
The Creator – The Character Archetype with a Personal Sacrifice
Like writers, Creators want to create something of value which will ensure their lasting mark on the world. They usually are able to achieve this goal, but often at the price of their own well-being and personal relationships. Willy Wonka is a character in this archetype.
Like Mary Poppins, these characters posses selfness and generosity. They wish to protect the character in their care (often the protagonist). However, because of their selfness they are open to exploitation by ill-meaning characters.
The Mentor/Sage – The Aloof Archetype
Originally intended to convince younger generations to listen to their elders, this archetype helps the hero to push past their boundaries and make sense of the world. Wise and experienced, these Gandalf-like personalities are also cautious and have an inability to act.
Always joyous and likeable, these jester characters are laid back and have a seize-the-day mentality. These strengths are also their downfalls as this can make them frivolous with their time and resources. In modern literature, this character archetype is often there for comic relief.
The Magician – The Archetype with Extraordinary Abilities
These Sherlock Holmes-esque individuals aspire to be masters of the universe. As a result, their actions are often driven by knowledge and power and they posses abilities that impress and astound others. They wish to create order from chaos and bend the world to their will.
This character archetype wishes to hold onto their power. The only question is how far are they willing to go in order do so. Such is Macbeth: a man who wishes for the throne but whose suspicion will result in his demise.
The Rebel – The Archetype on a Mission
Fuelled by anger and aided by resourcefulness and perseverance, The Rebel has a strong desire to change the world around them. Like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, these characters might start small in power, status, and resources, but along their journey they acquire the means for success. Or, they had it within them all along.
These characters will do anything for love. Their strengths lie in their devotion and passion. But, they can be hindered by their willingness to sacrifice identity, life, and liberty in order to be in a relationship. Romeo and Juliet fit this character archetype to a ‘t’.
Our last archetype teaches the audience the lesson that “some things are too good to be true”. These characters have boat loads in charisma and lack any morals. They have empty promises and will try to be the downfall of the protagonist.