Tag Archives: character motivations

Welcome Kit Campbell

Kit Campbell ran a blog series about character archetypes recently. I really enjoyed it, and invited her to post about it over here. Her blog is fun and informative, so please check it out. You’ll figure that out when you read her bio. Besides, she calls me a Squidder, who doesn’t want to be a Squidder? Take it away, Kit:

Much thanks to Craig for having me! Recently I ran a series on my blog, Where Landsquid Fear to Tread, about character archetypes. Craig and I got to talking, and here I am. Now, Kit, you ask, what is an archetype? An archetype is something considered to be a universal type that things/people/stories tend to fall into. So character archetypes can be found in stories and legends throughout history, up to and including stories today. And the nice thing about understanding archetypes is that you can see them—and how to twist them—both in your own writing and in the media you consume.

I’ve selected five of the most basic archetypes to go over. The number of character archetypes varies depending on who you talk to, but these tend to be fairly universal.

The Hero archetype is perhaps the most well known. After all, most stories have heroes of some form or another. Archetypal heroes tend to either be orphans or are orphaned shortly after the start of the story, and they are forced out of their home by the plot. They tend to be uniformly good, and are often special in some manner. Examples of archetypal heroes include Luke Skywalker, Simba, and King Arthur.

The Villain archetype tends to be the opposite of a hero archetype. Archetypal villains are uniformly evil and also tend to be selfish and power hungry, uncaring as to who gets hurt in their quest for their goals. Archetypal villains tend to receive more criticism than other characters, as many people see them as being underdeveloped in characterization. Examples of archetypal villains include the Wicked Witch of the West, Emperor Palpatine, and Jafar from Aladdin.

The Mentor archetype, again, is very common. Almost all archetypal heroes have a mentor who helps them on their way. Mentors act as a guide to the hero, helping them prepare for what lies ahead. They’re typically presented as old men, though exceptions exist. Mentor characters are often removed from the story to force the hero to go on alone. Examples of archetypal mentors include Obi-Wan Kenobi (original Star Wars movies), Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Merlin.

The Evil with a Heart of Gold archetype (link: http://landsquidattack.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/character-archetypes-evil-with-a-heart-of-gold/) tends to be very common, though not as obvious. Characters who are evil with a heart of gold start the story on the villain’s side, but are eventually drawn to the hero’s side and turn against their original master. They are redeemable, and tend to have been good in the past. Sometimes they are echoes of the hero, where they turn to evil at a point where the hero has prevailed in keeping his/her morals. Examples of characters in the Evil with a Heart of Gold archetype include Darth Vader or the Terminator. If a previously evil character sacrifices themselves for the hero, they are probably Evil with a Heart of Gold.

The Damsel in Distress archetype is another one that sees a lot of criticism for lack of characterization. Damsels in distress tend to exist more as objects or goals than people—someone for the hero to rescue more than anything else. They tend to be women, but this is not always true. Unlike the other archetypes discussed here, damsels in distress can morph into other archetypes if they stay in the narrative. Examples of the Damsel in Distress archetype include Princess Peach, several fairy tale characters, and Robin from the Batman comics.

This is just a sample of the character archetypes. Some people will break these down into sub-archetypes, or combine some into a bigger archetype. (For example, someone might include Evil with a Heart of Gold under the larger title of the Villain, with a definition for the Villain that includes anyone acting in opposition to the Hero.) In fact, for something “universal,” it’s kind of interesting how much variation there is, depending on who you talk to.

I hope this gives you a basic idea of character archetypes. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions!



It is a little known fact that Kit was raised in the wild by a marauding gang of octopuses. It wasn’t until she was 25 that she was discovered by a traveling National Geographic scientist and brought back to civilization. This is sometimes apparent in the way that she attempts to escape through tubes when startled. Her transition to normalcy has been slow, but scientists predict that she will have mastered basics such as fork use sometime in the next year. More complex skills, such as proper grocery store etiquette, may be forever outside her reach.


Kit’s stories have been published in half-a-dozen anthologies. Her two novels, Shards, an urban mythic fantasy, and Hidden Worlds , a fantasy adventure, are available from Turtleduck Press.

Kit lives in Colorado in a house of ever-increasing chaos. She can be found around the internet at kitcampbellbooks.com, @KitCampbell, and on Goodreads. Kit also offers an editing and formatting service. More information can be found at Kit the Editor.


I told you guys she was fun. Make sure she feels welcome. She probably doesn’t bite.

The individual posts are a bit more fleshed out, and these bits are a summary.



Filed under Writing

Build your fictional characters

Deborah Fredericks has a great blog that involves a lot of research into dragons. There are dragon legends all over the world, and Deby knows her stuff. I encourage everyone to visit her blog and consider following her. She’s here today to tell us how she fleshes out her point of view characters. Take it away, Deby:

Deflecting Stereotypes

Deby Fredericks

Among the many sins a writer can commit, the one I dread the most is flat, predictable characters. Characters who are defined by some sort of title (“the guard”) or stereotypical role (“grouchy old wizard”). Characters who aren’t… creative.

So I’ve developed a process to help me look beyond such obvious tropes. Most new novels, I work up at least three concepts for each main character, which include a background, motivation and the skills or strengths they will bring to the tale.

The first concept will almost certainly be a stereotype, with motivations a child could see through: a poor woman who works a dead-end job. The second concept will be more interesting, but still predictable: a poor woman in a dead-end job who wants to marry a wealthy customer and leave drudgery behind.

The third concept and any others that follow will become more and more interesting, but less and less predictable. The goal is to arrive at something fresh and original, with enough familiar tropes that readers feel comfortable.

Often I will end up with something like this: “The main character is a bar maid in a dive. She knows her life could be better than this, so she hooks up with the vampire who promises wealth and fame in return for a pint or two of blood. Based on her background, she has a tough attitude, some mercantile skills, plus she carries a stiletto and isn’t afraid to use it.”

I do this for any character that might be a point of view, and for the major antagonists. I also do this for plot developments when I’m not sure what should happen next, and sometimes for whole societies. After all, “secret ninja village” can be just as much a stereotype as “hard-boiled detective.”

Often, the final character will have elements from several of the concepts, but not use any of them exactly. But I try at every phase to generate fresh events or character motives that will surprise my readers and keep them coming back for more.

Deby Fredericks is a small press author with five fantasy novels in print. She writes for kids as Lucy D. Ford. Her web site is www.debyfredericks.com, and her blog is wyrmflight.wordpress.org.


This is a blog swap today, and I’m appearing at Deby’s blog. I’m talking about a cockatrice named Gallicus in hopes of fitting in with her dragon theme. You might learn a secret about me if you read it.



Filed under Writing