12 Character Archetypes to Know Before You Start Writing

Character archetypes like heros vs. villains

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Crafting memorable and complex characters is a vital aspect of storytelling. One effective technique that writers can utilize is the use of character archetypes. These archetypes represent recurring patterns and universal roles in storytelling, providing a strong foundation for creating dynamic and relatable fictional characters.

12 Character Archetypes

Within the realm of character archetypes, twelve significant roles emerge, each carrying distinct characteristics and motivations. These archetypes serve as building blocks for engaging narratives, shaping a story’s progression, and capturing readers’ attention.

Let’s dive into these character archetypes and uncover their storytelling potential.

The hero

The hero embodies personality traits such as courage, resilience, and a strong sense of morality. These characters experience an inciting incident and then embark on transformative journeys, overcoming obstacles and facing conflicts to achieve their goals. Think of iconic heroes like Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, or Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings. The hero archetype inspires readers through their determination and ability to rise above challenges.

The villain

Opposing the hero, the villain embodies evil, cunning, and opposition. Villains create conflicts and obstacles that the hero must overcome, adding depth and tension to the story. Iconic villains like Darth Vader from Star Wars, the manipulative Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, or the unpredictable Joker from the Batman series demonstrate the compelling nature of the villain archetype.

The mentor

The mentor serves as a wise and experienced guide who provides wisdom and support to the main character. Mentors empower the hero by sharing their knowledge and helping them navigate challenges. Characters such as Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars or Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series exemplify the mentor character archetype, shaping the hero’s growth and offering crucial insights.

The trickster

The trickster has a personality type that injects humor, unpredictability, and mischief into a narrative. These characters challenge conventions, question authority, and provide comic relief. The mischievous Robin Hood or the cunning Loki from Norse mythology and Marvel comics are examples of trickster archetypes. They bring a sense of excitement and unpredictability.

The guardian

The guardian offers support, protection, and loyalty to the hero. Guardians often serve as sidekicks, allies, or mentors to the protagonist. Characters like Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings, the loyal droids R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars, or the trustworthy Hagrid from Harry Potter embody the guardian character archetype, providing vital assistance and guidance.

The herald

The herald acts as a catalyst, introducing change and setting the hero’s journey in motion. They bring important news, prophecies, or challenges that allow the protagonist to learn more as they propel into their adventure. Examples of Heralds include the White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. The Herald archetype initiates the hero’s quest and sets the narrative in motion.

The shape-shifter

The shape-shifter archetype adds complexity and intrigue to the story by embodying duality and ambiguity. These characters blur the lines between ally and enemy, keeping readers guessing about their true intentions. Shape-shifters challenge the hero’s trust and perception, adding tension and suspense. Think Severus Snape from Harry Potter or Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.

The sidekick

The Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Book LaunchThe sidekick archetype is a compelling character who serves as the hero’s loyal and dependable companion. They offer encouragement, provide comic relief, and complement the hero’s strengths and weaknesses. Sidekicks often bring a sense of lightness to the story and enhance the hero’s journey. Notable sidekicks include Ron Weasley from Harry Potter and Chewbacca from Star Wars.

The love interest

The love interest adds a romantic element to a story, providing emotional depth and motivation for the hero. They can be the driving force behind the hero’s actions, offering love, support, and a reason to fight. Examples include iconic literary couples like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice or star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet.

The underdog

The underdog is a character who faces overwhelming odds and adversity. They start with disadvantages but possess resilience, determination, and the ability to defy expectations. Underdogs resonate with readers as they root for the character to triumph against any opponent or obstacle — whatever the odds. Notable underdogs include Rocky Balboa and Harry Potter.

The femme fatale

The femme fatale is a seductive and mysterious character who uses her allure to manipulate and deceive others. She possesses intelligence, charm, and a hidden agenda. Femme Fatales often introduce intrigue and danger into the story, captivating both the protagonist and readers.

The jester

The jester brings humor and levity to the story. They use wit, satire, and comedic antics to entertain and lighten the mood. Jesters often serve as a source of comic relief, providing respite from the intensity of the plot. George Weasley from Harry Potter, Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are shining examples of the jester character archetype.

How to use archetypes to develop characters

Utilizing character archetypes effectively is key to creating compelling characters and bringing multiple perspectives to your narrative. As a writer, you still need to explore your characters to draw out their nuances and add depth. Remember to:

  1. Identify core traits and motivations. Analyze each character’s defining traits and motivations and align them with an archetype. Focus on consistency and and their backstory to identify what drives their actions and decisions.
  2. Explore dynamics and interactions. Consider how different archetypes interact with one another. The hero’s character development may be influenced by the trickster’s antics or shaped by the mentor’s guidance. These dynamics add complexity and depth to your character relationships.
  3. Delve into internal conflicts. Archetypes have their shadow sides, exposing flaws, insecurities, and internal conflicts. Dive into these darker aspects to create internal struggles for your characters, enhancing their depth and realism.
  4. Combine archetypes for uniqueness. Don’t limit your characters to a single archetype. Experiment with blending multiple archetypes to create unique and multidimensional individuals.

Are your characters ready to meet your readers?

Do you have your characters assembled and the story complete? Call a BookBaby publishing specialist at 877-961-6878 or visit www.bookbaby.com and let’s get your book published!

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah, I’ve been writing for years, and I’ve never studied “archetypes”. Creating compelling characters comes from your own imagination and experiences. It really isn’t as deep as you’re trying to make it out to be. Just write!

  2. Thank you for helping define character types and great ideas to mold characters. Great ideas to help flesh out what you need.

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