Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin

Character creation: archetypes and stereotypes

What are archetypes and stereotypes ... and where should my own characters fall?

Aim for a spot somewhere in the middle. The line between archetype and stereotype can become perilously close. Archetypes can turn into stereotypes by being overused. First, be sure you understand what an archetype is. Here are some, which will help to grasp the concept. (How to write unforgettable characters is a massive subject. We're going to tickle it on this page, but when you're ready to grasp this particular bull by the horns, take Creating Characters 101, on this page!)

Father figure/male authority figure.
Odin. Zeus. Merlin. Richard the Lionheart. Gandalf. Obiwan Kenobi. Commander Adama. Jean Luc Picard. Master Po. Jor-El. Jim Gordon. Wise old(er) man who has, or seems to have, all the answers. The archetype slithers into the stereotype if your wise elder is TOO good, TOO wise, TOO all-seeing, and you use this device too often.

Mother figure/female authority figure. Mary. Galadriel. Gwenevere. Hera, Hestia, Demeter. Queen Elizabeth I. Spiderman's Aunt. Captain Janeway. The good witch of the north. The crone, or wise woman, with all the answers as well as the comfort and compassion. Again, the archetype slithers into the stereotype if you let it.

The young warrior (male or female active: light). Thor. Baldur. Hector. Robin Hood. Launcelot. Zorro. Frodo. Aragorn. Luke Skywalker. Hercules. Bruce Lee. Jim Kirk (in the first show!). Richard Sharpe. Kal-el. Xena. Princess Leia. Ripley. Eowen. S/he's smarter, better, stronger, faster than everyone else; the trick is in how to write him/her without him/her turning into a comic book hero(ine)!

The rogue warrior (almost always male male active: dark ... the antihero).Ares. Achilles. Wolverine. Magneto. Han Solo. Mad Max. Boromir. Anakin Skywalker. Bruce Wayne. Captain Nemo. They have a streak of the dark as well as the light; their allegiance could fall either way. Work out how to write the character without him becoming the cliche.

The villain (should transcend gender: dark ... resident evil). Set. Loki. Saruman. Sauron. Emperor Palpatine. Joker. Green Goblin. Darth Vader. Lex Luthor. Sheriff of Nottingham. Klingons. Cylons. Goa'ould. Nazgul. Smeagol. Dracula. The bad witch. It's critical to work out how to write this archetype, because the stereotype is lurking right behind you, dying to join the party.

There are many, many more archetypes, and just as many stereotypes, but you get the picture:

The hustler with the heart of gold; the beautiful but dumb young person of whatever gender; the naughty child who does stupid things as a catalyst to the plot; the teen who won't listen to reason and gets into trouble; the town drunk; the lecherous priest; the nasty teacher who's abusing kids; the kindly old lady who rescues stray cats; the ugly woman who's easy prey to any young guy intending to fleece her; the brainless barbarian warrior; the snivelling, cowardly thief; the virgin bride kidnapped before the wedding; the defrocked priest; the lecherous nun seducing some guy; the Arab terrorist; the dim-bulb Irishman; the Afro-American rapper, out of whose mouth you can't understand a word; the perfect hero; the corrupt politician; the butt-kicking babe who's too small and skinny to do any of this, but she sure looks cute in a movie; the lispingly effeminate gay guy who works in a frock shop; the femme fatal bursting out of the tight ruby-red down; the sassy little kid with the smart mouth; the big, butch gay gal astride the Harley-Davidson; the tired, middle-aged housewife immersed in romance novels...

How to write good characters is a subject we sink our teeth into in this whole series of posts, but you've got a good grasp of what the archetypes and stereotypes are — and in fact, they're fairly easy to avoid. Just identify who they are, get a lasso around them, get them into the corral and lock 'em in there!

No comments:

Post a Comment

The commercial break ... there has to be a commercial break!