Oh, those Men :: the Hero Archetype, part 1
“One of the hardest things to do in writing is create characters that readers will care about, that will make them have to read on.”
~ Noah Lukeman
In the first two blogs of this year, we introduced the importance of archetype as well as its background. We begin our survey with the all-important Hero Archetype.
Character Archetype is our opportunity to reveal our hero(ine)
in his/her untransformed life.
How do we know who our protagonist is? As writers, the first step in developing protagonists may be basic description and what our character will be and do. Our second step is to determine more deeply how our character will be and do. The how of our Hero Archetype will drive our story.
Carl Jung listed 12 Archetypal Characters, all of whom serve will for developing our various characters in our book. Here’s the list again:
- Protector (caregiver)
- Destroyer (rebel)
- Seeker (explorer)
- Fool (jester)
Something in us looks for the central lead to be taken by the Warrior or the Rebel or the Seeker. Others are drawn to the Ruler or Protector or Sage. Yet the true hero archetype can be any one of those 12.
I can run a description list for each of these characters. Dry and boooooorrrrrrrinnnnnng.
Let’s try this: The Walking Dead.
Yes, I am suggesting the cult phenomenon zombie TV series and comic book for character development and a complete-r understanding of the hero archetype.
Other films can also give us clarity in understanding hero archetypes.
By the time we enter Season 2 of WDead, the writers have presented four different types of Heroic Men–Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, sometimes in two antithetical forms.
Alpha = the true leader
The Alpha hero archetype is divided into the True Alpha and the Alpha Dog.
In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Aragorn doesn’t truly become an Alpha until The Two Towers. Boromir, from the first book, is a great example of the Alpha Dog.
- Leads through encouragement, example, and explanation.
- Helps people understand their job, the goal, and the reason for the goal.
The Alpha Dog~
- Is dominant.
- Seeks control of any situation.
- Is rigid in seeking order from chaos.
Jung’s RULER has traits of the Alpha Dog who drives through intimidation, manipulation, and outright pain (physical, emotional, and intellectual).
In Walking Dead, this is the character of Shane, best friend of the protagonist Rick. Because Shane wants Rick’s wife, he subsumes his Alpha traits to assist Rick.
Beta = the understated leader who doesn’t need to lead
The Beta hero archetype is willing (but not content) to follow a good Alpha, but he will lead a mutiny against an Alpha Dog (Tyrannical Ruler).
This Hero Archetype is divided into the basic Beta and the Yes-Man.
More angst develops from the Beta. He doesn’t necessarily thrive in leadership roles unless no other leader is practicable.
Many British heroes in historical dramas and RomComs are Betas.
- Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars in the 2008 miniseries Sense & Sensibility is an excellent example of a Beta who leads. He cannot be forced into a role; he will choose duty and responsibility over personal happiness. When leadership and responsibility fall in with his personal desires, then you have a truly happy man.
- Darcy (Colin Firth) in Pride and Prejudice is another example of a British Beta hero.
Jung’s SEEKER has elements of the Beta hero.
- Searches for what is better
- Does not need support from others but often receives it when the goal is inspirational.
In WDead, the protagonist Rick is a Beta. Much of his angst occurs because he recognizes his friend Shane is a better leader, but Shane won’t step up.
Shane won’t risk alienating Rick (or Lori, Rick’s wife). He intuitively understands that Rick will mutiny if he thinks Shane is leading the survivors astray, and his desire for Lori forces him to remain close.
Rick’s additional angst relates to the Jungian’s Seeker’s attempt to find the perfect solution, and the WDead writers have placed him in a situation that has no perfect solution.
Our next blog is Feb. 10 and will discuss the Gamma and the Delta, the two other types of leaders. For WDead fans, this is Daryl (Jung’s Destroyer / Rebel) and Dale (Jung’s Caregiver without the strong Protector element).
Join us as we take a Part 2 look at “Oh, Men!”
~~M. A. Lee