There are hundreds of character archetypes with their own categories and subcategories—far too many to list in one post. All can be useful tools in creating believable characters.A few of the most common (based on personality tests like the Enneagram):
1. The Reformer
Always a leader. He has a deep desire to do right, to feel useful and valuable.
He’s rational, idealistic, principled, and at his best has self-control.
At his worst, he’s a perfectionist. He fears failure.
Conflict comes easily. Others
must see things his way, or he becomes critical and cutting.
Examples: Atticus Finch in
To Kill A Mockingbird and Lady Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey 2. The Helper
Always focused on improving the lives of others, he truly feels privileged that others choose him to be a part of their lives.
He does everything to keep people from harm. He’s humble, thoughtful, compassionate, generous, and loyal.
He has a tendency to be overprotective and loyal
to a fault. He’s a people pleaser. He wants to be loved and will bend over backwards to make that happen. He manipulates people with his good nature.
The helper wants to avoid conflict, to the point that he often plays the martyr.
Example: Robert McCall in
The Equalizer 3. The Individualist
By definition, he likes to be alone but doesn’t necessarily always prefer it.
He’s a creative visionary who hates restrictions. I’m sure it won’t shock you to learn that he’s also an independent thinker.
At his worst, he’s fragile. He cares deeply about what others think of him.
While he wants to be loved, he feels no one knows him well enough to love him fully—so, he usually ends up alone, or just aloof when he’s with people.
The individualist is a bear when it comes to conflict, because he loves to dredge up the past.
Example: Blanche Dubois in
A Streetcar Named Desire 4. The Achiever
An ambitious, successful individual usually seen as a role model. He’s success-oriented: practical, flexible, and driven.
But he’s very concerned about how others see him.
He needs to feel important and valuable to those he loves. One of his worst fears is becoming irrelevant or useless. In conflict, he
needs to be right and will go to great lengths to prove he is.
Example: Frasier Crane in
Frasier 5. The Investigator
By definition, he enjoys discovering why things work the way they do. Problem solving is what he does best.
He’s brave, determined, intelligent, and creative. He loves exploring the unknown.
At his worst, the investigator is a loner. To his credit, he’s also an observer. He feels it best to take things in from a distance and contemplate, keeping his information close to the vest. He trusts only a very few people.
In conflict, the investigator is usually the calm, rational one because, remember, he’s the problem solver. He’ll ask lots of questions and get to the bottom of it one way or another.
Examples: Fox Mulder in
X-Files, Sherlock Holmes 6. The Peacemaker
More than anything, he wants everyone to get along. He’s content, easy going, modest, and unassuming. He trusts easily and is emotionally stable.
At his worst, he’s complacent. He’s a worrier. He’s not someone who enjoys being assertive, unless he has to be. He avoids conflict and often will go along just to get along.
Example: Mr. Rogers in
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 7. The Challenger
A strong leader who takes charge, he’s protective of himself and those he loves.
He’s self-assured and makes decisions quickly. Friends of a challenger never wonder where they stand.
He fears losing control. Because of this, in conflict, he’s going to win one way or another.
Example: Tony Soprano in
The Sopranos 8. The Loyalist
That solid friend everyone wants in their corner, he can be trusted for the long haul, always the responsible one.
He needs loyal friends who trust and support him. He deals with stress by getting defensive and anxious.
The loyalist doesn’t deal well with conflict and easily believes he’s the persecuted one. He wants, more than anything, to feel secure.
Examples: George Costanza in
Seinfeld, Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings 9. The Enthusiast
A fun person, he’s always the happiest in the room.
He’s uninhibited, flexible, and excitable. He’s always on the go and acts on impulse. He’s usually independent, smart, and productive.
At his worst, an enthusiast is scattered. He tends to take on too many things at once, because he never wants to miss a thing. Boredom is not acceptable.
In conflict, he’ll do anything to avoid pain, so he often becomes combative.
Example: Ace Ventura in
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective 10. The Sage
That wise, intelligent guy who always knows the right thing to do, he’s a mentor, a solid friend, and usually there to assist the hero in his quest for what’s right.
The sage is constantly studying to discover truth. He’s often a pastor, a teacher, sometimes an investigator, and always an observer.
At his worst, he can be prideful. Procrastination is his middle name. In conflict, he can tend to be a know-it-all.
Examples: Gandalf from
Lord of the Rings, Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter 11. The Protector
Great at both working alone and with people, he tends to accomplish more alone.
He leads by doing. He’s a warrior, an excellent teacher, compassionate, and honorable.
Watch out, though. The protector can often have a stubborn streak, and he gets impatient if he can’t help fix a problem. After a conflict, he struggles to forgive and forget.
Example: William Wallace in
Braveheart 12. The Villain
, this guy creates the need for a hero in the first place. Opposite the hero
He has many likeable qualities—he’s a kind, worthy opponent, but something terrible in his past influenced who he has become—vengeful, proud, power hungry, merciless, and a guy who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Examples: White Witch in
Chronicles of Narnia, Joker in Batman. Use these Character Archetypes to Develop Your Own Characters
Learn to recognize character archetypes in people you know, in magazine advertisements and television commercials, or in television shows and movies.
But remember, as you write, let your imagination take over.
Trust your gut.
, with realistic characters who possess real emotions. Be careful not to create cookie-cutter characters—instead, create unique characters your readers long to know more about. Tell a story that makes sense
That’ll keep them coming back for more.
(originally published as a guest post on JerryJenkins.com)