In our efforts to craft a new work of fiction, we writers are faced with the prospect of creating our cast of characters. This is usually how many stories begin, with the blossoming thoughts of an intriguing personality that begins to stir in our crafty little minds.
Understanding the different character archetypes helps me when I’m putting together my character sketches. I post the different archetypes up on my wall and shuffle around different combinations on paper to get the perfect mix for each member in the cast of my story. I imagine them facing different types of situations and how they will react.
I keep the draft of my story outline close at hand to pencil in scenes that help me frame the story arc. Recalling that we all relate on some level to many aspects of the different archetypes, I set the stage. Following the rise to the climax and, finally, the ending – I create sets of scenes featuring the characters that I believe will pack the most punch and hopefully seduce my readers into becoming emotionally attached to the progression of the story. This is probably the largest element that the readers will take away from the story – how they connected with it, it’s feel.
Character archetypes fill our communities and their individual uniqueness adds to the richness of the lives we live. Archetypes represent a fundamental human collection of the different experiences we may have had in the past. They stir up deep emotions within us. These different types of personalities have been popping up in people’s lives since the dawn of time. Most of us have experienced nearly all of them, or most certainly different aspects of them unless we have been sheltered from social experiences and kept away from our community at large.
Although the following list may be information you’re already aware of, I find it helps to use this list when I’m crafting my characters and maybe you will too. It enables me to more readily imagine their traits individually, to understand what drives them, how they will react in any given situation, and what purpose they serve to the plot and other characters.
Refer to the following list when creating your characters. Supply each character with different levels of each aspect. Have fun with creating a dynamic group that will carry the weight of your story. These are the characters your readers will come to know, root for, pity, laugh-with, worry-about, despise, admire, and even love. Referring to this list can help to make your characters unforgettable.
The Four Cardinal Orientations
The Four Cardinal Orientations define four groups, with each group containing three types (as the wheel of archetypes shown above illustrates). Each group is motivated by its respective orienting focus: ego-fulfillment, freedom, sociableness and order.
The Ego Types
1. The Innocent
Motto: Free to be you and me
Core desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
Greatest fear: to be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: to do things right
Weakness: boring for all their naive innocence
Talent: faith and optimism
The Innocent is also known as: Utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.
2. The Orphan/Regular Guy or Gal
Motto: All men and women are created equal
Core Desire: connecting with others
Goal: to belong
Greatest fear: to be left out or to stand out from the crowd
Strategy: develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Weakness: losing one’s own self in an effort to blend in or for the sake of superficial relationships
Talent: realism, empathy, lack of pretense
Also known as: The good old boy, everyman, the person next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbor, the silent majority.
3. The Hero
Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Core desire: to prove one’s worth through courageous acts
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Greatest fear: weakness, vulnerability, being a “chicken”
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight
Talent: competence and courage
The Hero is also known as: The warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, the soldier, dragon slayer, the winner and the team player.
4. The Caregiver
Motto: Love your neighbor as yourself
Core desire: to protect and care for others
Goal: to help others
Greatest fear: selfishness and ingratitude
Strategy: doing things for others
Weakness: martyrdom and being exploited
Talent: compassion, generosity
The Caregiver is also known as: The saint, altruist, parent, helper, supporter.
The Soul Types
5. The Explorer
Motto: Don’t fence me in
Core desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Biggest fear: getting trapped, conformity, and inner emptiness
Strategy: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Weakness: aimless wandering, becoming a misfit
Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul
The explorer is also known as: The seeker, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim.
6. The Rebel
Motto: Rules are made to be broken
Core desire: revenge or revolution
Goal: to overturn what isn’t working
Greatest fear: to be powerless or ineffectual
Strategy: disrupt, destroy, or shock
Weakness: crossing over to the dark side, crime
Talent: outrageousness, radical freedom
The Outlaw is also known as: The rebel, revolutionary, wild man, the misfit, or iconoclast.
7. The Lover
Motto: You’re the only one
Core desire: intimacy and experience
Goal: being in a relationship with the people, work, and surroundings they love
Greatest fear: being alone, a wallflower, unwanted, unloved
Strategy: to become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Weakness: outward-directed desire to please others at risk of losing their own identity
Talent: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment
The Lover is also known as: The partner, friend, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, spouse, team-builder.
8. The Creator
Motto: If you can imagine it, it can be done
Core desire: to create things of enduring value
Goal: to realize a vision
Greatest fear: mediocre vision or execution
Strategy: develop artistic control and skill
Task: to create culture, express own vision
Weakness: perfectionism, bad solutions
Talent: creativity and imagination
The Creator is also known as: The artist, inventor, innovator, musician, writer or dreamer.
The Self Types
9. The Jester
Motto: You only live once
Core desire: to live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: to have a great time and lighten up the world
Greatest fear: being bored or boring others
Strategy: play, make jokes, be funny
Weakness: frivolity, wasting time
The Jester is also known as: The fool, trickster, joker, practical joker or comedian.
10. The Sage
Motto: The truth will set you free
Core desire: to find the truth.
Goal: to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.
Biggest fear: being duped, misled—or ignorance.
Strategy: seeking out information and knowledge; self-reflection and understanding thought processes.
Weakness: can study details forever and never act.
Talent: wisdom, intelligence.
The Sage is also known as: The expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative.
11. The Magician
Motto: I make things happen.
Core desire: understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: to make dreams come true
Greatest fear: unintended negative consequences
Strategy: develop a vision and live by it
Weakness: becoming manipulative
Talent: finding win-win solutions
The Magician is also known as: The visionary, catalyst, inventor, charismatic leader, shaman, healer, medicine man.
12. The Ruler
Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Core desire: control
Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: exercise power
Greatest fear: chaos, being overthrown
Weakness: being authoritarian, unable to delegate
Talent: responsibility, leadership
The Ruler is also known as: The boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model, manager or administrator.
Check out Julaina Kleist-Corwin’s video post about the hero’s journey The Hero’s Journey for Writers