Every Character in media falls into a set of paradigms we can identify with a limited set of archetypes. These Archetypes helps us decipher their personality and such, their purpose. I’m going to give you 12-character archetypes in stories. Without these set abstract concepts of what a character is, we would find ourselves reinventing the wheel.
1. The Hero – Mastery
The Hero archetype, in most cases, is the protagonist in stories. They have
an obstacle they need to overcome and we’re there to see it happen. This
archetype can come across as mysterious, with an origin unknown to themselves. Can be considered as the reluctant savor when thrown in the middle of a conflict. Not only does the Hero try and fail, but they keep trying with unmatched perseverance.
The usual weakness is short-sightedness, emotionally charged, and acts
without thinking. Which in most cases is why they fail when striving for their goal. It’s the most human thing we connect to because we have all been in a spot of similar circumstances.
The motivations are many to the Hero. Its archetype is deeply explored time
and again. Still, with every iteration, there’s always something that can
2. The Magician – Power
This archetype is thought to have immeasurable power. The Magician, often
powerful is used as guiding hands for the main characters, propagating visions and laying out the path for the early narrative. They act on their own accord and ideas to what they think is right.
The Magician can fill many rolls! Antagonist, narrator, the hero themself.
Grant it, magicians are, if not, static characters and don’t constitute
character growth within themselves but in others.
3. The Outlaw – Liberation
The Outlaw is the challenger of social and societal norms in stories. The
world (in the outlaw’s story) will be built around rigid conservative ideals
that many are not willing to challenge. Ideally, you follow the rules or suffer
the consequences. The Outlaw dispels illusion and fear brought upon from the control source of the story, converting others to challenge the status quo.
Ideally, the outlaw is the carrier of truth for other characters and the
revel of truth causes personal change within the characters living the lie.
This is your courageous and bold archetype, with their strength centered around their defiance.
4. The Lover – Intimacy
This Archetype is not really about the lover themselves, but about the ones they give their affection to. Which doesn’t have to be anyone one person, but usually is. A lover can be infatuated with an idea, a symbol, a thing like a sports car. We usually write affection between two people, because it’s what our minds can easily conceive. Convincing an audience why a woman loves a particular movie or house is only seen as a single-layered quirk, and wouldn’t be the grand parchment of their character.
Between two people, the lover serves has the connecting force that drives action,(The hero going off the save his lost love.) They’re personalities, in the past, that have been lost to serve the ones they love. Which is the lover’s biggest weakness. Willing to die for the one they desire.
5. The Everyman – Belonging
The Everyman is deemed unremarkable in skill set and there isn’t much that stands out to make them special. But that is the point! The Everyman connects widely with the audience, giving them someone to root for when extraordinary circumstances force their hand. Many protagonists in media turn out to be an Everyman, the underdog trapped in passivity and begging for something to turn their world upside down. This archetype becomes the hero we all desire within ourselves. Yet the Everyman wants to connect with others and live a simple life after strange events have unfolded.
6. The Jester – Enjoyment
The Jester, usually not to be taken seriously in the terms of the plot, but can throw a wrench in things when solutions are being found. They can change the mood of a scene by drastically propelling their brand of chaos.
They live by the truth and don’t take it seriously. They softening the blow with humor when things need to be said. Life is a game to the Jester and we all have a part to play. On the negative end, which isn’t that different from the positive… The Jester’s irresponsibility can prompt impossible choices for our characters, which usually end with sacrifice or plans not being executed perfectly.
7. The Explorer – Freedom
Freedom and Discovery! These are two words that best fit the Explorer archetype. This is your mysterious traveler to unknown lands, The climbers to self-discovery, the lone wolf best fit to survive in any circumstance. They’re always willing to try new things and live in the moment. Everything they do is usually on their own and only work with others if needed. Not to say they won’t share knowledge and aid others in their journeys, but only does so with a certain amount of emotional investment.
The most hated thing for the Explorer is stagnations and being trapped, Being compounded by the weight of society and living like everyone else. This is why most Explorer types operate “off the grid”.
8. The Sage – Understanding
The Sage are experts in Truth and Wisdom. They carry an un-biased, sometimes cold nature to them. These seekers of absolute truth study and accumulate information needed to complete goals for our characters in stories. Their actions and words are riddled with exposition and enabling personal growth. Mostly a static character, unless they carry a drastic fault that changes the events of the plot, which doesn’t end well for the sage if this is the case.
The Sage can become isolated and become condescending easily, and if too many characters stand in the way of the truth.
9. The Innocent – Safety
The Innocent, or child archetype is uninitiated in the world. They think the best of everyone and their trust is easily acquired. Naïve they are, willing to believe stories more far-fetched than usual. The innocent can appear in stories where the character suffers amnesia, or they’re thrown into another world.. Of course, they can literally be a child looking to find happiness on a road less traveled.
As the story progresses, the innocent has a change of heart about the world around them and learn a thing or two, prompting character growth. The changes can be drastic or a simple matter. Whatever the case, the innocence of the character is lost by the end of the story.
10. The Creator – Innovation
This archetype doesn’t settle for less when they’re in pursuit of abstract goals. They look to create something that leaves their mark on the world and will sacrifice much to achieve it. Therein lies the Creators flaw, personal sacrifice. From health, family, and friends, none of it is sacred in the eyes of this archetype. The Creator can come across as a business guru, bitter antagonist, parental figure, etc.
11. The Ruler – Control
Power is the defining trait if it wasn’t a surprise. This archetype seeks to be top of their respective hierarchy. Through peace or domination, this character will rain over others. Keeping the status quo in check and enforcing their will. Mostly rigid in stories and wants to maintain control, They’re willing to sacrifice pawns for the greater good or petty manipulation.
12. The Caregiver – Service
The caregiver is the generous type. Giving all they can and all they are to others. Protecting them, showering them with gifts, and in most cases love. The Caregivers identity is rooted in serving others, thus filling in the gaps where the protagonist’s expertise ends.
Their common fault is sacrificing themselves for others, not usually in a game-changing way, but to buy time, or create trauma for our characters. In more nefarious ways, the Caregiver may over give and shield, creating a dependency issue that other characters must over-come.
In closing, Having an understanding of your character’s archetype can create structure in character development. It will be easier to figure out what part they play, and how they should move the narrative forward. That’s not to say that your characters can’t take up more than one archetype, they absolutely can. They deserve to have complex identities like each one of us. With this system of archetypes, it will be easier to identify those complexities. Thank you for reading! if there is something I didn’t touch on, please send me a comment.