10 Common Character Archetypes Every Writer Should Know

Stories are a little enigmatic. We clamor for mystery and unpredictable endings. We demand more twists, more turns, and more surprises. We want to know that within the pages of a book, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.

But, even in the midst of all this unknown, there is one element that pulls humans into a story like nothing else: intimacy. 

Character archetypes are the reason you feel that subtle, tip-of-your-tongue sense of familiarity with the abandoned orphan in a rags-to-riches story. Or why you despise the villain in that fantasy novel series a little more than necessary. Archetypes represent fundamental human experiences and traits that we can all relate to. When a writer crafts a story around these recognizable characters, it creates an instant connection between the reader and the narrative.

Playing into conventional roles isn’t limiting; it’s liberating. So before you write your next epic tale, get on a first-name basis with these ten common character archetypes.

The Innocent

The innocent is the embodiment of pure goodness and naivety. They are often portrayed as innocent and childlike, with a strong sense of morality and a desire for happiness and simplicity. But because of their trusting nature, they can be easily taken advantage of and are often ignorant of the harsh realities of the world.

Some examples include:

  • Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz
  • Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump

The Explorer

The explorer is a free-spirited and adventurous character who wants nothing more than space to roam. Freedom is their ultimate goal, and their worst fear is being trapped or confined. They are constantly seeking new experiences and challenges, often going against societal norms in pursuit of their own desires.

Some examples include:

  • Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit
  • Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Mentor

 The mentor is a wise and guiding figure who shines a light on the truth. Their sole focus is on uncovering the truth, no matter the cost. They often have a strong moral compass and serve as a source of guidance.

Some examples include:

  • Dumbledore from Harry Potter
  • Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins

The Healer

The healer is a compassionate, empathetic character who wants nothing more than to alleviate the suffering of others. They are often selfless and nurturing and go out of their way to help those in need. However, their willingness to aid others can sometimes lead to their own detriment.

Some examples include:

  • Miss Honey from Matilda
  • Dr. Dolittle from Dr. Dolittle

The Ruler

The ruler is obsessed with power. They crave control and authority and will stop at nothing to maintain it. They often have a grand vision for the future and believe that their leadership is necessary for the greater good. But their desire for control can also lead to their downfall.

Some examples include:

  • Mufasa from The Lion King
  • Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada

The Trickster 

The trickster is the comedic relief that every story needs. They are clever and mischievous, often using their wit and humor to navigate through difficult situations. All they want is to have a good time. However, their antics can also cause chaos and conflict for the other characters.

Some examples include:

  • Olaf from Frozen
  • The Cat in the Hat from The Cat in the Hat

The Orphan

The orphan is the embodiment of isolation. They don’t have to be a literal orphan, but they do represent loneliness and longing for connection. No matter their quest, their ultimate goal is to find a home.

Some examples include:

  • Harry Potter from Harry Potter
  • Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

The Lover

The lover is a passionate and romantic character who values the one they love above all else. Why? Because they just want to be loved themselves. They act in complete devotion to their beloved, and they expect the same in return. However, their intense emotions can often lead to extreme actions and consequences.

Some examples include:

  • Ross Geller from Friends
  • Rose and Jack from Titanic

The Hero

The hero is the most commonly known archetype. They are brave, have a strong moral code, and are always willing to put their life on the line for the greater good. They are often the protagonist of a story, and their ultimate goal is to save the day.

Some examples include:

  • Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games
  • Mulan from Mulan

The Outlaw

The outlaw is a rebellious and independent character who loves to break the rules. They reject authority and often have their own moral code that they live by. Even though this character may seem free-spirited on the outside, they’re often driven by revenge and a desire for justice.

Some examples include:

  • Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

How to Use Archetypes in Your Writing

It’s one thing to be able to recognize archetypes in movies and books, but it’s another to incorporate them into your own writing. Assigning your own characters to specific archetypes adds depth to your story and helps guide your narrative. After all, it’s the “why” behind your characters’ actions that drives the story forward.

But that doesn’t make figuring it out any easier.

If you’re stuck on how to incorporate archetypes into your writing or finding the right archetypal blueprint for your characters, check out our book coaching services. PDHines offers 1:1 coaching sessions to help you develop your story and characters no matter where you are in the writing process. Even blank Google Docs are welcome.

Click here to learn more.

Want to learn more about character archetypes? Check out these resources below:

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Story Coach, Story Development

I’m Pam, Your Story Coach

I help busy professionals write and polish the book of their dreams. Let’s bring authenticity to your speculations, flow to your structure, and heart to your words.

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