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  1. Lady Savage
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    Lady Savage New Member

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    Archetypes

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lady Savage, Feb 12, 2010.

    From Wikipedia: "An archetype is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all. In psychology, an archetype is a model of a person, personality, or behavior."

    Do you find archetypes unintentionally surfacing in your characters? For example, the wise old mentor, the innocent orphan, the brooding antihero, etc. Do you like to use archetypes as a starting point for character characters, or do you like to play with them? Do you find your own archetypes in your characters? I.e., for some weird reason, almost every set of characters I have has a strong, stoic female warrior and an intelligent, manipulative, morally gray male sorcerer/trickster, who almost always have a conflicted romantic relationship.

    Is there a difference between archetypes and stereotypes or stock characters or can these words be used interchangeably?
     
  2. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    I honestly don't find any archetypes in my characters. Maybe complicated combinations of them, but overall my characters tend to be much closer to real people. They are very conflicted and multi-faceted so they don't fit easily into something like "wise, old mentor."

    Also, my fiction is set in a realistic, modern setting, so that might have something to do with it.
     
  3. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't find archetypes in my writing, mainly because I don't go looking for them. As with anything, there is no black and white. Your characters are colorful people/things. I create characters without thinking of ones I've seen/read. I believe that they should be someone you could have a conversation with, a fight with. They're someone that you could idolize or hate in the extreme. They are people in a world not unlike our own. Just because they're a certain kind of person doesn't mean that they'll follow all their class's rules. It's like stereotyping. There really aren't that many people in the world who fit a stereotype fully, so why should characters do the same? Don't design a character for your story, give life to a person.

    E. F. Mingo
     
  4. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I probably use a lot of archetypes in my writing. It's not something I really pay much attention to, though.

    I suppose my main heroine is a heroic archetype on account of being a classic type of heroic character, but it's not like I tick off the archetypical traits I give her from a list or something.

    Likewise, if I feel like putting a wise, Merlin-esque bearded old guy into the story I will, but I won't necessarily make him a mentor figure. (As a matter of fact, my old bearded wizard character is a pretty lousy mentor, and I ended up assigning that part to a completely differant character.)
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I treat my characters as individuals. Whether they appear to be like archetypes or not is irrelevant to me. They are people, not a category.
     
  6. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    To some extent we are all guilty of using archetypes, but for the most part we don't do it knowingly. These people are beaten into us, they are our earliest heroes. Not only that, but they're incredibly infectious. Sure, some can be annoying, but for the most part we find favor in certain characteristics and we fall in love with the characters who show them the most. Also, it goes without saying that stereotypes are not always born maliciously.

    Personally however, I don't actively make my character act a certain way because I know it fits an archetype. I have quite a bit of disdain for that sort of stuff, but I certainly understand it. Some of the greatest stories told have been with stereotypical characters.

    To sum up my opinion: to each his own.
     
  7. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah. Because they're not just "not real people" but rather larger than life. They're icons. They're the Johnny Depps of literature (and we all know he doesn't actually exist outside the movies). We can object to the icons intellectually, but we can't defeat them emotionally.
     
  8. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, I now see where this is going to go. It's going to end up being an endless debate between Realism and Romanticism with characters.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Indeed. The problem being that people seem to think they have to be one or the other. People can be archetypal and still be totally real and individual.
     
  10. Lady Savage
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    Lady Savage New Member

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    I agree with a lot of what's been said here. Most writers (good ones, anyway) create characters who spring forth from the writer's creative subconscious, and thus appear uninfluenced by outside sources. However, I have a belief that every book or movie that has made even the briefest impression on you is incorporated into your subconscious. There is probably no such thing as an idea that is purely your own. I think this is why character archetypes are fascinating to me. Your character can be completely original, a real, breathing person, whose dialogue appears on the page as if she is dictating to you, but she can also be influenced by outside sources and fit a "role" that exists in the canon of your psyche.

    Just because your character feels real doesn't mean that one can't "type" her. We type real people all the time, and not just in the shallow way of stereotyping by race, class, occupation, etc. but also personality typing like introvert/extrovert, creative/logical, pessimist/optimist, etc. This intersects a little bit with Jung's psychological archetypes, which is merely a way of picking up on common themes in human psychology.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    All this says is that you can compartmentalize a character in the same way you can an ordinary person. Is it any less a disservice to your character than it is to a flesh and blood person?

    A writer can delberately create an archetypal character. There can be goodreasons to do so, for instance to complete an allegory. But I see little purpose in pointing to a character after the fact, and triumphantly declaring that he is the Tragic Hero bound by Fate.

    If you look hard enough, you can find an archetype to fit any character. So what? Isn't it far more useful to examine the minutiae that make the character unique than to try to find the closest fit cookie cutter?
     
  12. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    In some ways, and I guess mostly as an academic, I disagree. Whether or not writers do it deliberately is besides the point, fact is archetypes do crop up over and over again in fiction, and examining how they are constructed, how they are used in the story and for what reasons can be very revealing. And simply because a character is archetypal, doesn't mean they can't be rounded and three-dimensional. All of Shakespeare's tragic heroes are archetypal, but that doesn't diminish them as characters, it simply makes them easier for the audience to understand, and easier for the audience to know how to feel about them. We know the entire story arc before the play even begins because of the use of archetypal characters and structures, yet this does nothing to diminish our enjoyment of it. Also, comparing archetypes over different periods is one of the most important ways to study literature. For instance, exploring the ways concepts of the hero shift over time is very revealing about social attitudes and philosophies at the time of writing (the shift between a Homeric and Virgilian hero, the shift between heroes in pre- and post-WWI fiction).

    So as a writer, I guess its not so important whether or not you are aware of your own use of archetypes (and you will be doing it, consciously or not--and that's not a bad thing!), but they are important and they exist for a reason. Sometimes it's interesting to think about why you are making a character in a particular way, and consider whether you might have done something differently if you were in another context.
     

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