Story Archetypes

Story Cubes is a pocket-sized creative story generator, providing hours of imaginative play for all agesBy Dale Spencer, @DaleSpencerwork

In stories, one of my favorite areas to explore is archetypes. So I’ve decided to reveal a few archetypes found in my YA trilogy.

According to Britannica.com, an archetype means, “… original pattern…in literary criticism, [it’s] a primordial image, character, or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered a universal concept or situation…The term was adopted and popularized by literary critics from the writings of the psychologist Carl Jung, who formulated a theory of a ‘collective unconscious.’ For Jung, the varieties of human experience have somehow been genetically coded and transferred to successive generations. These primordial image patterns and situations evoke startlingly similar feelings in both reader and author.” Of course there are other definitions of the word “archetype.” If you would like to explore more of these meanings, check out Webster’s Dictionary.

Speaking of Mr. Jung…according to changingminds.org, Carl Jung’s 7 story archetypes are:

    • The hero: Rescuer, champion
    • The maiden: Purity, desire
    • The wise old man: Knowledge, guidance
    • The magician: Mysterious, powerful
    • The earth mother: Nature
    • The witch or sorceress: Dangerous
    • The trickster: Deceiving, hidden

Six of these story archetypes exist in my trilogy where some are metaphorical while others are more literal. My 6 archetypes with brief description include:

    • The hero: Multiple male and female characters
    • The maiden: Two teen girls
    • The wise old man: The one who has trained the heroes
    • The magician: Several male characters, who are not literal magicians
    • The witch or sorceress: A wicked woman (who’s not really a witch) determined to thwart the heroes’ plans
    • The trickster: A character that causes conflict and builds lots of tension

In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are lots of other character archetypes that exist. If you’re interested reading some other ones, check out goteenwriters.blogpost.com.

Archetypes can also exist as other symbols such as numbers too. For instance, The Archetypal Connection gives good examples of the numbers 0-13. I must confess. I am obsessed with symbolic numbers. My trilogy mainly focuses on the numbers 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8.

By the way, there are all sorts of symbolic archetypes to explore. If you have an interest in seeing some imagery examples, click here.

My favorite archetypal type is plot. When it comes to archetypal plots, there are many types of patterns. According to mnsu.edu, “One of the most often traced archetypal patterns is that of the quest (or search) by the protagonist (or hero), who must leave her/his home, travel into unfamiliar territory, meet a guide, endure dangerous situations and adventures, reach the object of her/his quest, gain important new knowledge, and return home with that knowledge to share with others.” I kid you not. My trilogy does in fact follow this common archetypal pattern. So if you like these types of stories, more than likely you might like my trilogy too.

Read, watch, and explore stories on your own. Do you see any archetypes that exist in the good stories? What is your favorite type(s) of story archetypes?

References:

  • “Archetype.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 10 July 2013.  

<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/32765/archetype>.

  • Bunkers, Suzanne L. Archetypal TheoryMinnesota State University. Web. 10 July 2013.

<http://www.intech.mnsu.edu/bunkers/archetypal_theory.htm>.

  • “Jung’s Archetypes.” Jung’s Archetypes. Changing Minds. Web. 10 July 2013.

<http://changingminds.org/explanations/identity/jung_archetypes.htm>.

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