For Writers


Archetypes are prototypes which are copied, patterned, or emulated. It is an idea possibly first identified by Plato when he refers to a pure idea that is then replicated. Later, Carl Jung started studying stories from all across the globe and realized there were patterns in the stories being told.  He explored the idea of the collective unconscious - something that is present in the minds of people across cultures and time period, kind of like a memory that all humanity has.  Joseph Campbell took this idea and further explored it, recognizing that Jung was right and wrote many books about it.  This is why there are so many stories that we hear people say, "It's just like when _______ does ________."

All of this matters because they are symbols, characters or motifs that recur in literature, art and mythology, things that you have read and probably used. There are archetypes of themes, symbols, images, characters, plots, settings showing up in dreams, myths, fairy tales, folklore, religion and literature.


The Hero: A hero doesn't have to wear tights, save people in a single bound or even fight a villain, but they often heed the call to do something, often a thing they don't want to do.

The Mentor: Serves as a conscience, a motivator, a trainer, an educator and many more.  He/She generally knows more than they let on, knowing full disclosure will probably dissuade the hero from trying.

The Orphan: Once a character becomes an orphan, do does the drive to be self-reliant, to go out and make their own way. An orphan that is still a child is ideal for mentors and villains because they are more easily molded.

The Mother Figure: The tricky mother figure can play the role of mentor OR she can be one of the worst villains.

Loyal Companion/Sidekick: This person often highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the hero, but be careful he/she doesn't have more depth than the person they are supporting.

The Villain: A character heinous enough to evoke dislike (obviously) but when done right, he/she will be someone the reader can't hate completely either.

The Tyrant: This villain doesn't usually start out with the intent to be evil, and often believes he/she is doing good, trying to change life for the betterment of people around them or in the area they are serving.


The Forest: The forest is one of the most prevalent setting archetypes in literature. Once a character enters a forest, they see the world in a different light and usually refocus on a goal. Can serve a hero or villain.

Water: Can represent a cleansing or new birth, a crossing toward becoming a different person or represent complete turmoil and chaos.

The Garden: A place of fertility, peace, suffering or enlightenment, depending on the time and location. 


Threshold Crossing: This is the point when they are leaving the life they have known, leaving all that is familiar, and generally leaving their innocence. They will never again be able to see the world as they did. 

The Quest: This is something that can be issued (often accepted reluctantly) or assumed (usually starts in one particular direction only to be changed as wisdom increases).

The Fall: Seen when a character who started at a previously high state suffers a personal weakness that makes them fall from grace. 


Daria Korol said...

Great post! Very informative and structured