Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Archetype Is Not A Dirty Word

Courtesy Master isolated images
In September 2012, while at a writer's conference, I had a major light bulb moment. My heroine at the time was giving me fits, and I couldn't nail her down to save my life. Because of that issue, and knowing I always struggle with creating heroines, I decided to do a class all about heroines.

I'd been exposed to the idea of archetypes before and had read some of the Joseph Campbell stuff. But none of his archetypes really stuck with me in a way I felt I could use. While in this class I learned about some I'd never heard before, and everything clicked.

The teacher used archetypes put together by author Tami Cowden. For heroines she has Boss, Seductress, Spunky Kid, Free Spirit, Waif, Librarian, Crusader, and Nurturer, along with examples for each from movies. The class handout included Tami's description for each type. My heroine I was fighting at the time is a Librarian. Once I read it she made complete sense and stopped fighting me.

First thing I did when I got home (after sleeping for 13 hours) was go to Tami's website to see what else she had hidden there. Lo and behold there was a page with Hero archetypes! Now we're talking. I'm all about the hero when it comes to a romance. I don't fight with them like I do my heroines, but I had begun to notice a pattern in how I constructed my heroes. (She has a page for villains too, and ebooks that go into more detail.)

Her hero archetypes are Chief, Bad Boy, Best Friend, Charmer, Lost Soul, Professor, Swashbuckler, and Warrior. These make more sense to me than the Hero's Journey archetypes.

Once I read this page and clipped it to my Evernote so I'd always have it, I could put a name to the pattern I was looking at in my heroes. I love Warriors. Here's her description:
A noble champion, he acts with honor. This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor. He's noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog. If you need a protector, he’s your guy. He doesn’t buckle under to rules, and he doesn’t go along just to get along. Think Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
Every hero I love in books and movies is a Warrior. If he's a wounded Warrior, all the better. Give me a hero with a noble heart, who is a gentleman to his core, protective of the ones he loves, and able to put others' needs before his own and I'm hooked.

My second favorite hero archetype is the Lost Soul. He usually shows up in my writing as one of the hero's closest friends and I can contrast them. It's a lot of fun. Archetypes aren't restrictive, either. There's infinite variety to play with within each form. Then there's the mixing you can do with having a dominant archetype and a secondary archetype. You're limited only by your imagination.

What's your favorite archetype for a hero?

Rachel Leigh Smith is a romance writer, a geek, and a Southern belle. She lives in Louisiana with a half-crazed calico named Zoe. When not adding words to an SFR novel she’s reading paranormal romance or crafting while watching some type of SF on TV. She’s still unpublished, but hopefully not for long. She also blogs sporadically at www.rachelleighsmith.com and hangs out on Facebook.

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