Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Creating Heroes & Heroines

When I started writing fiction seriously, I had no idea that books taught the craft of writing. Now, I have a shelf crammed full of books teaching every imaginable aspect of fiction writing. One of my favorite books is The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders.

As writers, we desire to create characters that live in our readers’ minds long after the story ends. This book will show how to create “a true hero or heroine who taps into universal emotions and feelings.”

The authors state, “At the very core of a character, every hero can be traced back to one of eight major archetypes, as can every heroine. The core archetype tells the writer the most basic instincts of heroes or heroines—how they think and feel, what drives them and how they reach their goals.”

The Hero Archetypes are: Chief, Bad Boy, Best Friend, Charmer, Lost Soul, Professor, Swashbuckler, and Warrior.

The Heroine Archetypes are: Boss, Seductress, Spunky Kid, Free Spirit, Waif, Librarian, Crusader, and Nurturer.

Don’t be afraid that basing a hero on an archetype will result in a cookie-cutter character. The authors note, “Archetypal characters are not carbon copies of each other. Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern of The Mary Tyler Moore Show were both members of the same archetype, (Spunky Kid) but very different women.”

Each archetype is defined; qualities, virtues, and flaws are listed; and realistic occupations are given. A possible background is suggested as well as behavior patterns or styles. The authors show how each core archetype might evolve and how to layer archetypes to create complex characters. The authors also show how each male/female pair of archetypes is likely to interact with one another. Finally, an appendix lists examples of each archetype in popular films. For example, While You Were Sleeping: Best Friend—Jack, Spunky Kid—Lucy.

My husband was more of a beta guy. So far, I’ve steered away from alpha characters like Chiefs, Bad Boys, Swashbucklers, and Warriors. I hope to write stories about them someday. But for now, I thought that most of my heroes are the same character with different hair colors and occupations. I was relieved to discover Best Friend, Charmer, Lost Soul, and Professor. Sure, all beta guys, but still different characters.

My teenage daughters and I have had a blast typing each of our family members. We are: Nurturer, Spunky Kid, Free Spirit, Chief, Best Friend, Swashbuckler, and Professor. No wonder our family has such rousing board games and takes forever to make a major decision. We’re a complex set of characters.

~Roxanne Sherwood

No comments: