Myths can't be translated as they did in their ancient soil. We can only find our own meaning in our own time. —Margaret Atwood

I’m currently in a Spring Creative Season, one in which I’m exploring new ideas. One concept I’m working with is that of archetypes.

I love working with archetypes because they offer a shortcut to developing characters. Our brains love to sort people into “types”—the know-it-all, the miser, the orphan, the witch, and so on. Many of these are universally recognizable across cultures, and they often have a huge impact on readers. Dickens was a master of working with archetypes, and they’re foundational to most of our fairy tales and mythologies (even contemporary mythologies, such as Star Wars and Harry Potter). 

When I create a character that’s based on an archetype, I already have a sense of their persona. I know how the world views this person and I know the kind of things they are likely to say or do.

But there are always layers of character that lie beneath the persona. Even a know-it-all can have moments of humility, a miser can be generous, an orphan can find family, and a witch can be kind. Exploring the kinds of relationships and events that would reveal those layers is one of the most fun parts of writing.

I’ve created a list of common archetypes organized by their foundational incarnation, which I shared exclusively with my newsletter subscribers. To ensure you don't miss out on great resources, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.