What are Archetypes?

Applying and understanding character archetypes to your writing is an important part of creating a story and being a writer. This article will explain what archetypes are, what they mean to writers and some examples you can use in your own writing.

An archetype is a typical example of something, be it a person, place or thing. This means is has all the characteristics we would typically expect of it and therefore it is universally recognised for what it is. If we apply this to our characters in writing, this means that a character archetype is a character with a specific but universally recognised and typical set of behaviours, traits and characteristics.

Character archetypes have long been used in stories to teach children about values and behaviours, and have moved through time to now be familiar to us when we read and consume stories and other forms of media. These well-known characters can therefore shape the stories and provide the protagonist with the necessary support and guidance through the narrative. Overall, they can help satisfy your readers and fulfil your plot!

Here are some examples of well-known archetypes you can use in your story:

The Mentor

The archetype of a mentor is a very well-known character that can be applied to a variety of genres and plots.

These mentors act as a guide and support mechanism for the protagonist, offering information, advice, motivation and encouragement. This means they can be effectively used for challenging character flaws, offering your character motivation in difficult situations, as well as adding information to the plot in a subtle and natural way.

A classic example of the mentor is Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, or Yoda in the Star Wars films.

The Jester

The jester can be used in many genres to add some fun and humour to your plot.

The jestser is a great character to have run alongside the plot and your protagonist to poke fun at plans, ridicule juxtapositions and ensure the protagonist has a constant, humorous devil’s advocate. The jester isn’t there to be serious, or to be taken seriously, and is a clever way to ensure a lightheartedness to your plot.

A good example of the jester is The Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, or Fat Amy in the film Pitch Perfect.

The Bully

The bully is a classic antagonist you can use in your plot to give your protagonist a conflict to face.

The bully as an archetype speaks for itself – from picking on people, being rude to aggression and physical fighting, the bully is a way to knock back your protagonist and play on their flaws. With this being said, your bully’s victim doesn’t need to be the protagonist, so this could also be a chance for your character to show some heroism. Think about a backstory to your bully to ensure you create a well-rounded, believable character (for more info on character flaws, click here).

Biff Tannen from Back to the Future, or Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series.


What archetypes will you be using in your writing. Comment below!


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