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13 Characters

The many faces of characters (c) melschmitz

Within literature, there can be hundreds of character archetypes.  For the sanity of your brain, this post will only focus on 13 types of characters.  Why? Because 13 is my favorite number.

A character archetype is the basic definition of who the character is and how they function.  Placing your character within an archetype sets up a character for a predetermined plot and fate.  Now, all of these characters can intermingle with each other and may take on facets from other character archetypes, but the basic premise is that once your character is set in his or her defined archetype, they should not break from it.

Without further ado, here is a list of my 13  character archetypes:

1. The Hero – This character is basically the one who is born to fulfill a necessary task to achieve and advance the plot of the story.  The Hero restores harmony and justice to a conflict or community.  The Hero is typically a young person, can be male or female, who embodies innate wisdom and is a pupil of a mentor.  The Hero’s path within a book almost always follow the Hero’s Journey archetype.  Examples: Aeneas, Beowulf

2. The Adopted – This character is a Hero archetype in disguise.  The Adopted is usually removed from his or her birth home and raised by a stranger (or strangers).  Eventually the Adopted returns to his or her birth home as a stranger and uncovers new problems and adventures, coming up with new solutions for any issues.  The Adopted character evolves into a Hero and is usually lionized at the end of the story.  Examples: King Arthur, Hercules

3. The Initiated – This character is a young hero archetype that is innocent and naive to the world.  The Initiated character is forced to experience harsh trials, tribulations, and rituals in order to reach the relegated Hero status.  The Initiated usually has a Hero’s Journey that is broken up into more acts and facets than what the typical Hero or Adopted character experiences.  Examples: Frodo Baggins, Philip Pirrip (Pip)

6. The Loyal Retainers – This is actually a group of characters who are the “sidekicks” of the protagonist and their sworn duty is to protect the their leader.  Sometimes these characters reflect the protagonist’s nobility, if the protagonist be of noble blood.  Examples: Robin Hood’s Merry Men, King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table

4. The Mentor – This character can be of any age or sex.  The Mentor serve as a teacher to the protagonist.  The Mentor, whether male or female, can play a role of a mother and / or father figure.  The mentor teaches the rules, tricks, and tools to survive the journey and achieve the quest.  The Mentor’s main initiative is to get the protagonist to triumph over his or her flaws and conflicts.  Examples: Merlin, Virgil

5. The Hunters – This is another group of characters, not an individual, who are loyal companions that band together to face a number of perils that threaten the sanity of the group or their world.  Examples: The Fellowship of the Ring

7. The Friendly Beast – This character assists the protagonist on his or her journey.  The Friendly Beast may sometimes reflect the protagonist’s nature.  The Friendly Beast may sometimes sacrifice himself or herself for the protagonist to succeed on the journey or quest.  Examples: Falkor, Eragon

8. The Creatures of the Night – This character is an abstract or physical monster who threatens the life of the protagonist.  The Creature’s form is usually a distortion of a human body.  This character may have a journey of his or her own as a side story to the protagonist.  If the Creature is a villain to the protagonist, the journey will reflect one that is opposite of the protagonist.  The Creature usually dies or disappears into the unknown at the end of a story.    Examples: Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula

9. The Temptress – This character is typically a woman when the protagonist is a male (and vice versa).  The Temptress uses her looks (or other various abilities) to lure in the protagonist in an attempt to bring about his or her downfall.  Example: Sirens, Lady Macbeth

10. The Unfaithful Wife – This character is a woman who is flawed because she views her husband as unattractive or dull.  Her attention and attractions turn to another man who in her eyes is more gallant and virile.  Examples: Emma Bovary, Queen Guinevere

11. The Star-crossed Lovers – These two characters are doomed from the beginning of their relationship.  They engage in a love affair that will spell tragedy for both.  The relationship of the Star-crossed Lovers is not accepted by the lover’s families, friends, or the rest of society.  Examples: Romeo and Juliet, Catherine and Heathcliff

12. The Evil Figure with a Heart of Gold – This character originally begins as evil, but is redeemed through an action of good (a good heart) or is saved by the protagonist. Examples: The Grinch (sorry, just had to list something Seussian), Boo Radley

13. The Devil Figure – This character is the heart of evil, evil incarnate as itself.  The Devil Figure will tempt the protagonist with worldly goods, intelligence, or fame in exchange for their soul.  The Devil Figure is the true antagonist and opposite of the protagonist throughout his or her journey.  The Devil Figure will experience his or her own journey opposite of the protagonist’s.  Example: Moriarty, Grendel’s Mother


If you have enjoyed this topic, be sure to check out other posts in The Archetype Series.



Please feel free to comment if you have a favorite character archetype that is not listed in this post.

Tune in next Wednesday as we discuss Plot Archetypes.


10 thoughts on “13 Characters

  1. Frightening what this says about me, but I really like the villians: the slutty wife, the various bad guys. I tried to be a good person in real life, so I enjoy just cutting loose and being BAD on the page.

    • I do like those who are reluctant, but I also enjoy the ones who are born and set in their ways – striving for that dream to be at the top and not allowing anything to stand in his or her way. Of course, I prefer it to be a villain with that opportunity… because I love me a good baddie.

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  4. I like this list, but as a man, I noticed that the only female examples were in the “Bad Girl” categories: Temptress, Star-Crossed Lover, Unfaithful Wife. No wonder the comments (by female writers?) mention an affinity for villains! I mean, who wants to end up like Lady Macbeth, Juliet, or Guinevere? Things don’t turn out well for Richard III either, but he has loads more fun along the way. 🙂 Anyway, I enjoyed the post!

    • You know – I didn’t even notice that I focused on some women specific roles and made no mention to men! I will have to write a post dedicated to the “bad boy” characters. Glad you enjoyed it, even though it focused a little more on the bad girls. 🙂

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