Why do authors use character archetypes?

A basic character prototype that can be found in stories and literature is known as an archetypal character. It is a philosophical and psychological concept based on the social archetype theories of psychologist Carl Jung. In literature, the archetypal character frequently performs fundamental plot or story functions, facilitating a more seamless narrative progression. In addition, the character frequently serves as the foundation from which the main characters will grow.

Even though archetypal characters are rarely present in real life, people find comfort in their presence in stories. Carl Jung thought such archetypes were crucial to a person's comprehension of and relationship to a story, whether they were characters or overarching plot elements. Conversely, a story can alienate and separate people if it is irrelevant or impossible for them to relate.

Therefore, the archetypal character is a straightforward, instantly recognizable character who doesn't need a detailed introduction, description, or backstory. According to Jung, only four fundamental archetypes from which all others have descended. These are the trickster, the spirit, the rebirth, and the mother. Since he serves the same purpose, the cheater is frequently called "the devil." The Norse god Loki is probably one of mythology's most well-known con artists.

The hero, the child, the sage, and the mentor are a few character types later developed from these four fundamental archetypes. The characters William Shakespeare and other classic authors created have since evolved into archetypes. Romeo and Juliet, a pair of lovelorn young people, and Falstaff, a chubby and bawdy knight, are two of Shakespeare's works.

Popular genre fiction is notorious for packing its tales with specific archetypes, particularly bad fantasy. Due to their weak characterization, these characters are called "cardboard cutouts." The same cast of archetypes—the brave knight, the endearing rogue, the enigmatic wizard, the maiden, etc.—almost always makes up the fantasy gang about to set out on an epic journey or daring tale. In detective fiction, archetypal characters are frequently used.

A good illustration of the application of archetypes is Harry Potter. JK Rowling used a variety of archetypes, motifs, and allusions from mythology to bind her story together and make it accessible to readers. The protagonist (Harry), the teacher (Dumbledore), the antagonist (Voldemort), and the sidekicks are among them (Hermione and Rupert).

In contemporary literature, strong character development is viewed as taking a character beyond the bounds of its archetype. An archetypal character is viewed as minor and functional or as an illustration of the author misrepresenting a character. Characterization frequently involves conscious efforts to break the character free from the expectations of her archetype.

Why do authors use character archetypes?

To begin, let's clear up a misunderstanding that frequently arises:

A common form of interpretation that is one-dimensional, superficial, and limited. A wise old guy with a beard helps the hero with cryptic hints until he really needs him, and then he dies. That is a common generalization. It is possible to argue that Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf, and Albus Dumbledore are just different incarnations of the same character appearing in various works. The author can quickly establish the character and free up more time to write about other aspects of the story.

An archetype is an example of something more general. For example, the archetype of a little girl is often depicted. You could use the archetypical image of a cute little girl dressed and playing with a doll. That is immediately understandable to everyone. Alternately, you could place her on the ceiling and have her speak in reverse; everyone would still comprehend what she was saying, but they would find it extremely unsettling. Alternately, the doll is fifty feet tall. Or it could be an irritable man with a beard dressed as a woman and playing with a doll. That is a classic example.

All possible interpretations and symbols of a concept, as well as their antitheses and counterparts, are included in archetypes. They enable you to effectively communicate vast amounts of information in a short amount of time.

The only time archetypes can morph into stereotypes is when someone repeatedly recycles the same archetype using the same symbols.

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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