Recently I was honored to be able to speak at the MN NICE Chapter of the ACFW. We’re a happy band of Minnesota writers who love fiction, craft, and encouraging fellowship. I’ve been a member for almost a year now, and though it is quite a hike for me to get to the meetings (over 100 miles) I love going.
My talk was on creating characters using character archetypes, using information gleaned from The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: 16 Master Archetypes by Viders, Cowen, and LaFever.
Examples of Hero Archetypes include: The Chief (Captain Kirk from Star Trek), The Swashbuckler (Indiana Jones), The Best Friend (Harry from When Harry Met Sally), and The Warrior (Bruce Willis in Die Hard.) Examples of Heroine Archetypes that we discussed include: The Free Spirit (Phoebe Buffay from Friends), The Waif (Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz), The Seductress (Scarlett O’Hara), and The Nurturer (Mary Poppins).
As we discussed the various character types, I challenged everyone to try to identify their own character type, their family members types, and the types for each of the heroes and heroines they were currently writing. At the end, we had a quiz. Everyone tried to use what they had just learned about the character types to match 16 characters from TV and fiction to archetypes. There were some varying results, but a good time was had by all, and the winner received a copy of The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines.
Some highlights of the presentation were:
1. Using archetypes will not make your characters ‘cookie-cutter.’ Each archetype lends itself to untold opportunities for creativity and individuality.
2. Rarely is a character solely based upon one Core Archetype. Just as people are complex, so are characters. Start with a core archetype and add layers of other characteristics.
3. The most valuable gem in the book for me was a comparison of the character types, how they clash, how they mesh, and how they change because of their association. This is invaluable to a writer, particularly a romance writer.
An example of the interaction between The Professor and the Free Spirit might be:
- The Clash - The professor cannot understand this puzzling, unpredictable woman. How does she manage to exist in this harsh, logical world? The Free Spirit is baffled by his need to understand and control everything.
- The Mesh - They both see possibilities where others only see obstacles. They both think outside the box. Her ability to look beyond the obvious charms him, while his vast store of knowledge comes in handy for her.
- The Change - The professor learns to stop and smell the roses, and to appreciate the spontaneity she brings into his life. The Free Spirit appreciates the balance he brings to her life while still letting her reach for the stars.
Here’s a link to where you can learn more about the book: