Book Review, Writing Resources

Heroine Archetypes, Part One

Heroine Archetypes, part one. MarisMcKay.comUPDATE: click here for new images/examples

Last week, we finished talking about the eight hero archetypes listed in The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes. In this post, we’ll cover the first of four heroine archetypes. All quotations are from the book linked to above.

Along with The Emotion Thesaurus, this has become my favorite writing resource. There is so much variety within each type, and when you start layering or evolving between two different types, the applications of this theory for character development are practically endless.

Edit: here are links to three other posts in this series.

Hero Archetypes, part one

Hero Archetypes, part two

Heroine Archetypes, part two

Female Archetypes

The Boss

This is a popular archetype in fiction today. She is a strong, tough character who wants to win at all costs.

She will shade the truth in order to gain her objective and she is not above manipulating circumstances to make things go her way. She sees nothing wrong with this. … If someone tries to obstruct her path, she can be blunt and downright brash.

Confident, dynamic, competitive, and arrogant, this type of character is good for casting in the role of a five star chef, prosecutor, madam, surgeon, publisher, queen, or CEO.

The Seductress

Assertive, strong, and clever, this type of character learned at a young age she could charm people into doing what she wanted. She is cynical, driven, and manipulative with “a streak of distrust a mile wide and ten miles deep.”

The SEDUCTRESS holds enormous power over others, hypnotizing them with her charm and desirablility. She is mysterious, manipulative, and bewitching. … Her true desires and motives are carefully concealed behind a sensual smile. Knowledge is power, so she makes sure no one knows her.

These characters make good spies, models, saleswomen, actresses, trophy wives, cocktail waitresses and companions (in the Firefly sense of the word).

The Spunky Kid

This is the “heroine underdog.” She has a sense of humor, which can be sarcastic. She is reliable, supportive, unassuming, and skeptical.

She sometimes hides behind her sarcastic wit, and her lack of confidence may make her play down her best attributes, but she is spirited, cheerful and the most loyal of friends. … People empathize with her; they see every woman in her.

This is a popular character type for chick flicks. She can be a reporter, governess, wedding planner, teacher, human resource manager, or someone who works in a shop.

The Free Spirit

Sincere, upbeat, and imaginative, this type of character can also be impulsive, meddling, and undisciplined. They have a strong sense of individuality and never plan anything, but always seem to land on their feet.

She may be a handful for anyone who has to deal with her, but she makes the experience worthwhile in her zany, high-spirited way. Impossible to be mad at for any length of time … she often finder herself in jams and needs help getting out of them.

Free spirit types are natural entertainers, so you’ll often write them as actresses, showgirls, or singers. They can also make good beauticians, designers, receptionists, or kindergarten teachers.

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10 thoughts on “Heroine Archetypes, Part One”

  1. Great info for writers but why are all the women in the image white? Why are 3/4 blond? This makes me feel so invisible, not to mention my daughter. Good luck in your ventures, but I am so turned off by this I will not be following your blog.


    1. It’s the unfortunate result of working too quickly and using a source that focused on classical/western story telling models. I also wanted to use characters who were fairly familiar to U.S. audiences, which meant I couldn’t use any of the Indian women from my favorite Bollywood films (Geet from ‘Jab We Met’ would have been a perfect example of Free Spirit).

      If I was writing this series today, I would have used Ming Wa Nan’s Asian-American character from ‘Marvel’s Agents of Shield’ for the Crusader and Aibileen from ‘The Help’ as the Nurturer. Unfortunately, I didn’t think of Aibileen until after the image had spread around Pinterest (I would have loved to use her instead of Belle – a so much more “real” character) and Agents wasn’t released yet. If you have any other suggestions for characters from film or TV that would have worked, I’d love to hear them (I needed images, so I couldn’t use book characters).


      1. Great post; intriguing comment thread. There is a definite lack of diversity in *leading* characters in western TV and films. Most of the non- white/blonde characters that I can think of are in a ‘best friend’ role, like Rue (Hunger Games).

        A few main characters I can think of, if you ever make a new image:
        Martha (Dr. Who), Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act), Brandy (Cinderella), Tia Dalma and Penelope Cruz (Pirates of the Caribbean series or Sahara), Jennifer Lopez (Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan)….


      2. Not to resurrect a thread from a year ago or anything, but…I am.
        I had to comment here in your defense, Maris McKay re: Anisa’s reply. And to anyone else with a similar grievance with this post.

        I would imagine that as you (Maris) chose from the most well known fictional media characters as a base to pull examples from, that the general writing public would be most familiar with (why wouldn’t you?), you were fairly much at the mercy of Hollywood’s standards.

        American film & television industry maintains this stereotype because, well…it sells. The chances of your examples being caucasian, blonde, blue eyed and shapley were pretty strong there. It stands to reason then that a lot of your examples would fall into this standard, or you wouldn’t have had widely known examples, amIright?

        As a short, chunky, brown-eyed brunette of ‘mature age’, I’m not offended in the slightest and neither should anyone else be. Any person offended needs to remember these excellent examples are…examples. And pull from their own standards as well when creating their own characters.
        I should think this would be a given? And that most people would know to do this.
        ‘Nuff said.
        Thank you for these OUTSTANDING character guides which I find myself going back to time and again, and have recommended highly to others many times as well. Good job!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh, I love these posts. Do you mind if I borrow a similar template for my blog? I’ve just gotten a series idea….(and now I need to check out the book!)
    I have been exploring your blog today, and would love to see more insights with posts like these (i.e, stuff like archetypes and personality). As a writer, I find this sort of thing helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

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