Developing believable and interesting characters can be hard, especially if you don't know where to start.
It's not enough creating characters that looks cool or does something cool, they need to be relatable and interesting too.
Archetypes are one way to develop these kinds of characters. By understanding the different archetypes and how they work, you can create characters that are more three-dimensional and easier for your audience to connect with.
The character archetype is a concept where characters have the same characteristics or similar character development. These can be found in many different formats of literature, from novels to movies. A character archetype is used to help writers develop characters and for the audience to identify with characters that have shared characteristics. Understanding character archetypes is a great way to create interesting and believable character development.
They have a profound impact on the audience and generate strong emotions, however, character archetypes can be a blunt instrument in the writer's toolkit. Unless you personalize the archetype, they may become a cliché.
In this article, we will explore 9 examples of common character archetypes and their respective examples from various stories.
1. King or Father
A character archetype as a ruling figure or character who rules over a kingdom, country, family, or business.
This character archetype works well if you are writing about royalty and have time to flesh it out. They can be difficult characters for an audience to relate with but they tend not to appear as cliched archetypes because of their power dynamic in society. If there is no evident conflict between the king/father's values and those of other people then this character may seem bland at first glance although he has enough potential depth for development through his relationships with others around him.
Keep in mind, the name of this classical archetype is based on old-world gender associations and the character does not need to be male in order to portray it.
King/Father archetype examples
- King Arthur from Arthurian legends
- Don Vito Corleone from The Godfather
- General Leia in the Star Wars sequel trilogy
- Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones
2. Queen or Mother
A character archetype as a motherly character who cares for others.
Like with the King/Father archetype, the name of this classical archetype is based on old-world gender associations and the character does not need to be female in order to portray it.
The queen/mother character archetype can often be found in fairy tales and mythologies, although they are not restricted to this form of storytelling: the character type exists across all genres. In fact, it was one of the first character types ever developed by writers – being that a young child's relationship with their parents is something very familiar and relatable.
This character archetype is often the emotional center of a story and can provide comfort and support to other characters. They are typically kind-hearted and selfless, putting others before themselves and providing a protective shell within which the child or the people can grow. They can symbolize home, comfort, and a safe place.
Queen/Mother Archetype examples
- The Virgin Mary from Christianity
- The Fairy Godmother from Cinderella
- Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series
3. Wise Old Man, Wise Old Woman, Mentor, or Teacher
The wise old man, wise old woman, mentor, and teacher character archetype can often be found in stories about quests or coming-of-age tales. They are often introduced early in the story to provide guidance to the protagonist and then disappear for most of the action but reappear at the end to offer sage advice.
This character archetype is typically someone who has been through a lot of life experience and can offer sound counsel as well as teach valuable skills such as swordsmanship, magic, or how to survive in the wild. They are often seen as father/mother figures by the protagonists they mentor and can help foster emotional growth in them.
Similar character archetypes
- Absent minded professor
- Elderly Master (not necessarily a teacher)
Wise Old Man, Wise Old archetype examples
- Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars
- Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings
- Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series
- Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid
A character archetype as a soldier and a practical enforcer of what is right.
This character archetype can be found in action, fantasy, and science fiction stories: the character type exists across all genres. They are often placed into situations along side their enemies (who also usually play as different characters) and must get creative to overcome them.
This character archetype has been around for thousands of years so it's difficult to create something entirely new although you may find interesting ways to portray this character in your story by making him someone unexpected or twisting his circumstances.
Warrior archetype examples
- Luke Skywalker or Han Solo from Star Wars
- Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli from the Lord of the Rings
- Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter
- Thor from Norse mythology and Marvel comics
- Wonder Woman from DC comics
5. Magician or Shaman
This character archetype can often be found in fantasy and science fiction stories but it does exist in other genres as well. They are typically depicted as being able to use magic to help them achieve their goals although this is not always the case.
They can reveal the underlying truth behind our senses and can balance and regulate the more powerful or concealed natural forces. But they may also use their power to enslave and destroy the natural order and can also distort the underlying truth to dominate others.
Shamans are often intermediaries between the physical world and the spiritual world, using their powers to heal people and fight evil spirits. Magicians may have a wide variety of powers that they can use for good or evil and sometimes serve as mentors to younger magicians.
Magician or Shaman archetype examples
- Doctor Strange from Marvel comics
- Gandalf or Saruman from the Lord of the Rings
- Jedi Knights from Star Wars
A character archetype as someone who will get in trouble for playing tricks on people.
This character archetype can be found in action, fantasy and science fiction genres. They often serve as the comic relief of a story or help to point out its flaws with humor. The trickster is a form of the magician archetype that is quite popular in modern literature.
They are always looking for ways to prank people by finding new loopholes in rules they set up themselves: they think outside-the-box and don't follow orders unless it is convenient for them so if you want this character archetype included in your story try giving him some independence that he uses at his own discretion.
Trickster archetype examples
- Gollum from the Lord of the Rings
- Loki from Norse mythology and Marvel comics
- The Joker from Batman comics
- Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones
7. Artist or Clown
This character archetype is someone who uses their creativity and humor to entertain others.
You can find this character archetype in all genres of stories but it is typically used more often in comedy, drama, and romance. The artist or clown is often a performer of some kind: they may be a musician, actor, dancer, or writer. They utilize their skills to demonstrate to other characters the beauty and vision of the future, or what appears to be beautiful but is in fact ugly or stupid.
Although they are usually quite positive characters, the artist or clown can also be dark and depressing when they strive for perfection to an extreme and try to control their world to make it beautiful.
Similar character archetypes
- The Obsessed Artist
- Mad Scientist
Artist or Clown archetype examples
- Mozart from Amadeaus
- Nina Sayers from Black Swan
- Andrew Neiman from Whiplash
- Achilles from the Iliad
- Jaskier from The Witcher
- George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life
The lover archetype is a character who has the purest yearnings of all, perhaps because they are closest to nature. They have a very high sense of morality and may be quite idealistic but they don't compromise when it comes to their passion for love which makes them really easy (or really hard) characters to connect with on an emotional level.
The lover can often make others see the world in a new way by opening up their hearts through love or peace. They may have a clear vision of what love should be in their perfect world and may put it into action, restoring balance when it appears hopeless by maintaining a higher standard for others.
But they may lose themselves in the other or compel the other to stand in their shadow.
Similar character archetypes
- Star crossed lovers
Lover archetype examples
- Romeo and Juliet
- Paris from the Iliad
- Kay from The Godfather
- Bella and Edward (and even Jacob) from the Twilight series
The rebel archetype is someone who bucks the system and goes against the status quo. These tend to be the main character of a story.
This character archetype can be found in all genres of stories but is often used more in science fiction, fantasy, and action genres. The rebel is usually a character who doesn't agree with the way things are run or believes that they can do it better. They may have a strong sense of justice and want to fight for what they believe in, even if it means breaking the law.
Although they are often seen as heroes, there is also a darker side to the rebel archetype where their quest for power can lead them down a path of destruction. In this case, they become almost like a villain.
Rebel archetype examples
- Han Solo from Star Wars
- Sirius Black from the Harry Potter series
- Robin Hood
- Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
Archetypal characters can be a big part of what makes up a story and can be found in all genres. By understanding these broad character types, you can better create or understand the characters in your story as human beings.
The above character archetypes list is just some of the example character types you can use to help develop and flesh out your own characters. Use them as a starting point and see where it takes you. Have fun with it!