While reading, many of you may of noticed that very similar characters and situations appear in completely different books. It could be the classic battle-between-good-and-evil scene, the over-enthusiastic, boy-crazy best friend, or similar situations with father-son conflict. Regardless, whether you are consciously aware of it or not, there are specific character types, or archetypes, found in every book.
This concept of similar characters has been intriguing me for years, so I did some research on it. Turns out, this guy named Joseph Campbell studied thousands of myths from different cultures in 1949, and published his findings in a book titled, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” It talked about the typical hero’s journey, as does the Ted-Ed video above.
If you don’t have time to watch the video, the essential gist of it was that the journey of a hero follows a typical pattern, even heroes of today’s literature, like the Hunger Games. Explaining it would be quite tedious, so here is a wonderful graphic explaining the journey, along with an example of one hero’s journey, Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. (Click on the image to make it bigger)
Essentially, the hero’s comfort zone is their ordinary world, and through their journey, they go through a special world, where most of the action takes place. They steps they go through are pretty predictable, pick your favorite hero and run it through this.
You get the picture. But get this- its not just the story that’s predictable; the characters are predictable as well. There are many archetypes character-wise as well, here are a few:
Every single book, and I mean every book has at least one of these archetypes. In fact, take your favorite story and run it through this. You should find at least one character that fits one of these profile, and most likely you’ll find more.
Still don’t believe me? Check this out:
Of course, there are many more archetypes than this, but my point is that all stories follow a pattern. Knowing these patterns is not only interesting and makes you feel smart, but also makes you a wiser and better reader. So next time you’re reading a book, look out for some archetypes. Have fun!
Note: All photos are from google images, and video is a Ted-Ed video from youtube.