Character Archetypes: Create Dynamic Characters Beyond the Basics

Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, believed that human behavior and personality are shaped by archetypes, or universal patterns of behavior that are present in all cultures and mythologies. As a writer, character archetypes are an excellent tool for creating well-rounded, compelling characters. However, it’s important to note that these archetypes should only be used as a foundation. Creating truly dynamic and engaging characters, requires developing your characters further.

Character Archetypes

Here are some of the most common character archetypes as defined by Carl Jung, along with their key traits and motivations:

  1. The Artist: The artist is a creative and imaginative character who is driven by a desire to express themselves and share their unique vision with the world. They are often sensitive and emotional, and may struggle with feelings of insecurity or self-doubt.
  2. The Innocent: The innocent is a pure and optimistic character who believes in the goodness of others and the possibility of a better world. They are often naïve and idealistic, and may struggle to see the darker side of life.
  3. The Sage: The sage is a wise and knowledgeable character who has a deep understanding of the world around them. They are often calm and patient, and may serve as a mentor or guide to others.
  4. The Explorer: The explorer is an adventurous and curious character who is driven by a desire to discover new experiences and knowledge. They are often independent and self-reliant, and may struggle with feelings of restlessness or dissatisfaction.
  5. The Outlaw: The outlaw is a rebellious and non-conformist character who challenges social norms and authority. They are often seen as a symbol of freedom and individuality, but may also be viewed as dangerous or disruptive.
  6. The Magician: The magician is a powerful and mysterious character who has the ability to transform and shape reality. They are often associated with magic, alchemy, and the supernatural, and represent the power of the human imagination.
  7. The Hero: The hero is a brave and courageous character who is willing to risk everything to achieve a goal. They are often the protagonist in a story and are driven by a sense of duty or responsibility. The hero is often seen as a symbol of hope and inspiration.
  8. The Lover: The lover is a passionate and romantic character who is driven by their emotions and desires. They are often seen as sensual and alluring, and represent the joys and pleasures of life.
  9. The Jester: The jester is a playful and humorous character who uses humor and wit to challenge social norms and expectations. They are often seen as a symbol of joy and laughter, but may also be viewed as frivolous or superficial.
  10. The Everyman: The everyman is a relatable and down-to-earth character who represents the average person. They are often seen as a symbol of humility and common sense.
  11. The Caregiver: The caregiver is a nurturing and compassionate character who represents unconditional love and protection. They are often associated with motherhood, and may also serve as a mentor or guide to others.
  12. The Ruler: The ruler is a powerful and authoritative character who represents leadership and control. They are often associated with tradition, order, and authority, but may also struggle with feelings of isolation or loneliness.

These archetypes are not fixed categories, but rather fluid patterns of behavior that can change and evolve over time. By recognizing and embracing these archetypes, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us, and can use them as a tool for personal growth and self-improvement.

Evolution of Archetypes

While Carl Jung’s archetypes have remained a significant influence in the field of psychology and literature, many scholars and writers have expanded upon his work and developed new archetypes to better reflect contemporary society and culture. Victoria Schmidt’s book “45 Master Characters” is an excellent resource for writers getting started developing characters from archetypes.

One reason for the development of new archetypes is the changing social and cultural landscape. As society evolves, so do the archetypes that define our collective psyche. For example, with the rise of technology and globalization, new archetypes such as the “hacker” or the “global citizen” have emerged, reflecting the changing values and priorities of our times.

New archetypes have also emerged to better represent the diversity and complexity of human experience. As our understanding of gender, sexuality, and identity expands, new archetypes have emerged that better reflect the experiences of marginalized communities. For example, the “warrior” archetype has been expanded to include the “warrior princess” or the “trans warrior,” reflecting the experiences of women and transgender individuals who have historically been excluded from traditional hero narratives.

The development of new archetypes is a natural part of the creative process. As writers and artists seek to explore new ideas and tell new stories, they may create new archetypes that better reflect their unique perspectives and experiences. New archetypes reflect the ever-evolving nature of human experience and our ongoing quest to understand ourselves and the world around us.

Using Archetypes Effectively

While these archetypes can serve as a useful starting point for character development, it’s essential to go beyond them and create dynamic and complex characters. By exploring the nuances and contradictions within your characters, both main and supporting, and breaking these archetypes, you can create characters that are truly unique and engaging. So, use these archetypes as a foundation and then go beyond them to create characters that readers will remember long after they’ve finished your story.


Myth: Using character archetypes will make my characters one-dimensional.
Truth: Using character archetypes wisely creates a solid foundation for creating dynamic characters.
Myth: Character archetypes are outdated and not helpful for creating modern characters.
Truth: Character archetypes are flexible and stand the test of time. When viewing modern, compelling characters, they will still fit certain archetypes. For example, Han Solo (Star Wars franchise) and Sonny Corleone (The Godfather trilogy) both can be structurally defined by the Warrior archetype. These are distinctively different characters, though parallels can be drawn between them.

Most readers will mentally identify “Warrior” type characters and expect certain behaviors based upon other characters who have displayed those characteristics. Your job, as a writer, is to deliver a twist on this expectation that is surprising, but not unbelievable.

Affiliate Disclosure: Some links may be affiliate links. This means when you use them to purchase something, Pen Nibblers will be paid a commission for referring you. It will not cost you anything additional to use this link. We only recommend products we already love and use ourselves!

1 thought on “Character Archetypes: Create Dynamic Characters Beyond the Basics”

  1. First off I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Appreciate it!


Leave a Comment