Reading and Writing With Archetypal Character Types

What makes a character workable in a particular role? How does a writer choose the character types to include in his novel? Do we as the reader expect certain types in fantasy fiction and different ones in historical fiction? Well, there’s always a hero but what about a trickster, or a shadow?

We use Tapestry of Grace in our home school. My son, James, a junior in high school is reading and studying the Iliad. We are constantly learning new things together. This week one of his discussion questions was about archetypal characters. We weren’t really sure what that term means. With handheld device in hand we used our dictionary AP and found out that archetype means the original pattern or model form which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are bded; a model or first form; prototype.
Long pause. Okaaaaay, so how does that connect to archetypal character type? We had a good guess but home work isn’t the place to trust your guess work. We called on the expert, G00gle.

Hum… There were 4 million 500 thousand hits. Well, probably not, but you get the idea. We stumbled upon two sites that we found interesting and helpful if you’re a reader doing your literature homework or a writer developing characters.

The first one gave us our first understanding of an archetypal character. Basically it means general names for characters like hero, trickster, damsel in distress. It’s neat as a writer to see a list like this and think through which of these types are in the genre I’m writing. If you want to see this page follow the link for Jordan McCollum.

The second post we liked turned the periodic chart of chemicals into an archetypal character chart.It’s divided into sections with column designations: physical, emotional, mental/intellectual, integrative and spiritual, balanced, active, connected and shadow, aggressive, passive, isolated, co-dependent. I like charts and lists much better than paragraphs when I’m wrapping my mind around a new concept. If you’re interested and want to see this chart, hop on over to and see what you think.

Happy reading and writing!
Let me know what you think. I love hearing from you.

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Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.


  1. Hi Ali!

    Have you read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey? He touches on the archetypes of “Hero,” :Mentor,” “Trickster,” etc. in a lot of classic myths and stories.

  2. No I haven’t. Thank your or the suggestion.

  3. Traci’s suggestion is great, Ali. Joseph Campbell does a good job of explaining that whole process. By the way, I don’t even remember this discussion, but Rachel does. Uh, I’m glad I’m not the teacher or anything. lol.

    Also, OYAN guy discusses these concepts too. So, you and James will get another dose of it soon. 🙂

  4. Yes, I found ‘The Hero’s Journey’ helpful too. As was ‘The Writer’s Journey’ by Christopher Vogler, which draw’s on Campbell’s work and relates it to contemporary storytelling (particularly screenwriting but I’ve found it helpful in novel writing, too).

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