Strong Women :: Bright Lights and Hot Messes

Strong women create strong relationships when matched with a strong man.  Yet strong with weak is out of balance and will ultimately fail.

Don’t be a woman that needs a man.  Be a woman that a man needs. ~ Modern Proverb

Pixar's 2008 film
Eve in Wall-E: a strong woman against a strong man yet eventually allying with him

Why is it that strong women are often viewed as a negative?

In the workplace, a strong man is called “assertive”.  A strong woman defending the same idea / process / change is considered “too aggressive.”  Strong women can be called “bitches” when in fact they are merely Alpha Females defending their positions.

Women who question men are often see as interfering when they are usually just trying to point out a better way or a different way.  Strong women usually don’t think this or that / yes or no.  They think “this and that and other”.

Strong women are often antagonists for heroes to overcome.

Strong Women in Ancient Days

This pattern of viewing  strong women as monsters to be overcome harks back to mythology.  In Greek mythology, especially, heroes often fought monsters that were half-woman.

  • Perseus and the 3 Graiae (Grey Women): half woman / half swan
  • Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa (a winged beauty with snakes for hair)
  • Odysseus and the Sirens (more bird-women)
  • Odysseus and Circe . . . and Calypso
  • Oedipus and the Sphinx (a woman with a lion’s body and bird wings)
  • Jason and the Harpies (raptors with women’s faces and bodies)

Mythology also has

Mythology uses Symbolic Number
the Three Norns by HLM: the Crone, the Matron, the Maiden or Past / Present / Future
  •  The 3 Fates :: in the Greek form as the Moonspinners: Clotho, Lachesis, and the dreaded Atropos who determined the moment of death).  In the Norse form as Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld (past / present / future, Maiden / Matron / Crone)
  • The 3 Furies: the Erinyes, Zeus’ goddesses of vengeance
  • Nemesis, the goddess of Divine Retribution
  • Memory and Justice are both women in Greek myth.  Don’t cross them.
  • Jason against his wife Medea, one of the truly horrific women in all of literature.
  • And Sygny of Norse Mythology is scary in her vengeance.

The ancients understood much about women:  We remember everything, and we let go of nothing.  Read the stories of Medea and Sygny, and tremble.




Yet strong women are heroic as well.

Their heroism is often more courageous than men’s since they go against the tide of what culture—and weak men—want them to be.

Strong Women as Alphas

This ruler’s competitive side sets her apart from other strong women.

Positive Side :: the Queen Negative Side :: the Bitch
Influences and Unifies

Intimidates (emotional and intellectual) and Manipulates

Brings people together to work for a common good Focuses on $$ and appearance
Finds and promotes people’s strengths Goals are always selfish

Strong Women as Betas

Much like the male version of the Beta, the female Beta as a strong woman will quietly challenge a bad leader.  She is a seeker.  She will not waver from a primary goal, although she is willing to alter her goal to achieve a better one.

Positive:  Counselor Negative: Courtier
Trouble-shooter Ego-stroker for the Bitch
Supports a leader she can respect and who can implement a viable plan Survives by being a toadie and unites with the Bitch to create a front against the world
Sees difficulties approaching and to the attention of the more competitive Queen Jealously guards her position and never analyzes the Leader;  just takes actions, sometimes on her own, to achieve what the Leader wants

Strong Women as Gammas

The Gamma strong women are Destroyers of the Status Quo.

Positive: Non-Conformist Negative: Little Miss Independent
Rebel with a Cause Rebel for no Cause
Knows the reason that the status quo doesn’t work and seeks a new way, a new perspective Claims her individuality above all else—but that individuality is usually associated with a Clique outside her current sphere
Seeks the flaws in the established system and is often viewed as Quirky or an Isolate Craves attention as much as the Bitch does but uses a different method.  The 1st Goth or the 1st Emo, she is always the 1st to Do and always the first onto the new fad.


Strong Women as Deltas

Both versions of the Delta are caregivers.  Strong women see a need for change through those who are in need.  They find a need that needs an initiative to fulfill it, and both can inspire others to aid them in fulfilling their goals.
Positive: Visionary Negative: Missionary
Like Mother Theresa, sets up an initiative to respond to a need. Gloms onto an initiative then attempts to claim it as her own
Her contagious enthusiasm lures others to help her. A holier-than-thou attitude drives her crusade and may drive others away.
Throughout her work, she continues to see others in need—even those working with her—and responds to issues they have. Whether crusading for medical marijuana or the local Angel food drive, she either manipulates through guilt or actively commands others to help.

Chinese Art Techniques

What are the four Chinese Art Techniques doing in a discussion of strong women who are Bright Lights and Hot Messes?

The Art Techniques show the development of strong teams.
See the centering leader, its follower on the right, the opposing stroke on the far left, and the harmonizing fourth to the immediate left of the centering leader?

Actually, the four Art Techniques tell us about leaders and team building.

Ch’i:  the lead stroke.  This first one starts the work and establishes the goal and orientation.  Alpha, Queen.

Ch’eng: the following stroke.  The second supports and reinforces the leader’s intention.  Beta, Counselor.

Ch’uan: the advocate,  opposing  direction.  The third is a “how-about-trying-this-for-a-change person to introduce variation and diversity.  Gamma, Rebel.

Ho: the unifier, the stroke that brings the first three into harmony.  The unifier brings all members of a team into agreement, usually by finding common ground upon which to build consensus.  Delta, Visionary.

 Next Up

We continue our look at women and archetype with a contemplation of the difference between the Hero’s Journey and the Heroine’s Journey.

Following that our final discussion about Jung’s List of 12 Character Archetypes.  These are last but not least.  Protagonists (and heroes) can be these concluding four, as can antagonists.

Visit us in April to meet more Strong Women and then the Everyman Orphan, the Lover, the Innocent, and the Fool/Jester (sometimes called the Trickster).

~~M. A. Lee

Oh, those Men! . . . part 2

Hero Archetypes :: Leaders who don’t want Leadership

 “You must look into people as well as at them.” ~~ Lord Chesterfield

Hero Archetypes are natural leaders.  And leaders want to lead, right?

Not always.  Hero Archetypes come in many forms.

Alphas are natural leaders in the Hero Archetype sphere.  So are Betas, natural fulfillers of the Alpha’s goal who need no guidance.

Beta leaders will let a true Alpha lead the group while he (she) steps back and runs side missions.  However, faced with a bad leader, the Beta will mutiny.

Alpha Dog leaders get drunk on the power of leadership:  that doesn’t make them leaders.

Two other types of natural leaders will not seek the leadership position in a team.  These are the Gammas and the Deltas.

A true Raider of the Lost Ark
Often called an Explorer, Indiana Jones is actually a Gamma-Destroyer.

the Gamma Hero Archetype: the Leader who Refuses to Lead

The Gamma hero archetype has strong leadership potential but refuses to step into the position, even when a vacancy occurs.

His refusal of leadership does not prevent him from undermining any leader.  A natural rebel, he relishes causing a bad leader to fail. 

Unless something else drives his loyalty, the Gamma will walk away from a Ruler or Alpha Dog.  And he will not look back.

℘ Jung’s Destroyer Archetype is the best match to the Gamma.  Without a Destroyer hero archetype, society will fall into complacency and stagnation.

Gamma-Destroyers force any leader to remain forward-thinking since they represent a force for change.  After all, as Heraclitus tells us, the only constant is change.  

This hero archetype will help us accept that change and propel it into occurring.

 Types of Gammas/Destroyers

The classic leader who refuses to lead: Daryl in The Walking Dead

The Gamma-Destroyer~~

  • Works outside the group as a tangential lone-leader.
  • Analyzes and questions the direction of the team as well as the leader’s plans.
  • Forces leaders to remain forward thinking

The Gamma-Nihilist~~

  • Is the negative form of the Destroyer Hero Archetype.
  • Pursues the necessary change without considering consequences to the team.
  • May pursue change merely to cause change, not to bring out improvement.
  • Works in such isolation that he can be self-destructive.

In the Walking Dead tv series, Daryl is the Gamma.  He can lead, but he won’t.  When he was a little boy, he may have had any leadership tendencies beaten out of him by his violent older brother Murl.  

In the first season, he remains loyal to Murl, but the audience can see him inwardly questioning his brother’s plans.  Only blood loyalty restrains him.

For the Gamma-Destroyer, only belief in the Alpha and strong ties like blood or love will keep him within any social structure.

Indiana Jones is often classified as the Seeker Archetype because he’s an explorer—but is he?  Or is he a Destroyer?

the Delta Hero Archetype~~the Leader who Unifies the Community

Ruled by compassion for all, the Delta hero archetype is a necessary member of any social structure.  Looking through other people’s eyes is necessary when planning the future of any society.

However, the Delta can be stymied by that very compassion.  Compassion may create an inability to take the necessary merciless steps to root out weeds.  Weeds take nourishment from the beneficial plants.  Eventually, society’s weeds will choke out the beneficial.

These Delta Heroes with great plans can get nothing done when their Seconds-in-Command are Gamma-Destroyers who have no loyalty to them. 

Society will often replace the Delta with a dogmatic Alpha Dog / Ruler.  They want someone who can accomplish goals.  Then society will protest the lack of compassion displayed by the elected Tyrant Alpha.

The Delta Hero Archetype must constantly ask if s/he is allowing evil to flourish because of kindness and compassion. 

Shyamalan's The Village
In The Village, Elder Walker desires Alice Hunt but will not reach for her because he is honor-bound to his wife.

This is the very question that needed to be asked by Elder Walker in The Village, a film by M. Night Shyamalan.  Elder Walker was played by William Hurt in an understated performance that showed his compassion and his difficulty with being in the leadership role.

As Delta Hero, Elder Walker’s angst is clear.  He struggles with personal desires that are in conflict with his honor and his position.

Types of Deltas

The positive form of the Delta~

  • Has great plans that will benefit many in society.
  • Will resist personal desires and needs to fulfill his leadership role.
  • Must find a way to temper idealistic compassion with ruthless practicality.

The negative form of the Delta~

  • Is often characterized as a Wuss.
  • May fall prey to a martyr complex.
  • Can become so caught up in plans that s/he ignores the steps necessary to fulfill those plans.

 The Jungian equivalent of this hero archetype is the Caregiver, which many have re-named Protector/Defender.

As humanity struggles, Dale in the Walking Dead constantly works to keep the survivors humane.

This is Oskar Schindler, motivated by generosity and unselfishness.  Community is the caregiving Delta’s primary thought.  This is often to his detriment.  He will sacrifice himself to the group.

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is another example of the caregiving Defender.

In The Walking Dead, RV-owning Dale represents the Delta leader.  He truly wanted to protect the group.  At one point he argued for someone’s life.  The proof was evident that that someone would be detrimental to the group’s survival, yet still Dale argued.

Team Roles

A quick look at these four heroic leaders can be seen through the system of Team Roles.

Team Role Quick Definition Positive Form Negative Form Jung’s Hero Archetype
Leader Goal-Setter Alpha Alpha Dog Ruler
Follower Fulfiller Beta Mutineer Seeker
Advocate Questioner Gamma Nihilist Destroyer
Unifier Conflict-Resolver Delta Wuss Protector


Jung has other archetypes that we would want to consider as heroic—yet they aren’t.

Warrior.  Creator.  Magician.  Sage.

And check out this blogger who has over 50 character archetypes to include in your story:

However, as a purist, I’ll stick to Jung’s list.


His Unheroic Heroes will be our next look at Character Archetypes.

And Coming Up is a two-part focus on Strong Women and their archetypal journey.

~~M. A. Lee

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:

Heroes of all Archetypes in The Walking Dead
  1. Innocent
  2. Orphan
  3. Warrior
  4. Protector (caregiver)
  5. Creator
  6. Destroyer (rebel)
  7. Seeker (explorer)
  8. Lover
  9. Ruler
  10. Sage
  11. Magician
  12. 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.

Pure Alpha :: Aragorn in The Two Towers and Return of the King

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.

The Alpha~

  • 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.

Beta British Heroes have more angst-potential.
  • 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.

  1. Independent
  2. Searches for what is better

    The Woman between the Two Friends: Beta on the left, Alpha on the Right: Notice the Stances of B and A Reflect their Archetypes
  3. 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.

Coming Next

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