12 Common Character Archetypes & How Writers Can Use Them

12 Common Character Archetypes & How Writers Can Use Them

Use this post to explore the 12 common character archetypes and how writers can use them in their stories.

What Is An Archetype?

Oxford Dictionaries says an archetype is ‘a very typical example of a certain person or thing’.

Writers can use this useful table of the 12 archetypes to create characters.

Jung defined twelve primary archetypes, each with its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. In Jungian theory, an archetype is known as ‘a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious’.

12 Common Character Archetypes

You can use these archetypes, especially when you are creating your four main characters.

The 12 Common Archetypes

The types are explained below, exploring their mottos, core desires, goals, greatest fears, strategies, weaknesses, and talents.

The twelve archetypes are divided into ego types, self types, and soul types.

The Four Ego Archetypes

(via Carl Golden)

1. The Innocent

Motto: Free to be you and me
Core desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
Greatest fear: to be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: to do things right
Weakness: boring for all their naïve innocence
Talent: faith and optimism
The Innocent is also known as the: utopian, traditionalist, naïve, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.

2. The Orphan/Regular Guy or Gal

Motto: All men and women are created equal
Core Desire: connecting with others
Goal: to belong
Greatest fear: to be left out or to stand out from the crowd
Strategy: develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Weakness: losing one’s own self in an effort to blend in or for the sake of superficial relationships
Talent: realism, empathy, lack of pretence
The Regular Person is also known as the: good old boy, everyman, the person next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbour, the silent majority.

3. The Hero

Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Core desire: to prove one’s worth through courageous acts
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Greatest fear: weakness, vulnerability, being a “chicken”
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight
Talent: competence and courage
The Hero is also known as the: warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, the soldier, dragon slayer, the winner and the team player.

4. The Caregiver

Motto: Love your neighbour as yourself
Core desire: to protect and care for others
Goal: to help others
Greatest fear: selfishness and ingratitude
Strategy: doing things for others
Weakness: martyrdom and being exploited
Talent: compassion, generosity
The Caregiver is also known as the: saint, altruist, parent, helper, supporter.

The Four Soul Archetypes

5. The Explorer

Motto: Don’t fence me in
Core desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Biggest fear: getting trapped, conformity, and inner emptiness
Strategy: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Weakness: aimless wandering, becoming a misfit
Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul
The Explorer is also known as the: seeker, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim.

6. The Rebel

Motto: Rules are made to be broken
Core desire: revenge or revolution
Goal: to overturn what isn’t working
Greatest fear: to be powerless or ineffectual
Strategy: disrupt, destroy, or shock
Weakness: crossing over to the dark side, crime
Talent: outrageousness, radical freedom
The Outlaw is also known as the: rebel, revolutionary, wild man, the misfit, or iconoclast.

7. The Lover

Motto: You’re the only one
Core desire: intimacy and experience
Goal: being in a relationship with the people, work and surroundings they love
Greatest fear: being alone, a wallflower, unwanted, unloved
Strategy: to become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Weakness: outward-directed desire to please others at risk of losing own identity
Talent: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment
The Lover is also known as the: partner, friend, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, spouse, team-builder.

8. The Creator

Motto: If you can imagine it, it can be done
Core desire: to create things of enduring value
Goal: to realise a vision
Greatest fear: mediocre vision or execution
Strategy: develop artistic control and skill
Task: to create culture, express own vision
Weakness: perfectionism, bad solutions
Talent: creativity and imagination
The Creator is also known as the: artist, inventor, innovator, musician, writer or dreamer.

The Four Self Archetypes

9. The Jester

Motto: You only live once
Core desire: to live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: to have a great time and lighten up the world
Greatest fear: being bored or boring others
Strategy: play, make jokes, be funny
Weakness: frivolity, wasting time
Talent: joy
The Jester is also known as the: fool, trickster, joker, practical joker or comedian.

10. The Sage

Motto: The truth will set you free
Core desire: to find the truth.
Goal: to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.
Biggest fear: being duped, misled—or ignorance.
Strategy: seeking out information and knowledge; self-reflection and understanding thought processes.
Weakness: can study details forever and never act.
Talent: wisdom, intelligence.
The Sage is also known as the: expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative.

11. The Magician

Motto: I make things happen.
Core desire: understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: to make dreams come true
Greatest fear: unintended negative consequences
Strategy: develop a vision and live by it
Weakness: becoming manipulative
Talent: finding win-win solutions
The Magician is also known as the: visionary, catalyst, inventor, charismatic leader, shaman, healer, medicine man.

12. The Ruler

Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Core desire: control
Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: exercise power
Greatest fear: chaos, being overthrown
Weakness: being authoritarian, unable to delegate
Talent: responsibility, leadership
The Ruler is also known as the: boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model, manager or administrator.

Note: There are four cardinal orientations: freedom, social, ego, order. The types have a place on these orientations.

Source for 12 types: Tree of life

[If you are looking for examples of archetypes in fiction, please click here: Examples Of Character Archetypes]

 by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy

  1. 15 Questions Authors Should Ask Characters
  2. 3 Must-Have Scenes That Reveal Character
  3. 6 Sub-Plots That Add Style To Your Story
  4. 7 Choices That Affect A Writer’s Style
  5. 5 Incredibly Simple Ways To Help Writers Show And Not Tell
  6. Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language
  7. 12 Crucial Things To Remember About Setting

[Use our Character Creation Kit to create great characters for your stories.]

Posted on: 12th June 2013

10 thoughts on “12 Common Character Archetypes & How Writers Can Use Them”

  1. Is it possible to have a character with two archetypes but one dominant one, e.g. A a Ruler with Hero qualities?

  2. David MacDowell Blue

    Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen developed a similar set of archetypes in her books GODDESSES IN EVERY WOMAN and GODS IN EVERY MAN.

  3. Hello Eva. This post is about creating fictional characters. It is not a quiz, but perhaps you can identify with some of the characters more than others.

  4. Carol Pearson’s book ‘Awakening the Heroes Within’ has a questionnaire to identify which archetypes are dominant in your life. She also looks at how the archetypes interact and the role different archetypes play in the soul journey, i.e. no person is one archetype and archetypes can change. Its not a book on writing, but the insight can help create more complex characters.

  5. Very interesting post! It’s also true of real life. As i read the list I could just think of someone I knew for each one. Of course, real people are much more complex than characters in books (in most cases), but I still think we all have a dominant Archeptype.

Comments are closed.