1. Kommodo
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    Kommodo New Member

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    Is there a limited number of characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Kommodo, Aug 3, 2014.

    Hello,

    I know my question probably sounds very amateur but I would like to ask those who are more experienced. As the title states, is there a limited set of character archetypes? Or can we endlessly create new characters ?

    I heard there was about 30 or so character archetypes and everything else is just an alteration or tweaked version.
     
  2. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is your question theoretical or practical? If it's theoretical, it's an interesting proposition but I don't know how much value it has for the actual writing of fiction. Practically-speaking, I'd say you can invent enough supporting characters to flesh out your main characters' world as the story requires. Think friends, family, love interests, workers, clerks, cops, fellow-students, whatever.

    Archetypes are nice for myths and fables, but for novels, go with flesh and blood.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused. If you're asking whether you need to go to a list of archetypes and pick one, of course not. You create your character as you envision your character.

    If you're asking whether every character, if you sat down with a novel and a list of archetypes, could be labelled as an archetype, that's possible. But I don't think it really matters.
     
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  4. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Forget the archetypes. That is just a silly attempt at categorizing characters in a certain way. If you wanted to, you could categorize all characters into three types: good, bad, neutral. It is best to not be bothered, unless you are purposely doing it for some comedic effect.
     
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  5. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Humans LOVE to see patterns, in everything. Just part of how our brain works, which seemingly is helping us along. Trying to say there is a limited set of anything is just that though, limiting. There are plenty of characters yet to be created. You yourself might make the next great one. Don't worry if it falls into an archetype or not. It will be unique. :)
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Try not to think too much in archetypes or labels it just limits your character - think of your friends or yourself are you more than a label? When I think of all the people I've seen or met it's easy to label them first off - which for a writer can be a little handy - hero, sidekick, nice guy, villain but after a while you have to let the character breathe.

    I was in a grocery store once waiting in line and this Jamaican guy in a Rastafarian hat just burst out singing. Everyone looked over at him rather startled, but then we all smiled. One woman started bobbing to the music. I could label him and did as the Jamaican in the Rastafarian hat, buying plantains and deodorant, but he was more than just a label. He was unexpected.
     
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  7. Kommodo
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    Kommodo New Member

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    Thank you everyone :),

    The reason I asked this question is I looked into a software called Persona
    (link if interested) , and it has a way to categorize characters and it looks convincing enough.

    When I thought about it most movies (and Disney) have reoccurring characters, and no matter how much they reoccur , the movie/story still has the same effect. For example, in Disney you kind of always have: The Princess, The Joker(funny guy), The evil antagonist, the antagonist's clique, prince charming, and so on.

    I wanted to make sure if this is a rule in writing stories that characters are a mix of limited character types, or is it an infinite combination. Especially when many many are reoccurring.
     
  8. MandyC
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    MandyC New Member

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    I'm not sure if "archtypes" is just a handful with lots of variations, but there are lot more commonly used character types than most people can imagine. If you're not familiar with it, investigate the character section of TV Tropes and Idioms (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Characters). These are all the familiar folks you've read or seen, charmingly defined and with examples of how they were used in books, film, comics, TV, etc. There are more than 350 different "always female" character types, for example.

    Sure, these are stock characters used over and over again (because they work), but at a minimum they provide fertile ground to get the creative juices flowing. Now you start blending to form character sets and story themes. Because I like to write thrillers, I tend to lean on variations of the five-man band (hero, lancer, big guy, smart guy, the chick). In Star Wars, the five-man band was Luke Skywalker (hero), Han Solo (lancer), Chewbacca (big guy), C3PO-R2D2 (smart guy) and Leia (the chick). <sigh> I always seem to get the role of the chick... but usually badass princess, so it's not too terrible.

    Another popular set among young women writers is the four-girl ensemble - sweet/naive, mannish, sexy, admirable - and with those you can shade endlessly to build conflict and story. There are hundreds of different sets.

    The thing is that you see the conventions used successfully in storytelling over time. Where you get to have fun is tailoring it to your own direction.

    Fair warning, though: that website can be terribly addicting, and the crosslinking takes you into a cool labyrinth that may divert you from the keyboard for three or four years!
     
  9. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    If we really want to boil characters down to types, then there are exactly 16 types of characters.

    Not the archetype system you had in mind? You see, typology is descriptive, not prescriptive. It is a response to stories -- readers respond to stories by classifying characters as types. Authors do not (or at least should not) respond to type systems by writing characters to embody types.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  10. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    Interesting link by @daemon thanks for sharing! Still I think that there are many combinations of the types.
     
  11. Kommodo
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    Kommodo New Member

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    Thanks, it looks like its a never ending classifications but some are reoccurring like the 5 man band MandyC mentioned
     

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