Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Archetypes for Your Hero by Marji Laine

Author Marji Laine did a number of posts on her blog explaining the archetypes of heroes and heroines. I loved her analysis of the different types and her comparison to various book and movie characters. Today, she's sharing an overview of these types of heroes. On November 20, Marji will be back, giving equal opportunity to heroines.--Sandy

Marji: Crafting great heroes is essential to a story. Many best-selling authors would argue that the plot begins within the depths of the main character.

The book The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden helps with this task. Discovering the archetypes of the main characters means being able to anticipate how they should react to their circumstances.

Here are the 16 types, loosely connected to Hippocrates temperaments and Carl Jung’s personality categories.


  •       Chief is the boss. (Hippocrates=Choleric, Jung=Executive) Will do whatever necessary to succeed. Viewed as tactless and cold. Believes the end justifies the means. Thrives on conflict. Think Joe Fox in “You’ve Got Mail,” Yul Brenner’s character in “The King and I,” or Nick Fury in “The Avengers.”
  •          Warrior is confident. (Hippocrates=Choleric/Sanguine, Jung=Protector) Will also do whatever necessary, but success is more altruistic. He doesn’t flinch from conflict, nor will he fail. Think “Captain America,” Atticus Finch in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” or the Scarlet Pimpernell.
  •        Professor is the expert. (Hippocrates=Melancholy/Choleric, Jung=Scientist) Focused and oblivious to everything outside his task, he avoids interaction with people, but will work long hours to accomplish his goals. Think Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, and Mr. Spock from Star Trek.
  •         Bad Boy is a drifter. (Hippocrates=Sanguine/Choleric, Jung=Mechanic) He has trust issues and prefers to work alone. He appears to care little about anything, and loves to break rules. Think Danny Zuko from “Grease,” Ren McCormick from “Footloose,” and Huckleberry Finn.
  •         Lost Soul has a creative mind. (Hippocrates=Melancholy/Phlegmatic, Jung=Artist) He cares about everything, though detaches from the life around him. He searches for healing, for forgiveness, for something to make him feel. Think Charlie Brown, Patrick Swayze’s character in “Dirty Dancing,” and the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.”
  •       Best Friend is laid-back and easy going. (Hippocrates=Phlegmatic/melancholy, Jung=Duty Filler) He is people-oriented but has trouble making decisions and doesn’t like center stage. Steady and dependable, he can vary from a hard-working style to a lazy style, depending on the character. Think George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Sheriff Andy Taylor, and Frasier.
  •         Charmer is a salesman. (Hippocrates=Sanguine, Jung=Performer) All talk, little substance, and skilled at manipulation. Cares nothing about people, but will follow rules, pushing them to their limits. Think the Music Man, Maverick, Ferris Beuller, and James Bond.
  •         Swashbuckler loves action. (Hippocrates=Sanguine/Choleric, Jung=Doer) Extreme-sports enthusiast, he’s in it for the ride. Low commitment levels. High involvement. Cares little for people, but loves an adrenaline rush. Think Indiana Jones, Peter Pan, Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun,” and Iron Man.

That’s the list. Your hero will probably fit perfectly into one of these molds. If he fits into two, he should at least share the Hippocrates temperaments. No character should have more than two of these temperaments at any time during the story
. A character arch can change an archetype and often does, but only once during a story.

      Do you use an archetype like this when planning your heroes? Do you have other "types" you can add to the list? Does it make plotting your hero's reactions easier?







Marji is a homeschooling mom of 4 with the oldest a graduate of UT Dallas. She spends her days transporting to and from volleyball, teaching writing classes at a local coop, and directing the children’s music program at her church. Her first publishing credit, a collaborative novella, The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt, soared to Amazon's best-selling list and a second, A Ruby Christmas, is due out in December. She hosts the Faith~Driven Fiction Blog.

5 comments:

  1. Love this post, Marji! Using movie heroes really helps me see the difference between the archetypes.

    So -- when are you doing a companion piece on heroines? ;)

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    1. She'll be back on the 20th of this month to talk about heroine archetypes, Angie.

      It's definitely easier to understand when we can relate to certain characters we've seen in movies or on television. It's why I enjoyed Marji's series.

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    2. Hi Marji, great post and great examples. I'm afraid I don't plot much of anything, Things seem to come while I sleep LOL. The great Susan Squires once said that in a workshop. "Sleep on it." And it's true for me.

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    3. Great, Sandy! Can't wait to read it. :)

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    4. Thanks, Angie and Tanya! Angie, I know what you mean. Once I started analyzing the characters in movies I saw, the different archetypes took on whole new meanings! Oh and I had so much fun having a movie day with my notebook and character charts! I'm such a nerd about it!

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