Writers know that no matter how compelling/mesmerizing/thrilling their story arc is, it’s actually the characters that provide the rocket fuel necessary to propel it. Readers invest emotionally with the characters, forging a connection that keeps them engaged with the story and turning the pages. By utilizing character archetypes, writers can create captivating characters that readers will relate to. Continue reading to learn all about using character archetypes in literature.

What Are Character Archetypes?

The character archetype is a literary device that has existed since the very beginnings of storytelling. Across the genres, works of fiction feature stories that are populated with characters that readers recognize by their familiar motivations and personality types.

The most famous of these literary archetypes become known as a stock character. A stock character is a well-known literary archetype that can be used in other works of fiction as a reference, such as Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol.

Now, no matter how unique a character an author conjures up, in terms of appearance or traits, at their core, the character possesses certain propensities based on the literary archetype.

Whether the genre is science fiction, romance, mystery, or fantasy, the essence of a character will reveal itself through this archetype. Let’s explore some character archetypes examples to better grasp this concept.

Common Character Archetypes List

So, what is an archetypal character? For starters, consider the most commonly used character archetypes in storytelling: the hero and the villain. Generally speaking, heroes possess certain well-known qualities and villains possess opposing traits.

The writer then builds out the characters based on these familiar characteristics. Using their imagination, the author creates as unique or complex a hero or villain as they desire, but the core template of each archetype is retained.

Consider examples from this handy character archetypes list when developing your own intriguing characters:

  • The Caregiver. The Caregiver usually holds a supportive role to the main character in a story. This character is portrayed in a positive light as a selfless, supportive figure — think Mary Poppins. Other caregiver examples might include a doting spouse, a loving parent, or a supportive friend.
  • The Rebel. The Rebel demands respect for the courage and bravery they exhibit in doing things their way. Instead of following the status quo, these types of characters forge their own pathway to achieving goals, as Katniss Everdeen does in The Hunger Games. Other examples of a rebel like Katniss Everdeen might include a swashbuckler, a cowboy, an innovator, or a criminal.
  • The Hero. No archetypal character list is complete without including The Hero archetype. Stories literally revolve around the actions of The Hero, a figure that saves the day, meets unheard-of challenges, and makes right out of wrong. The Hero possesses various strengths, like courage, integrity, and sometimes even supernatural powers — like Harry Potter from the Harry Potter Series. Other examples of a hero archetype might include a soldier, a firefighter, or a religious leader.
  • The Villain. What’s a story without a villain? The Villain archetype provides the reader with a bad guy, someone to loathe or fear and therefore incites powerful emotions. The Villain is often despicable, selfish, or cruel, but sometimes acts out of misguided beliefs, such as Shere Khan from The Jungle Book. Other examples of a villain might include an evil mastermind, a monster or beast, or a bully.
  • The Mentor. The Mentor is typically portrayed as an older, exceptionally wise person. They might be a teacher or guide type character that assists the protagonist, such as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. Other examples of a mentor archetype might include an expert in a given field, a counselor, a sage, or a professor.
  • The Loner. Using The Loner character archetype allows the author to immediately provide the reader with someone to root for or fear, depending on the character drawn. These types of characters often inspire compassion, like the character Boo in To Kill a Mockingbird, causing the reader to relate to a personal experience with loneliness. Other examples of The Loner archetype might include a teenage outcast, a psychologically unstable character, or a widow or widower.

Types of Character Flaws

To keep things real, the author must make their characters relatable. To achieve this goal, writers make use of all-too-human character flaws. These negative traits or shortcomings help make the characters more endearing to the reader while sparking emotions like empathy and compassion. The more the reader cares about a character, the more pleasurable the reading experience.

Consider integrating some of these character flaws to make your characters more believable and real:

  • Physical flaws. Character flaws aren’t always about defects of character. When describing and shaping a character, add some physical flaws to add an interesting layer or two.
  • Personality flaws. These are the character flaws that most human beings struggle with. These defects might include being prideful, judgmental, dishonest, cowardly, or indecisive.
  • Good character flaws. These flaws add an endearing quality to a character because they are so relatable. These might include such flaws as being lazy, gullible, naïve, awkward, or clumsy.

Allow Your Characters To Shine With a Thorough Edit

Getting a second set of eyes on your manuscript can yield helpful insights. Make your characters as interesting and lifelike as possible by enlisting the help of Gatekeeper Press for all your editing and design needs. Get in touch today!

professional book editing