Join Writers’ Ink in 2017 as we explore characters and plot through archetype.

There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.

 ~ ~ Willa Cather

A Definition

What is an Archetype?  It’s a chief type ~ a pattern or mold or model.

These are patterns, elements for the artist to use or ingredients for the cook.

The glory of the archetype :: it’s the basic form we can use when we start structuring our stories.

Why should we use Archetype?

When we understand the pattern—the archetype—then we can manipulate it—add/subtract, multiply/divide.

  • We are not going to write stereotypes.
  • Archetypes are the basic foundation—a basic technique to build a landscape or portrait or a basic recipe to center a dinner.

A writer is like an artist.

  • All artists learn basic drawing techniques: cross-hatching, smudging, scrumbling, stippling >> symmetry, depth perception, negative space.
  • Just because an artist knows and understands the techniques does not mean her drawings will always look the same.

Or consider the cook who actually wants to reproduce similar results with a recipe except as they tweak the flavors.

  • In building a meal, however, certain dishes reproduce their recipes.  Other dishes will showcase the cook’s ingenuity.
  • The guests, the drinks, the place settings, the table decorations, and the atmosphere—all of these mix together in different ways to create a unique dining experience.

So with Archetypes.

Writers build story frameworks with these patterns.  They then add concepts and personal techniques and skills.  The broad strokes of archetypes may seem simplistic, but apple pie with a lattice top is still a great dessert.

Archetype Dwells in the Audience’s Mind

Archetype of the Ruler and the Sage
Is King Arthur the Ruler or the Warrior archetype? Is Merlin the Magician or the Sage?

As part of his theory of the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung said that the human mind over the millennia developed expectations in life and in story.  He propounds three significant areas:

  • Events: birth, separation from parents, marriage . . . .
  • Figures: sage, rebel, ruler . . . .
  • Motifs: creation, deluge, apocalypse . . . .

Jung gives us the 12 Character Archetypes.

  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)

We will examine these 12 Character Archetypes before we launch into story structure.

After all, it’s the people who drive our stories, and it’s the people who engage our audience and bring them back.

Next Blog on Jan. 15, discussing background:  the 4 Who’s Who in the Development of Archetypes.  Very dry.

~~M. A. Lee