Monday, June 19, 2023

Enhance Your Story's Rampant Appeal With Archetypes

 One of my favorite craft books is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.  I own the 3rd edition and the most recent 4th edition released on its 25th anniversary.  

I discovered this book back in 2007.  That was when I was first introduced to archetypes in writing.   

Free PDF version online: This is a free online PDF 3rd edition version.

It totally changed the way I looked at ‌story and at my life. Suddenly, I saw these archetypes everywhere, in the people I knew, the people I met, and even in myself–not to mention, books, movies, and plays.

For a while, life became an unfolding story of discovery and surprise. I had a lot of fun envisioning my life as an adventure. Yes I admit, it's a great self-help book, especially for a little psychological insight on humanity, but the book was created for writers who wanted to improve their writing and recognize the universal appeal of storytelling and creation. 

Why archetypes–because archetypes play a crucial role in storytelling, by providing recognizable patterns and symbols that resonate with audiences. 

Universality and Relatability:

Archetypes tap into human experiences, emotions, fears, and desires that transcend cultural and historical boundaries making stories relatable to an expansive range of readers.  Stories that hit readers on a deep, subconscious level, creating a sense of familiarity and connection.  

For me the story is all about the connection whether it is entertainment, learning, or escape values. I want stories to engage my emotions and mind, taking me on an immersive journey–if they do, I am hooked.  

Symbolism and Imagery:

Archetypes have deep roots in mythology, folklore, and cultural traditions, which allows writers to explore broader cultural and historical contexts creating a wealth of symbolic imagery conveying abstract concepts, themes, and motifs. It’s a rich tapestry of symbolic imagery, adding depth and layers of meaning–something I love about storytelling when done well.

Narrative Structure and Themes: 

Archetypes contribute to the overall structure and themes of a  story.  They establish narrative frameworks such as the hero’s journey, a quest, or a battle between good and evil.  Archetypal symbols and motifs can convey border themes and messages, enriching the storytelling experience adding depth. 

You can evoke powerful emotions in readers by digging deep into the archetype cultivating universal human experiences and psychological patterns to elicit empathy, suspense, and catharsis, allowing readers to deeply engage with the characters in a personal way.  

Emotional Impact:

Archetypes evoke emotional responses that appeal on a subconscious level eliciting compelling and meaningful reactions to the story in readers.  It's the human experience that we all share on that universal level, that transcends culture and language. 

Character Development and Depth:

Archetypes to me are huge in overall understanding of how human beings work. As storyteller’s, they give us a common language, creating familiar foundations that strengthen character development, evoke emotion, and connect us in global ways. 

We all wear many hats. We change. We contradict ourselves, even emotionally. Learn to use archetypes to create more 3-dimensional characters, and believable story structure. 

These three archetypes are a few of my favorites to play with and think about.  They can be some of the most useful and FUN, especially when building your cast of characters. 

The very essence of these archetypes elicit a certain expectation in behaviors. I get excited creating these types of shadowy unpredictable characters. They bring so much conflict, chaos, uncertainty, and angst in the writing and storytelling. The lessons and skills they teach can be so much fun and bring an unexpected depth or twist to any story.   

  • ShapeShifter - This type brings uncertainty, doubt, suspicion, a catalyst for change–everything is not as it seems.  

  • Shadow - Typically an antagonist, representing the rejected aspects of self, creating tension, anxiety, the darker side of a character's nature. This character often brings the threat of destruction psychologically, or to places and people.  (Caveat–can also represent unexplored potential such as affection, creativity, or powers.) 

  • Trickster -  Vogler says this character embodies the energies of mischief and desire for change.  They are often witt‌y or foolish.  They can be wise.  They are the type to keep heroes on their toes, challenge them.  They are often unpredictable. They may represent the funny, comic relief, and a lighter side of a serious situation. Famous Tricksters: Loki, Coyote, Cheshire Cat, Bugs Bunny, Jerry The Mouse. 

Look around you. Who plays these roles in your life? How often have you played these roles in others' lives? The doc link below lists all seven types that Vogler focuses on when teaching storytelling. 


Read more about the seven main archetypes Vogler believes are essential to a well-told story. Vogler Archetype Doc

Let archetypes help you build your characters, shape and write your story.  Find the deeper themes and symbolism within them.  Look for more archetypes such as mother for example can be Mommy Dearest, Penelope Blossom Riverdale, or Wilma Flintstone, or Caroline Ingalls, or Olivia Walton.  Themes range from the best mother ever, CEO-working mom, famous mom, caretaker-home maker, villain to abuser. 

There is a ubiquitous pattern here in connection, theme, symbolism, and emotional appeal when you pick an archetype, dig deep, and mine it for its golden aspects threading them throughout your story.

You can stay in touch with me and keep the conversation going with my writers tips and resource bulletin Writers Talk. More about me here


ib said...

Juneta, thank you for posting this. I am "new" to writing and have been kicking ideas around for a long while. I am beginning to feel an urge to write again and I want to dive deeper into rabbit hole, so to speak. I am going to read Vogler's book, amongst others, to aid my creativity. I hope this finds you well.

Juneta key said...

Thanks IB, This is one of my favorite craft books. I actually own 3 paperback copies lol. I hope you have fun getting back into your writing and digging deeper into certain aspects of the process. Happy Writing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That adds a lot more depth to characters.
And Loki is definitely a trickster.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I haven't thought about this book in a long time, but it's a good one.

PJ Colando said...

Thanks for sharing - more characters to corral in my writing!