One of my favorite writing resources right now is The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes. It’s been very helpful in editing my latest novel, and if you can find a copy (use one from the library, since it’s out of print), I highly recommend his resource.
The ideas in this book are based on Jung’s theory of collective unconscious. He identified major archetypes that arise from memories of shared human experience and serve as models for personalities.
From the back of the book:
At the very core of a character, every hero can be traced back to one of eight major archetypes, as can every heroine. The core archetype tells the writer the most basic instincts of heroes or heroines — how they think and feel, what drives them and how they reach their goals.
Edit: here are links to three other posts in this series.
Here are the first four hero archetypes. We’ll cover the other four in next week’s post, then move on to heroines. All quotes are from the type descriptions contained in the book.
This is the leader archetype. His major virtues are that he is goal-oriented, decisive, and responsible. He can also be stubborn, unsympathetic, and dominating.
He is a man who seizes control whenever possible. Active, dynamic, and strong-willed, he urgently needs to fix problems and produce results. … This guy has a fiercely protective side.
This type of character is not discouraged by challenge, and is typically a born leader or a conqueror type of character. They make good CEOs, noblemen, sherifs, movie directors, captains, or football quarterbacks.
The Bad Boy
This type is succinctly described as “every schoolgirl’s fantasy and every father’s nightmare.” He is typically charismatic, street smart, and intuitive, but is also pessimistic, bitter, and volatile.
The BAD BOY struts into every room, daring one and all to knock the chip from his shoulder. It may seem that he cares nothing for the opinion of others, but in fact the reverse is true. All his life, he has been pointed out as a bad example, so he does his best to maintain that reputation.
Backstory is very important to this type of character. He was typically ignored, abused, or abandoned. These characters like to be their own bosses, and can be found in occupations like outlaw, computer hacker, cowboy, writer, and mercenary.
The Best Friend
This is the type I’ve used for my character Bryant in The Heather and the Falcon (layered with a little bit of Chief, because he has to rule a country).
Decent, kind and responsible, the BEST FRIEND is a buddy who can be counted on whether the chips are down or things are looking up. … He fits in everywhere and is universally liked. Whether he operates out of a sense of duty or genuinely enjoys giving of himself, he is always there in a pinch
His main virtues are stability, a supportive nature, and tolerance. His flaws are that he can be complacent, myopic, and unassertive. This type of character makes good clergymen, psychologists, counselors, teachers, and sympathetic doctors.
He is sparkle and glitz, allure and appeal. Exuding enormous charisma, he showers the people in his life with gifts of laughter and happiness. He is always fun, often irresistible, and frequently unreliable.
This is the likable rogue type who can “make you believe in fairy tales” but “is not always there in the ever-after”. He is creative, witty, and smooth, but also manipulative, irresponsible, and elusive. These traits make a character successful as playboy, conman, salesman, gambler, or politician.