Character Archetypes — How To Create Compelling Characters with Jungian Archetypes

I’ve been reading a bit about psychology recently, and some of it is helpful when it comes to writing fiction. That’s probably nothing new, but there was something that stuck out, Character Archetypes.

Carl Jung was an extraordinary man, and one of the most influential men of the 20th Century. I have only started to really learn about him and his work, and there is a lot to learn. I read “Man’s Search for a Soul,” and it was brilliant. He somehow captures the soul of the artist while remaining academic and logical.

Anyways, that’s not the main point. The point is, is that Carl Jung discovered what he called archetypes in the collective unconscious. These are representations, characters, that reappear again and again in people you know, stages of life, and in myths and legends.

Jungian Archetypes, but for the purpose of this article, they are Character Archetypes.

What’s crazy, is that these “character archetypes” exist in you. If you have ever felt awe-struck by magic, it was the child in you that was impressed. People in power drift towards the conventions of the Ruler Archetype, and most people in their teens go through a phase of “rebellion.” These attitudes, values and manifestations existed long before you were born, and will exist long after you are gone.

You can read about twelve common character archetypes here.

I’d recommend that you do read them. At best, this article is just an extension of what they have listed there.

Now, here’s where it gets useful for Fiction Writers and Storytellers.

Read those archetypes. Have a look at how each of them are a character boiled down to the core. The motivation of what drives their whole being is there, plain to see. Lets take the Hero for example. The Hero archetypes motto is “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Reread that character archetype motto.

Isn’t that half of the protagonists you’ve ever read in your life?

It rings true especially for genres like Fantasy and Science Fiction, but it applies to everything, and is in most stories. Our Hero will push forward, he will continue on, even when the world has turned against him. He is the Hero, and he must go on.

This is the same character archetype that turns up in all the stories. This is mapped up in The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

And that’s just one of the Character Archetypes.

Each of the Twelve Archetypes can serve as the perfect foundation to build a Character.

If you are struggling with character in your fiction, then go ahead and pick one of these character archetypes and have some fun. You’ll have a story in an hour, I’m sure.

Just to prove this, let’s have some fun have a look at a character archetype here.

Let’s go with “The Explorer,”

The Explorer Motto is “Don’t Fence Me In,”

So, we have a character who wants to see the world. Ben Longlane. Ben grew up in a tiny town in the midwest, and he dreams of seeing the world. He hates his boring life and wants to get out as soon as he turns eighteen.

When his birthday comes he doesn’t even stay to celebrate, he is off in the morning. He buses and hitchhikes to New York City, where he wanders around starry eyed and soon finds himself in a bad spot. He’s penniless, he’s lost, and he doesn’t know anyone.

Jim sees Ben walking the streets, with the outsider, naive look to him. Jim knows that the city will chew Ben out if Ben isn’t careful, so breaking convention he goes up to Ben.

“You’re not from here, are you?” ect

You see, that was just a story out of nowhere, because of Character Archetypes.

Who knows what will happen to Ben, and where he will end up. And who knows what Jim’s intentions are. Is he going to offer him a job? Ask Ben to help him with a crime ring? Or is he just going to give Ben some timely advice about how he should watch where he is going in the big city?

It’s all up in the air, but this whole story was sparked by the archetype, that Ben was the kindof guy who just left without a plan because his life motto is “Don’t Fence Me In.” He’d rather be homeless by choice than trapped in luxury.

So, if you are having trouble with characters, just grab one of those character archetypes and see where it leads you.

You can read more articles here.

Originally published at on June 23, 2017.

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