12 Character Archetypes to Drive Your Writing

People often have similar motivations, and character archetypes help categorize fictional characters based on their strengths, motivations, and weaknesses. 

Character archetypes help drive character development in written works. If you are going to be a fiction writer, either of short stories or books and novels, understanding these archetypes will help you develop strong, likable characters. 

Though book characters come in all shapes and sizes, most can fit into specific character types. Here is a closer look at how these can impact your writing.

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What Are Character Archetypes?

12 character archetypes to drive your writing

Character archetypes refer to sets of traits that people can identify in others. Characters often represent sets of universal behaviors that are common to their situation and personality. Archetypes understand the human journey and make your characters relatable to the reader. 

12 Common Character Archetypes

Understanding character archetypes is easier when you look at some examples. While there are many potential archetypes to talk about, these are the 12 most common.

1. The Hero

The Hero or the Warrior is the person who destroys the villain and saves the day. They often rise out of difficult circumstances to overcome trials along the way. The hero’s journey may be the main plotline of the book.

  • Strengths. Tend to have physical or mental strength, confidence, and talent.
  • Weaknesses. Pride and too much confidence.
  • Motivation. To fix a wrong or save the day.
  • Examples. Superheroes like Wonder Woman, Batman, or Superman.

2. The Jester

The Jester or the Trickster is a funny character who provides comic relief in the story, but often has an important insight to share. In a screenplay, the Jester is the joker who provides comedic relief in a story that is intense or dramatic.

  • Strengths. Has a sense of humor and fun.
  • Weaknesses. Can be selfish or unreliable.
  • Motivation. Wants to have a good time.
  • Examples. R2D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars, King Lear’s Fool in King Lear.
King Lear (Dover Thrift Editions: Plays)
  • William Shakespeare (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 06/16/1994 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications (Publisher)

3. The Caregiver

The Caregiver provides the role of support in the story. They help the main character succeed and sometimes sit on the sidelines until someone needs their help. Typically, the caregiver has someone specific they protect throughout the story.

  • Strengths. Generous and selfless nature
  • Weaknesses. Selflessness makes them easy to exploit.
  • Motivation. Desire to help their charge.
  • Examples. Mary Poppins, Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings.
J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1728 Pages - 09/25/2012 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)

4. The Orphan

The orphan is someone in the story who is looking for a new family. They are often the main character because they are so relatable. 

  • Strengths. Strong sense of empathy and a survival instinct.
  • Weaknesses. Lacks self-confidence, can be easy to manipulate.
  • Motivation. To find love and connection.
  • Examples. Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. 

5. The Everyman

This is the character that most people can relate to because their struggles seem relatable. They mostly resemble someone from everyday life.

  • Strengths. Grounded, relatable character
  • Weaknesses. No special abilities or powers.
  • Motivation. No strong motivation except the desire to continue a normal life.
  • Examples. Sidekicks like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.
The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition
  • The Hobbit Illustrated Edition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 10/01/2013 (Publication Date) - William Morrow (Publisher)

6. The Sage

The Sage or the Mentor is a wise person who gives advice and insight to the main characters. This is often the wise old man in the story, but it can be a woman.

  • Strengths. Has much knowledge and wisdom.
  • Weaknesses. May hesitate to take action.
  • Motivation. Desire to impart knowledge and grow pupils.
  • Examples. Gandalf from The Hobbit, Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars or Dumbledore from Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Philosopher's Stone
  • Hogwart's
  • Dumbledore
  • Magic
  • School Days

7. The Ruler

The ruler likes to control the story. Sometimes this is an actual emperor or king, while other times it is just someone who likes to be in control.

  • Strengths. Has a lot of leadership ability and charisma.
  • Weaknesses. Can struggle to take help and maybe paranoid.
  • Motivation. Wants to be the top person.
  • Examples. Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.
The Devil Wears Prada a Novel
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Lauren Weisberger
  • Broadwaybooks.com
  • devilwearsprada-book.com
  • Weisberger, Lauren (Author)

7. The Magician

The magician is the characterization that seeks to bring their knowledge to the world and impose their wishes through force or coercion. They often have specialized or superior skills.

  • Strengths: Special ability or knowledge.
  • Weaknesses. Willingness to hurt others, anger.
  • Motivation. Magicians want to shape the world, but to their will.
  • Examples. Sherlock Holmes, Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby.
Great Gatsby, the; (Us Import Ed.)
  • Great product!
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 180 Pages - 09/30/2004 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

8. The Creator

The creator is someone, be it a magical person or an artist or business professional, who strives to build something that will leave a mark on the world.

  • Strengths. Creativity and vision
  • Weaknesses. Can be a perfectionist or egotistical.
  • Motivation. Wants to create something that will last.
  • Examples. Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Dahl, Roald (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 08/16/2007 (Publication Date) - Penguin Young Readers Group (Publisher)

9. The Rebel

The Rebel has had enough with the status quo and is quite angry. This is no damsel in distress, but someone who is going to take matters into their own hands.

  • Strengths. Resourceful and willing to push through.
  • Weaknesses. May have little power or resources.
  • Motivations. To change the world they live in.
  • Examples. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games or Han Solo from Star Wars.

10. The Lover

This is the hopeless romantic who will do anything for their love. They can be a loner who falls in love with another main character, or they could be in a relationship from the beginning.

  • Strengths. Devoted and passionate.
  • Weaknesses. May sacrifice everything for the object of their affection.
  • Desires. To be in a romantic relationship.
  • Examples: Romeo and Juliet, Edward from Twilight.
Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)
  • Trade sized Paperback
  • Meyer, Stephenie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 544 Pages - 09/06/2006 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

11. The Innocent

The Innocent or The Child is an archetype that is young or naive in some way. Often the story is about their coming of age.

  • Strengths. Imagination and optimism.
  • Weaknesses. Naive, little physical power.
  • Desires. Wants to be happy.
  • Examples. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Winnie the Pooh
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Illustrated First Edition): 100th Anniversary OZ Collection
  • Baum, L. Frank (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 06/12/2019 (Publication Date) - SeaWolf Press (Publisher)

12. The Seducer

This is often a beautiful character who wants to use their charm and looks to get what they want.

  • Strengths. Beauty and charm.
  • Weaknesses. Selfishness and lack of morality or loyalty.
  • Motivation. Wants to control someone or the situation.
  • Examples. Tony Stark from Iron Man and many female characters in The Odyssey
The Odyssey
  • Great product!
  • Homer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 541 Pages - 11/29/1999 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

A Final Word on Character Archetypes

All characters in stories are human beings that have some common traits. Those common straits are what make up character archetypes. in both book and screenwriting, understanding these character types will help you make more understandable and likable characters.

Remember, every character in your book has an established personality. These are not shapeshifters, but work towards reaching certain goals and motivations. embracing that will make your writing much more enjoyable.

FAQs on Character Archetypes

Why do authors use archetypes?

Archetypes help guide the development of a character and make it easier to understand and follow. Authors use archetypes to help them decide what actions their characters will take.

How many character archetypes are there?

There are an unlimited number of character archetypes based on how you define them. Based on Jungian psychology, there are four main types, but writers often distinguish more. There are approximately 12 that are commonly accepted as archetypes in literature and screenwriting.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.