Book Review · Writing Resources

Heroine Archetypes, Part Two


heroine archetypes, with picturesUPDATE: click here for new images/examples

Over the last three weeks, I’ve been writing a series of posts about the sixteen hero and heroine archetypes described by Tami D. Cowden, Caro Lafever, and Sue Viders. This is the last post in the series, and it outlines the final four heroine types. All quotations are from  The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes. 

Edit: here are links to the three previous posts.

Hero Archetypes, part one

Hero Archetypes, part two

Heroine Archetypes, part one

Female Archetypes

The Waif

Pure, trusting, kind. Impressionable, passive, insecure. This character inspires others to want to save her, and is generally content to let herself be rescued.

Her delicate fragility makes her an easy target. she always seems to find herself between a rock and a hard place. She adapts to any situation she falls into without complaint.

This type of character works well as a waitress, actress, servant, file clerk, or assistant. You’re far less likely to see her in fiction of today than the other archetypes, but that does not mean she should be avoided.

There is something refreshing about a heroine who does not talk back or fight every battle, but rather, allows a man to be a man and believes that if left well enough alone, situations will resolve themselves.

The Librarian

This type of character likes to organize everything. She is efficient, serious, dependable, rigid, repressed, and a perfectionist.

She lives in her head. She tends to think that only she has the answers. More often than not, she is right, but she can be a bit stubborn about considering other opinions. … Her capacity for excitement may be untapped, but it is there, just waiting to be released.

Research scientist, accountant, school teacher, professor, chemist, supreme court justice, and other knowledge-based professions are good fits for this character.

The Crusader

This is a heroine in the truest sense — deeds of valor are right up her alley. … The world has veered off course, and she is just the one to set it straight again. … She has no faith in the intrinsic merit of human nature; no belief that all will end well if left alone.

This type of character is courageous, resolute, and persuasive. Her flaws include obstinacy, rashness, and being outspokenly opinionated. She could be a firefighter, missionary, warrior, activist, social worker, revolutionary, or medical specialist.

The Nurturer

Characters of this type need to be needed. She is altruistic, optimistic, capable, idealistic, self-sacrificing, and willing to compromise so she won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

She makes sure that all her loved ones are happy and content before taking a break or thinking of herslf. Common sense and a steady hand make her an ideal mother, companion or friend. Her serene, capable and patient manner invariably soothes troubled souls or hurting hearts.

This type of character is good at occupations that involve people. They can be cast as homemakers, pediatricians, social workers, nuns, special-ed teachers, or wives of important men.


8 thoughts on “Heroine Archetypes, Part Two

  1. I really like your call for comments. I should update the one on my blog to be more interesting, like this. My comment is this: I love reading about archetypes; it would be nice if you had links within this post to your other posts in the series.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Jill. The call for comments was actually the default for this blog theme, and I liked it enough not to change it 🙂 That’s a good idea to link to the other posts — I think I’ll edit them in.


    1. Nice to meet someone else who likes Myers-Briggs 🙂 I have some very good friends who are ESFJs. I’m an INFJ (probably a nurturer and waif with a hint of librarian). Thanks for stopping by my blog!


  2. I am proponent of writing strong, female characters, regardless of their roles (mother, barista, prostitute, soldier, etc.), so I was really disheartened by the differences between the hero and heroine articles. It almost gives the impression that women are, by nature, more gentle and submissive. That if a woman is strong she is not herself but a warrior, and if she has any connection to sex, she is is a seductress. Simply by having a “professor” category for men, it almost implies that it is a male profession.

    I’m sorry if seems like a rant. I was just hoping for something that spoke about heroes’ and heroines’ personality types as a whole not a men are this way and women are this way.


    1. I’m sorry you feel this way. In my opinion, the character archetypes for women don’t preclude writing strong characters any more than the men’s archetypes do. “Boss” and “Crusader,” for example, are pretty much the stereotypical “strong female character.” But those two models aren’t the only way to write women, just like some men are “Lost Soul” or “Best Friend” rather than “Warriors” or “Chiefs.”

      I see the male and female archetypes as complementary, but reflecting the different roles men and women usually play in fiction. The “Professor” and “Librarian” archetypes are very similar, for example, and in this model most male librarians characters would be labeled a “Professor” type, and most female professors would be labeled “Librarian” simply because those are the names chosen for the archetype. Having a “Professor” category for men doesn’t mean there aren’t female professors, any more than having a “Boss” category for women means there are no male bosses.

      My suggestion if you want to focus on personality types rather than archetypes is to base your characters on Myers-Briggs theory or on Keirsey’s temperaments, which are more gender-neutral. I have written about these as well, and here’s the link to the first of those articles:

      Good luck with your writing, and thank you for taking the time to comment!


  3. You’ve done a nice job here of exploring archetypes. To add to your discussion, I would like to suggest that even seeing male and female archetypes may be shortsighted. I think that archetypes, in their most abstract form, transcend gender (even if they are given gender-oriented names). For example, the Great Mother archetype, though labeled as female, is actually gender neutral. As Campbell wrote, “”She is time and space itself, and the mystery beyond her is beyond all pairs of opposites.” So, being beyond “pairs of opposites,” “she” cannot be female or male, and is, therefore, the source for both male and female archetypes. Thus, “she” manifests in time as both the Goddess/Temptress archetype and the Father/Ogre archetype, each of which has its own sun/shadow aspects. From this perspective, for example, the Temptress, when interpreted beyond gender, represents attachment to the temporal, physical side of life. The Goddess represents the transcendent, eternal side of the archetype. The two complement and define each other; they arise mutually and exist only because of the other. True understanding, then, is being able to hold both of these concepts in a synthesis, what Campbell called being “The Master of the Two Worlds.” Unfortunately, we cannot access the transcendent with thoughts or words (“The tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao”), so when we want to discus or even think about “it,” we must represent it symbolically with metaphors and archetypes (or pronouns such as “he,” “she” or “it”). Thus, we are forced into polar thinking, which may cause us to confuse the moon with the finger that points at the moon. Anyway, I think getting locked into the “gender” of archetypes causes us to focus on the external duality that is the manifestation of the archetype’s internal unity. There is one journey, and in its most abstract and truest form, it transcends male and female.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.