Saturday, December 28

12 Archetypes

Sometimes it's difficult to settle on what to write about but (thankfully!) today was not such a day.

Lately, I've been consumed (obsessed?) with exploring various character types so I was thrilled when I discovered "The 12 Common Archetypes" by Carl Golden.

Golden, from his reading of Jungian Psychology, believes there are 12 archetypes, each divided into three categories. (From my writerly perspective, whether this is the case is immaterial. I only need the archetypes to be interesting, not true.)

Types of Archetypes: Ego, Soul, Self

One thing I love about Carl Golden's presentation of these archetypes is that he gives for each a motto, core desire, goal, greatest fear, strategy, weakness and talent.

For instance:
Archetype: The Innocent
Motto: Free to be you and me
Core desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
Greatest fear: to be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: to do things right
Weakness: boring for all their naive innocence
Talent: faith and optimism
"The Innocent" is also known as: Utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.
I'll let you read Golden's article for the details on the rest of the archetypes, but they are worth looking at.


1. The Innocent
2. The Orphan/Regular Guy/Gal
3. The Hero
4. The Caregiver


1. The Explorer
2. The Rebel
3. The Lover
4. The Creator


1. The Jester
2. The Sage
3. The Magician
4. The Ruler

One of the cool things about these archetypes is that you can mix and match. For instance, one of my characters, a secondary character, is both a Regular Guy and The Lover.

The Four Orientations: Social, Order, Ego, Freedom

Here's where things get interesting. We've seen that the archetypes can be broken into three types (Ego, Soul or Self). But they can also be given an orientation: Social, Order, Ego or Freedom. ("Social" and "Ego" are opposites, as are "Freedom" and "Order.")

For instance, the archetype "Ruler" has the orientation of Order. "Hero" of Ego, and so on.


a. Lover
b. Caregiver
c. Everyman


a. Innocent
b. Ruler
c. Sage


a. Magician
b. Hero
c. Creator


a. Explorer
b. Outlaw
c. Jester

Fun Exercise

Find out where you think each archetype fits. Here's how I arranged them:

I think the most valuable thing is finding out which orientation you think each fits since that'll help expose how you think about characterization.

Interesting Articles:

- Major Archetypes and the Process of Individuation
- And now for something different! Elizabeth Spann Craig shared this link and it's so good I wanted to include it. The Murder Mystery Arc

Photo credit: "Season's greetings!" by Marina del Castell under Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

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