Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Add water, stir, voila - a hero

Continuing on with the 'back to basics' is the topic of this post.

There are certain aspects of the archetypes that cannot be denied, but what happens when you veer away from them.

The answer is it depends. When we look at the archetypes, we don't necessarily see a fully fleshed hero. That's not uncommon. The archetypes are extremely lineal. It's pretty hard to see a character who is always the Chief or always the Loner. First and foremost, some heroes can turn jerk-esque if we writer their archetype to an unnerving degree. Who wants to get with a Chief who is always a chief. Not many women.

This is where character blending comes in. Instead of having just one archetype, you have different aspects of archetypes.

Primary – The Chief
Secondary – The Swashbuckler
Tertiary – The Charmer

The mix is as follows --

Since the Hero is a Chief most of the time, he'll be a decisive alpha male. Going against the Eight Archetypes as discussed earlier, I find that most real life Chiefs are also extremely logical or logistical. (See how the blending is beginning).

The Swashbuckler always works well with a Chief Archetype. Blend him in and you have a faithful and logical captain who is always on the go. These are the main heroes found in Quests or Outer Space Adventures.

The Charmer. Captain Kirk was a Charmer. Except for the archetype says a charmer isn't reliable. Mix him with the above and he will be.

Always feed the main archetype with the secondary and tertiary traits. Find a moment to let the underlying traits shine, it makes the hero appear more real.

This doesn't mean the hero will be invincible. Every character has to have at least one flaw. Normally the archetypes can help you there. Don't go the cliché path. This has gotten old and tiresome. Instead think of how what we see as a benefit in an archetype can actually be a deterrent.

Don't go too far with Archetypes is always a good rule to follow. Get the character moving and working for you, but keep them on a short leash. In the end, know your hero. This always helps the process.

So tell me, do you think the archetypes are outdated, overused, or just plain stupid? Which do you prefer? A blended character or a firm archetypal hero?

Until next week – cheers and happy writing,



Sandy said...


I prefer the blended archetypes because in real life the hero is not all Chief (even if he thinks so), he's sometimes soft. Although, I have to say my hero is more often the Chief than not. Smile.


Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

I think the firm archetype works for a lot of genres, such as mystery, but it doesn't for romance. Here you need a blended hero. It's okay to follow a logical guy when he's on a mission, but a too logical guy snuffs out the flame of romance like water on embers.

I wouldn't say that archetypes are out of date. It's more that the definitions adapts to men throughout the eras. A Chief in the 60s era and a Chief in the 21st century are both still a Chief, but they way they'll act will be different. There's a progression and evolution as time passes.

Good post again, T.J.