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Eight Character Archetypes to Emphasize the Conflict in Your Story

When I was looking for explanations of the Conflict Archetypes, I discovered that there are also Character Archetypes. We only discussed the usual protagonist and antagonist. It opened my eyes to see a description of these other six types of characters. I’m sure your mind will say, “Oh, yes. I know what she’s talking about.”

You can read the book called Dramatica: A New Theory of Story by Melanie Phillips and Chris Huntley. You can also read an excerpt from chapter 4 of the book at this webpage: http://storymind.com/dramatica/dramatica_theory_book/chapter_04.html

Eight different character archetypes to oppose each other’s way of thinking and acting. Donald Maass in his Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great suggests that each novel must have conflict on each page, in each scene. Thinking of the characters in your novel as serving the job for each of these will do just that. It will bring conflict to your story. These character archetypes will also move the plot along. They can add page turning events and decisions. They will add depth to your writing and reach the reader on different levels. It will explain your story emotionally, from the heart, from the mind, and show possible consequences. I see potential. It’s possible that you already have characters performing these jobs in your story.  See how good you are!

Protagonist/Antagonist Protagonist wants to start or stop something. Antagonist wants to stop the protagonist from reaching his goal at all costs.
Guardian/Contagonist Guardian character is the teacher/helper/mentor who eliminates obstacles and shows the good and the bad things on the path and how to make the best of the situation. The Contagonist character is one who puts things in the path of the protagonist to slow him down. He offers temptations that will keep the protagonist from focusing on the problem, thereby slowing down the chances of his success, but not stopping him. He can be the antagonists second in command to him. A diversion to keep the protagonist from working on the goal.
Sidekick/Skeptic Sidekick character is faithful supporter, has confidence in either the Protagonist or Antagonist. The Skeptic disbelieves and has no confidence in the one that the Sidekick supports.
Reason/Emotion Reason character makes decisions based only on logic. Reason has no heart. Emotion character is in a frenzy and makes decisions based only on emotions. Emotion uses heart.

Here’s a chart from Useful Charts.com showing the Jungian archetypes in movies. It includes Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and others. The eight character archetypes above will get your wheels turning on how to add them to your picture books, short stories, chapter books, poems, or novels.

Since I’ve been introduced to these today, I’ve been thinking of stories where characters played these roles for the author in telling stories.
Lone Ranger’s Sidekick was Tonto in the Lone Ranger.
Yoda was Guardian of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.
I’m sure you can think of others.

Here is a link to other kinds of detailed character archetypes you can look at later. They don’t make as much sense and are not as useful in the list format.
Chinese Zodiac Archetypes; Species and Spirit Archetypes, Challenges to a Hero, The Hero’s Journey (Campbell and Jung); Poetical forms: http://www.listology.com/list/character-archetypes

The sixth person after May 12th to subscribe to this blog in the left hand column where it says, “Sign me up,” will receive a free paperback copy of my book, Flip Flap Floodle. Flip is a duck who never gives up even when it looks like it’s the end for him in Mr. Fox’s belly.

Please write a comment or ask a question below.

Have fun!
Enjoy living and writing!

Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.


12 Responses

  1. Joan,

    Going beyond your notes–that’s challening yourself and us too. Thanks for posting more for us to think about.

    Linda A.


    • Dear Linda, Thanks for making a comment. I enjoyed learning a new way of looking at the characters in a story! A challenge is good when it seems achievable and fun! You’re welcome for the post.

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm


  2. Tami Cowden has a terrific book called “Heroes and Heroines” that explores archetypes in depth. Here is the link to her webpage that gives a brief overview:

    Thanks for your post and a different ‘take’ on the topic.


    • Dear Pamela, I am honored by your comments. Thanks for sharing the book called “Heroes and Heroines” that explores archetypes in depth and giving the link to it, as well. I’ll see if I can get it at the library. You are a jewel.

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm


  3. It’s true — these were among the winners of some long-ago “bad analogies” contests by in The Style Invitational, The Washington Post’s weekly humor/wordplay contest.

    If you liked these, you should check out the Invitational every week at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational. There’s a different contest — and a different kind of contest — every Friday afternoon (you have nine days to enter). And even if you don’t enter, it makes great reading. Coming on July 30 around 3 p.m. EDT: the results of our contest for song parodies about the oil spill — they’re terrifically clever. And the new contest is our most beloved wordplay challenge.

    I hope you become a regular reader and even a regular entrant.

    *Note from Joan Y. Edwards:This comment was actually about Wonderfully Funny Analogies and Metaphors


    • Dear Pat, Thanks for writing a very informative comment to my blog, Wonderfully Funny Analogies and Metaphors. I noticed that you were one of the people in the Washington, DC area suggesting the contests back then, too. A fun thing to do. I’ll put a full blog out to let people know about Washington Post’s Style Invitational every Friday afternoon. Thanks for adding credibility to my information! Snopes.com steered me right. Hurray!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm


  4. Joan, This is a great way of developing characters. Thanks for sharing this post.

    I have a little different slant on developing characters from a study done by the University of Michigan. It focuses on behavior styles and how they interact. Your character archetypes add another dimension to how to develop our characters.


    • Dear Diane, I am honored by your posting a comment to my blog. I would love to see the results of your study at the University of Michigan about behavior styles and how they interact. Would this be possible? I’m very glad that you found my post about the Eight Character Archetypes helpful. Melanie Phillips and Chris Huntley developed this way of representing character types in their book, “Dramatica: A New Theory of Story.” Thanks for writing! Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm http://www.amazon.com/Flip-Flap-Floodle-Joan-Edwards/dp/1594572852/


  5. Interesting blog. Added it to my “Create a Character” wiki.


    • Dear Carol, Thank you for writing. I’m glad you found my blog about the archetypes interesting enough to add to your “Create a Character” wiki. Is there a link for your wiki?

      Dream! Love! Laugh! Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards


  6. Such helpful, useful information! Thank you Joan 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Kathleen,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad that these archetypes are useful to you. Enjoy your day!

      Never Give Up


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