What are Archetypes in Character Building

Let's quickly go over what are archetypes in character building.

The concept of archetype is a valuable tool for comprehending the purpose or function of characters in a story. Knowing what archetype function a specific character is expressing helps guide the development of the story.

Brief Explanation of What are Archetypes in Psychology?

Carl G. Jung, a Swiss psychologist, traced patterns of behavior that define specific ways individual people operate in society. His ideas are based on studying symbols and myths from various cultures and eras. He proposed the existence of a collective unconscious and that it was comparable to the personal unconscious. For example, fairy tales and myths would be like the collective unconscious dreams of an entire culture.

Essentially, Jung used archetypes to refer to ancient patterns of personality shared across the entire human race.

The concept of archetype is a valuable tool for comprehending the purpose or function of characters in a story. Knowing what archetype function a specific character is expressing can help guide their development in the story.

The universal language of the narrative includes archetypes. According to Vogler, mastering your energy is as important to a writer as breathing.

How Archetypes Work in Storytelling

It is possible to free up the narrative and create a story full of nuances that is much more interesting for the reader when you see archetypes as characters. This sort of flexibility lets the character function to achieve certain outcomes in the story rather than appear as immutable figures.

Keeping the possibility of flexibility in mind explains how a character can exhibit traits from multiple archetypes within the same story.

According to Vogler, another way to view classical archetypes is as facets of the hero's (or writer's) personality. The other characters represent the hero's options, both good and bad.

On his journey, a hero may gather and embody the energy and traits of other characters. It's as if the hero began the story incomplete, and each character who crosses his path serves the purpose of teaching him something so that, in the end, he becomes a more complete human being.

Archetypes can also be thought of as personified symbols of various human characteristics.


Most Common Archetypes in Character Building

For storytellers, certain archetypes are indispensable tools for the craft. It is not possible to tell stories without them. The archetypes that occur most frequently in stories (hence, the most useful for a writer to know) are:

  • Hero
  • Mentor (elder, comrade, friend, parent, wiseman, etc.)
  • Threshold guardian
  • Herald
  • Chameleon
  • Shadow
  • Picarus

Of course, there are many other archetypes—as many as there are human qualities that can be dramatized in a story.

For example, fairy tales are full of archetypal figures: the Wolf, the Hunter, the Good Mother, the Evil Stepmother, the Fairy Godmother, the Witch, the Prince or Princess, the Covetous Innkeeper, and so on, who perform highly specialized roles.

Likewise, Jung and others have identified many psychological archetypes, such as the Puer Aeternus, or the eternal boy, which can be found in myths such as the ever-young Cupid, in stories of characters such as Peter Pan, and in life, as men who never want to grow.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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