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12 Common Character Archetypes for Writers to Get Familiar With | What Are Character Archetypes?

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12 Common Character Archetypes for Writers to Get Familiar With

What is a Character Archetype?

An archetype by definition is an example of a typical example of a person or thing. So, a character archetype is simply an example of a very typical type of character. Most characters found in literature and entertainment adhere to one of the 12 common character archetypes. Each archetype has a set of strengths, weaknesses, and motivations or drive. You may find as you learn more about each of them that some of the characters you have already written naturally fall into one of the archetype categories without you intending them to. 

A Confident Wordsmith Character Archetypes

The Twelve Common Character Archetypes

The twelve common character archetypes are:

  1. The Warrior
  2. The Child
  3. The Orphan
  4. The Creator
  5. The Caregiver
  6. The Mentor
  7. The Joker
  8. The Explorer
  9. The Ruler 
  10. The Rebel
  11. The Lover
  12. The Seducer

Below you will find some of the common character traits that make up each of the archetypes as well as a literary example to give you some context. 

The Warrior

The Warrior is also sometimes known as the hero and is usually the protagonist. They are the action-takers. They see the need for something to be done and they will go to great lengths to do it thinking very little of the personal danger and risk it entails. 

The Warrior’s strengths include: 

  • Courage
  • Perseverance 
  • Honor 
  • Ambition
  • Bravery
  • Determination

The Warrior’s weaknesses include:

  • Overconfidence
  • Pride
  • Unwillingness to work with others

A great example of the Warrior Archetype is Thor Odinson. He has a great sense of wanting to do the right thing at whatever cost. Oftentimes, however, he tends to be a bit overconfident and proud and doesn’t like to play nicely with others. 

The Child

The Child is also sometimes known as the innocent and they are the pure, sweet, and morally untainted characters. They know right from wrong and they always try to do the right thing. This subjects them to being taken advantage of more often than not, but usually win their enemies hearts over in the end.

The Child’s strengths include: 

  • Morality 
  • Kindness
  • Honesty
  • Sincerity
  • Hopefulness

The Child’s weaknesses include:

  • Physical weakness
  • Vulnerability
  • Naive 
  • Easy to manipulate and take advantage of

A prime example of a child archetype character is Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Tiny Tim is a sweet little boy who always looks for the bright side and fails to see bad in anyone. He is a big part of the reason that the main character, Ebineezer Scrooge, decides to change his selfish ways.

The Orphan

The Orphan archetype character is typically the most relatable character. They are also sometimes referred to as the everyman. The orphan is the character who begs to be understood. They are typically average people who have a good sense of reality. They are survivors and they want to fit in with others. This can make them prone to being too eager to do things to please people.

The Orphan’s strengths include: 

  • Being survivors
  • Having a grip on reality
  • Being relatable
  • Being reliable 

The Orphan’s weaknesses include:

  • Little to no self-confidence
  • Look to others for direction
  • People pleasers

An example of an Orphan archetype character is Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit. He is a very reliable guy that everyone can depend on. He does things to impress the other characters in the story, especially Thorin Oakenshield which results in him nearly getting killed.

The Creator

The Creator is the character that always has a vision for creating something new and exciting. They strive to make the world a better place by using their creativity to invent things and create things. They are very determined and filled with creative genius.

The Creator’s strengths include: 

  • Vision
  • Creativity 
  • Will power
  • Determination

The Creator’s weaknesses include:

  • Absentmindedness
  • Disconnectedness
  • Difficulty communicating their vision

One of the best examples of the Creator archetype is the Absent-Minded Professor. He has many brilliant ideas for things that he could create that would make the world a better place. He is not thinking of himself when he is dreaming up and creating things, however, he tends to get so involved in what he is doing and thinking about, that he forgets about the world around him. Another great example of this archetype would be Doc Emmet Brown from Back to the Future. 

The Caregiver

The Caregiver is the character who has the biggest heart. Their motivation and drive comes from wanting to help others. They do all they can to make sure their friends are happy and taken care of, no matter what the personal cost is. 

The Caregiver’s strengths include: 

  • Generosity
  • Big heartedness
  • Sympathy
  • Loyalty
  • Honorability 

The Caregiver’s weaknesses include:

  • Lack of leadership
  • Little self-worth
  • Easily taken advantage of

My favorite example of a Caregiver archetype character is Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Samwise’s main concern throughout the entire trilogy is ensuring the safety of his master, Frodo Baggins. He is very kind and compassionate and thinks of himself last. He occasionally gets taken advantage of and would not hesitate to lay his life down for that of Frodo.

The Mentor

The Mentor is a character archetype that is found in pretty much every story and for good reason. They are the character that everyone comes to for advice and guidance. They are always relied upon to dish out words of wisdom and offer mental support in times of great need.

The Mentor’s strengths include: 

  • Wisdom
  • Calm and Collected
  • Great listeners 
  • Insight and experience
  • Patience

The Mentor’s weaknesses include:

  • Inability to solve their own problems
  • Sense of overwhelming responsibility
  • Caution

There are so many examples of the Mentor archetype characters. Some of these include Gandalf the Grey from The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Yoda from Star Wars, Professor X from the X-Men, Nicholas Benedict from the Mysterious Benedict Society, Aslan the Lion from the Chronicles of Narinia, and so many more. The Mentor Archetype character is the person that the protagonist and friends go to for sound advice and words of wisdom. 

The Joker

The Joker is the light-hearted, humorous character that knows how to find the fun in life. They offer plenty of comic relief and everyone likes to be around them because they are fun to be around. Oftentimes, beneath the humor, the Joker has great depth and soul.

The Joker’s strengths include: 

  • Making light of serious situations
  • Comic relief
  • Entertainment
  • Good company
  • Insightful
  • Funny

The Creator’s weaknesses include:

  • Can be overbearing or obnoxious
  • Can be superficial or make too light of a serious situation

The Joker Archetype could be exemplified by Timon and Pumba in the Lion King. They are constantly cracking jokes and making displays of physical humor. The joker archetype character is the character that is a comedian, whether on purpose, or accidentally. 

The Explorer

The Explorer is the character that is always full of curiosity and has little fear of the unknown. They have questions that they want answered and they aren’t afraid of what consequences are in store for them while trying to find the answers. 

The Explorer’s strengths include: 

  • Motivated
  • Curious
  • Fearless
  • Adventurous

The Explorer’s weaknesses include:

  • Restlessness
  • Unsatisfiable
  • Occasionally takes unnecessary risks
  • Bad judge of danger

A very good example of a character with the Explorer Archetype is Sherlock Holmes. He is always full of curiosity and unanswered questions and will go to great lengths to find the answers no matter what the cost, even if it means accidentally causing harm to his friends. 

The Ruler

The Ruler archetype is the character who has an obvious hierarchy above the other characters. They are the boss, the rule maker, and everyone knows it. They are not unfair or cruel, necessarily, but they aren’t afraid to assert their dominance. 

The Ruler’s strengths include: 

  • Great leadership skills
  • Communication skills
  • Power and status

The Ruler’s weaknesses include:

  • Being out of touch with others
  • Arrogance
  • Disconnect 

While he is not a fictional character, a great example of someone with the Ruler Archetype is Winston Churchill. He knew how to take command of a difficult situation and guide everyone through to victory. He wasn’t afraid to lay down the law for the greater good of the British people. 

The Rebel

The Rebel who is also sometimes called the Outlaw is just what you might expect. They are the character who refuse to just play along. They go against the grain, refuse to do something just because everyone else is doing it. They make their own way and can sometimes be very mysterious, leading others to be uncertain whether they are good or bad.

The Rebel’s strengths include: 

  • Independent thinkers
  • Freedom
  • Don’t care what others think about them
  • Never give up

The Rebel’s weaknesses include:

  • Being loners
  • Have to work harder for what they want

The Rebel or Outlaw archetype could be personified by Han Solo from Star Wars or Batman. While both are technically good guys, they have sketchy pasts and tend to be loners. They don’t conform and make their own rules instead.

The Lover

The Lover is usually the main character and they are driven by romance, nostalgia, and sentimentality. They are guided by their own hearts. They make decisions based on what they feel and will do almost anything for love.

The Lover’s strengths include: 

  • Passion
  • Conviction
  • Sympathy
  • Empathy
  • Open with their feelings
  • Unafraid to do things for love

The Lover’s weaknesses include:

  • Being naive
  • Being irrational 
  • Thinking too much with their heart

An example of a Lover Archetype character is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She sacrificed her freedom and potentially her life out of love for her father. She also softened the Beast’s heart through her sweetness and kindness. 

The Seducer 

The seducer is the smooth-talking, charismatic, manipulative character who always gets their way using charm and flattery. They are ruthless and arrogant and aren’t loyal to anyone. 

The Seducer strengths include: 

  • Beauty 
  • Power
  • Charm
  • Charisma

The Seducer’s weaknesses include:

  • Arrogance
  • Lack of loyalty
  • Corruptible
  • Shallow
  • Lack morals

Prince Hans of the Southern Isles from the movie Frozen is a perfect example of the sleezy Seducer Archetype character. He uses his charm and flattery to get Anna to fall in love with him so that he can steal the throne. Fortunately, he couldn’t fool everyone and that is one of the Seducer’s biggest problems, being seen through by others.

There you have the 12 common character archetypes. It is noteworthy that many excellent characters found in literature and media do not follow a specific character archetype, some you may find fit the description of several of the archetypes, however, they form a good basis or reference guide. They exemplify a good balance of virtues and vices and as mentioned earlier, you may find that some characters you have previously created, actually match one of the archetypes already!

If you are looking for just the perfect names for your story characters, but don’t know where to start searching, check out this article. Also, if you want to learn more about the elements that make characters memorable, then check out this article.

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