If you the previous week’s posts on this topic, you might want to go back and see those.
Part 1 Using Archetypes Effectively in Your Writing
Part 2.0 Part 2 of 2: The Archetypes
I didn’t anticipate I’d have so much to say about each archetype, so now I give you…
Part 2.5 of 2 The Archetypes Continued
As you might imagine the warrior is a person who is good at battle and fighting.
Prime examples of this in LOTR are Gimli, Legolas, Boramir, and more. They are expert fighters, (and if you watch the movies…beyond reason when fighting the Warg).
But if you think outside the normal boring box, you might also consider characters like Eowyn. She fought in the end and defeated the Witch-King of Angmar, speaking the best line ever written! You can watch it here: Https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ_-rmuPZC4
Also consider her prior actions. She cared for her uncle Theoden for years while Wormtongue bespelled him. All the while, Wormtongue lusted after her openly and harassed her. Yet, she held her own, kept him at bay, cared for her uncle, and never gave up. That is a warrior in a different kind of battle.
Ultimately a warrior can be more about their spirit rather than their ability in a battle between armies.
Every story needs a little comic relief and a jester character can provide that for your story. The jester can also be used to cause more problems for your main characters.
Merry and Pippin provide youthful shenanigans in LOTR. One of many examples of when they caused problems, they were supposed to lay low, but ended up singing songs and dancing on the tables. This was at the beginning of the story, when the stakes were low to that point and needed to be raised a bit.
If need be, make your characters pull double duty by giving the jester duties to a character which also has another role. It’s boring when there is a character whose only purpose is to crack jokes, so maybe mix it up with any of the other archetypes. In Alloy of Law, Wayne is a very funny character, but he is also the lawbreaker, and sometimes he is the wise person…believe it or not. Perhaps this is why I love this character so much. There is no Johnny-one-note about him. He is unpredictable, but in a pleasant surprise way.
Hunk & Seductress
I’m not really fond of this one. These are called Hunk and Seductress, normally two separate archetypes, but the only difference I see here is male vs female. Perhaps it should be called eye-candy instead. I’m not fond of this one because it promotes the idea of a person’s mere existence and natural beauty can drive people to distraction. I think this distraction is over exaggerated in books. The fact this archetype exists promotes a shallow view. Please, please layer this archetype with others or you might run into problems.
I didn’t mind having Aragorn to look at in the movie and others enjoyed Legolas. Still others enjoyed Galadriel and Arwen. But notice how they were layered. Aragorn was also a mystery and a hero. Legolas was also a warrior. Galadriel was a source of magical gifts and wisdom. Arwen, besides being a love interest of Aragorn, she also provided characters with motivation and conflict like when she prompted Aragorn to reforge his sword and claim his throne.
Layers and making the characters do double or even triple duty is the key to keeping this archetype from becoming stereotypical.
The magician obviously has magical powers. Quite often these characters are layered with the wise. But not all stories are fantasy stories. So is this archetype used only in fantasy? This might be a blurry line between the Mystery archetype in other stories. Maybe this character appears when unexpected, like magic but not really magic. Or the character makes something happen unexpectedly. Be careful that this doesn’t become a deus ex machina* situation.
Gandalf and Galadriel are the magicians in this story, of course. Notice that Gandalf did not say, “Hey, I have a spell that will shield you from the wiles of the ring.” He actually very rarely uses magic in the movie. As mentioned above, he and Galadriel are layered with wise person archetypes and mentor to Frodo.
*deus ex machina-an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel. (It’s lazy writing.)
Many YA and Middle grade books have the typical bully in their stories. Adult books have them, but are not usually labeled as such. Often they are the antagonist, but not always the primary one.
In LOTR I can’t think of a more classic bully character than Denethor. Sauron and Saroman, sure, they are bad and yes a bully in that they try to get what they want through brute force. Bullies though are more than just a strong arm. They get what they want through awful, twisted psychology. Denethor did this better than any other character. Look at how he treated his two sons. One could do no wrong. The other, just wanted to be seen and recognized, but Denethor blamed him for everything. Poor Faramir. It breaks my heart.
When creating your bully character(s) think about not just the physical aspect, but the psychological aspect.
In summary, my advice about effectively using each archetype
- You may have noticed I kept saying to layer your characters to keep it unique and interesting.
- Bully- remember the psychological aspect
- Magician- watch out for deus ex machina.
- Eye-Candy- Layers and making the characters do double or even triple duty is the key to keeping this archetype from becoming stereotypical.
- Jester- It’s boring when there is a character whose only purpose is to crack jokes, so maybe mix it up with any of the other archetypes.
- Warrior- Ultimately a warrior can be more about their spirit rather than their ability in a battle between armies.
- Mentor- So don’t feel like wisdom must always come from the old person in your story or the mentor archetype person. Share the love/wisdom!
- Orphan- Is it necessary to the plot? Is there something you can do to make this character different from the stories you’ve read before with this archetype?
- Lawbreaker- Think about motivations and methods. Lawbreaker doesn’t always have to be the antagonist.
- Caregiver- Remember to stretch old notions and think outside the box.
- Mystery- Your MC may not know if they can be trusted because their background is unknown. Use this to your advantage to create doubt and conflict.
- Leader- Some are natural born leaders but some are made through the story. Likely if they are your protagonist, they will grow into this role. Use them both if you can.
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