How to Use Archetypes in Literature When Creating Characters for Your Novel

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As writers we are often concerned with creating characters: characters that seem realistic, characters that are likeable or that readers can at least relate to and understand their motivations. But creating characters isn’t easy. There’s a lot to consider: how they talk, how they look, how they act. A tool that can help you as you think about all of these aspects is the character archetype.

What are character archetypes?

Character archetypes are basically character profiles that outline the motivations and behaviors of different types of characters. Obviously there can be as many character types as there are kinds of personalities, so thinking about the ways that your characters would behave in different situations is key to creating believable characters that readers will relate to.

Different kinds of archetypes

Archetypal characters can be based on different things from personality profiles to archetypes in literature that exemplify different types of heroic journeys or character arcs. It also helps to explore psychological profiles such as Jungian archetypes.

There are some great resources available to help you use archetypes to create characters for story. I recommend the following:

character archetypes
  • Plot Versus Characterby Jeff Gerke gives writers a character development system based on the Myers-Briggs personality types model.

If all of this talk of character archetype sounds a little daunting, simply think of it this way: you simply need to study how different people behave in different situations. Certain kind of people do things a certain way—what kind of person is your character?