The final way to talk about characters is by archetype. This is useful information for populating your world with stock characters or for using as the foundation of any of the character roles as you are creating them.
There are 12 main character archetypes as categorized by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Understanding these archetypes can help you improve as a writer because they illustrate common strengths, weaknesses, and motivations of the most recognizable characters. This can give you the foundation from which you can develop your own characters.
The Caregiver – is a character who supports, cares for, and is willing to sacrifice for others. The caregiver character is generous, selfless, and loyal, but they can be lacking in ambition and self-esteem, and because of their selflessness they are susceptible to exploitation.
The Everyman – is a character recognizable from our daily lives. They are relatable, hard working, and grounded. The everyman character strives for a simple life and a sense of belonging. They are often unprepared to face the narrative hurdles.
The Hero – is a character who rises to the occasion in an attempt to save the day and prove their worth. The hero character is strong, courageous, and honourable. They can also be overconfident and egotistical.
The Innocent – is a character with good intentions. They are optimistic, enthusiastic, and kind. Because they are innocent, this character is also naive, powerless, and vulnerable. Typically over the course of the narrative the innocent character learns a few lessons which force them to grow up.
The Creator – is a character who simply wants to make things. They are often artists or inventors who will sacrifice just about anything to create their masterpiece. The creator character is driven with a strong conviction and willpower. Because of their compulsive desire to create they are egotistical and single-minded.
The Explorer – is a character who pushes boundaries to explore the unknown. The explorer character is curious, relentless, and driven, but can also be unreliable, restless. Also, because they are so curious, they are never satisfied for long before finding some new unknown to explore.
The Lover – is a character who is driven by their love or their need for love. The lover character is passionate and devoted to the point of being willing to sacrifice anything for those they love.
The Rebel – is a character who won’t abide injustice. They may be leading the charge to right a wrong or working in secret either way they are resourceful and persistent. The rebel’s actions border on criminal. They can be self-involved and probably don’t have much power.
The Jester – is the funny guy. They can be the character who is very laid back or who delivers comedic relief. Jesters want to enjoy life to the fullest. They tend to be likable, funny, and even insightful but can also come off as shallow, or obnoxious.
The Magician – is a disciplined and inquisitive character who strives to understand the universe so they can use its power for their own purposes. They are knowledgeable and powerful but this can make them arrogant and susceptible to being corrupted.
The Ruler – is a character with power over others. They are leaders with the power, resources, and status to back it up. The ruler archetype wants to hold onto their power as such they can be controlling, suspicious, and aloof.
The Sage – also known as the mentor. This is a character who is highly knowledgeable. They often teach the protagonist something important that the protagonist will use in the course of their journey. While wise, insightful, and experienced, the sage is often unable to act and is over cautious.
As I mentioned before, these archetypes are useful to know because they can help lay the foundation of your characters. But remember: Your characters should be unique. They don’t have to stick rigidly to any one archetype. They can be a combination (typically with one dominant archetype) or only loosely fall into any given category. The goal here is to understand universally accepted characters so you can then give them a twist and make them your own.
If you have any questions about archetypes, let me know in the comments.