14.6 C
New York
Saturday, November 18, 2023

Tips on how to Use Archetypes in a Collection

Probably the most frequent questions I obtain is the right way to use archetypes in a sequence. The brief reply is: nonetheless you need! Archetypes are endlessly adaptable. Nevertheless, there are a number of vital concerns to bear in mind. Most should do with understanding the form of the story you’re going to be telling over the course of your sequence.

Archetypes are common symbols. Story itself is archetypal. Plot construction is archetypal. Genres are archetypal. And, after all, characters are archetypal. I’ve written in-depth about what I name the “life cycle” of archetypal character arcs. This method is centered round six archetypes that characterize initiatory transformations throughout the human expertise:

  • The Maiden (coming of age and individuating from the tribe)
  • The Hero (integrating energy with love)
  • The Queen (assuming management roles)
  • The King (studying to sacrifice and give up one’s energy)
  • The Crone (grappling with mortality)
  • The Mage (transcending attachment and the necessity for management)

Writing Archetypal Character Arcs (affiliate hyperlink)

In my e book Writing Archetypal Character Arcs, I define structural beat sheets for all these journeys. I additionally deeply discover the 2 shadow archetypes connected to every arc (one passive, one aggressive), the “flat” archetypes that reside between every of the transformations, and the archetypal antagonists who body the theme of every arc.

Lately, I launched a sequence of six Archetypal Character Guided Meditations, which I designed as a instrument to assist writers entry their very own archetypal knowledge by taking them by way of all of the vital plot beats and symbolism of every archetypal journey.

Whereas speaking to a number of of you after releasing this instrument, I used to be impressed to circle again to this frequent query I obtain about the right way to use archetypes in a sequence—one thing so a lot of you’re doing in your tales.

Collection are great not only for their potential profitability, but additionally as a result of they permit us to sink deeply into the expertise, exploring elements and angles of a personality’s journey we could not have the ability to entry in a single installment. Nevertheless, by nature of their complexity, sequence can be difficult. Whether it is troublesome to create cohesion and resonance inside a single e book, a sequence usually ups that quotient a number of occasions!

I’ve written earlier than about concerns for plot and character arcs in a sequence:

In the present day, I need to discover particular concerns when utilizing archetypes in a sequence.

Earlier than You Suppose About Character Arcs in a Collection, Suppose About Plot Construction

Creating Character Arcs

Creating Character Arcs (Amazon affiliate hyperlink)

At their coronary heart, archetypal journeys are at all times character arcs—and resonant character arcs are in themselves a well-defined story form. Form=construction. Earlier than you dive headlong into archetypal waters, contemplate the form of the sequence you’re about to create.

As an example, will you be telling a narrative that options episodic standalone entries? This could be the case in a whodunit serial or in a sequence of interconnected romance tales that includes a brand new lead couple in every entry. Or are you planning an overarching storyline that includes a single cohesive plot throughout a number of books?

In both case, it is crucial that each one particular person books—whether or not standalone or a part of an overarching storyline—are structurally full unto themselves. What this implies within the case of episodes inside a bigger storyline is that every installment must be a structurally full unit, that includes a “mini” plotline that may be arrange within the Inciting Occasion and concluded within the Climactic Second, whilst different parts of the story are left to develop all through the remainder of the sequence.

Structuring Your Novel IPPY Award 165

Structuring Your Novel (Amazon affiliate hyperlink)

Probably the most frequent issues I see with cliffhanger endings just isn’t the cliffhanger itself, however the truth that the construction was left hanging. It is a certain technique to upset readers. They received’t thoughts if parts of the overarching story are used to create a cliffhanger, so long as there’s a sense of structural integrity and completion to the person episode.

One other frequent quandary is the right way to construction the overarching story itself. How does structural timing play right into a sequence? Ideally, the structural timing performs out a lot the identical as in a person e book. As an example, should you’re writing a trilogy, every of the books within the overarching story can perform as one of many Three Acts.

In case you’re writing a narrative with a yet-to-be-determined variety of entries, this could turn into a lot trickier. Ideally, you’ll a minimum of have a notion of how the sequence will finish so you’ll be able to create all the mandatory setup and foreshadowing to start with and plan vital structural moments for every e book all through the sequence. Nevertheless, the important thing rule in structural timing is that “the longer the story, the much less exact the timing must be.” Which means that in a sequence of, say, twenty books, it isn’t essential that the Midpoint occur precisely in Guide 10.

Significantly, should you do know your sequence’ overarching construction, it’s possible you’ll discover it useful to think about chiastic structuring. Chiasmus is a way by which the beats within the second half of the story mirror these within the first half. There’s a deeply archetypal high quality to chiastic construction, by which all issues come full circle, repeating the sample at a brand new stage of the spiral.

4 Methods to Use Archetypes in a Collection

When you’ve decided what sort of sequence you need to write, you can begin deciding which archetypal character arc makes probably the most sense to your protagonist. For that, I like to recommend studying the beat sheets of every archetype (or taking the journey your self within the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations!). As soon as you realize what you’re working with, contemplate the next 4 approaches to the right way to use archetypes in a sequence so you’ll be able to decide which feels most resonant.

1. Match the Beats of a Single Archetypal Journey to the Collection’ Overarching Construction

The obvious means the right way to use archetypes in a sequence is to inform a single archetypal journey that spans your complete sequence. For this, you’ll be able to take the beats of your chosen archetype and apply them to the construction of the sequence. Your character will full their archetypal transformation by the tip of the ultimate e book.

As talked about earlier, it’s nonetheless vital for every e book throughout the sequence to supply a whole and encapsulated plot construction, from Inciting Occasion all the best way to Climactic Second. As a result of plot construction is so intently tied to character transformation, this implies the protagonist will doubtless expertise a “mini” character arc in every e book.

Probably the most intuitive methods to strategy that is to focus the overarching plot and arc of your sequence on the story’s fundamental thematic Lie and Fact, whereas the person installments every sort out a smaller model or “symptom” of the Lie, slowly advancing the character towards the final word realization on the finish of the sequence.

If you’re telling an overarching story a couple of single archetypal journey, you’ll be able to look at the archetype’s construction to determine what themes could be most vital to discover in every particular person story’s character arc. For instance, in case your character is following a Maiden Arc as did a lot of the younger characters, equivalent to Annie, within the sequence Candy Magnolias, you’ll be able to select to discover a personality’s “Protected World” in a single e book, their “New Id” in one other, their dance with the “Predator” in one other, and so forth.

Candy Magnolias (2020-), Netflix.

This strategy is frequent in plot-driven sequence, by which a lot of the story might be targeted on exterior motion. In case you’re desirous to go deeper with character improvement, it’ll usually make extra sense to discover a number of successive archetypes for the protagonist (see Level #2, beneath). Nevertheless, creating the inspiration of a single archetypal character arc can carry a strong depth to a plot-driven story by grounding the motion within the archetype’s deep symbolism.

2. Advance the Protagonist By way of All Six Archetypes Over the Course of the Collection

In distinction to picking to drill deep with a single archetype over the course of many tales, you may also select to discover a brand new archetypal transformation in every new installment. It is a frequent strategy in most sequence, particularly people who cowl prolonged timespans and/or put their characters by way of notably difficult circumstances.

The fantastic thing about this strategy is that every of the six archetypal character arcs aligns with a structural beat.

  1. The Maiden: Inciting Occasion
  2. The Hero: First Plot Level
  3. The Queen: First Half of Second Act
  4. The King: Second Half of Second Act
  5. The Crone: Third Plot Level
  6. The Mage: Climax

Not solely does this make it simpler to plan your structural and character improvement all through your sequence, it additionally presents the chance to rework your whole sequence right into a deeply cohesive and resonant journey.

In case you select this strategy, it’s not essential to characteristic all six archetypes. As an example, it’s possible you’ll select to discover solely two.

It is usually vital to notice that regardless that the archetypal development does align with story construction, you should not have to stick your sequence’ structural timing to this alignment. As an example, should you select to write down successive tales that chart the protagonist’s arcs by way of Hero and Queen, the archetypes themselves needn’t at all times be contained to separate books. You’ll be able to inform a sequence by which the Hero and the Queen each characteristic in Guide 1, the King options in Guide 2, the Crone occurs in between books, and the Mage closes out the sequence in Guide 3. (And, after all, you may additionally select to characteristic a number of archetypes throughout the span of a single e book, as does T.H. White’s As soon as and Future King, which follows King Arthur from Maiden by way of King).

Collection equivalent to Orson Scott Card’s Ender Quartet and Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles observe their protagonists all through their lifetimes, permitting them to chart by way of virtually all the archetypes. Equally, Katniss Everdeen in The Starvation Video games trilogy may be seen to successively characterize variations on the Hero, the Queen, and the King in every installment.

The Starvation Video games: Mockingjay, Half 2 (2015), Lionsgate.

3. Observe A number of Character Arcs By way of Interwoven Archetypes

By their very nature, archetypes don’t exist in a vacuum. We see this most popularly within the Hero Arc, which classically includes a Name to Journey initiated by both a Mage character or his flat archetype accomplice of Mentor. As soon as you realize what archetypal journey(s) your protagonist might be taking, you’ll be able to uncover which supporting archetypes might be most useful to your story.

Writing Your Story’s Theme (Amazon affiliate hyperlink)

It’s also possible to select to characteristic concurrent archetypal character arcs for a number of characters. Significantly if you’re telling a sprawling story that options a big solid and/or a number of plotlines, you’ll be able to entry large depth by exploring your story’s theme by way of the various lenses of characters who’re all experiencing completely different archetypal initiations.

For instance, one of many many causes The Lord of the Rings is ready to provide such unimaginable symbolic resonance is its concurrent exploration of a number of archetypal journeys. We will see Frodo taking a Hero Arc, Aragorn taking a Queen Arc, Theoden taking a King Arc, and Gandalf transitioning from Crone to Mage (and these are all discovered amongst many different associated flat and shadow archetypes all through the story).

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), New Line Cinema.

Because of its inherent complexity, this strategy is essentially intensive. The extra arcs you observe, the extra potential unfastened ends you’ll have to carry collectively in a thematically cohesive finale. Nevertheless, should you tune in deeply to the archetypes themselves, they may present you how one can weave all of them collectively in a means that finally tells a single overarching story (the story of the life cycle!), reasonably than many disparate subplots.

4. Function a Single Flat Archetype All through the Collection

Lastly, you may also select to characteristic a single unchanging flat archetype over the course of your whole sequence.

Flat archetypes are:

  1. Youngster (precedes Maiden Arc)
  2. Lover (precedes Hero Arc)
  3. Mum or dad (precedes Queen Arc)
  4. Ruler (precedes King Arc)
  5. Elder (precedes Crone Arc)
  6. Mentor (precedes Mage Arc)

They’re are mostly seen in sequence that characteristic episodic standalone tales—ones by which the protagonist goes on a brand new “journey” in each installment. Characters equivalent to Jack Reacher who journey to new places to come across new plot challenges match this description, as do protagonists in lots of long-running kids’s sequence and lots of whodunit detectives equivalent to Hercule Poirot.

Did Agatha Christie Have a Formula for Success?

Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013), ITV.

Nevertheless, you may also characteristic a constant flat archetype in a extra conventional Flat Arc story—by which the Flat Arc protagonist represents the story’s Fact and makes use of it to provoke the transformations of supporting solid members.

Character Arc 2 - Flat

In these tales, an important archetypal selections are sometimes these of the supporting solid. Writing a very highly effective flat archetype over the course of a prolonged sequence comes with its personal challenges, since by their very changelessness, these characters can generally lack dynamism. Nevertheless, when completed effectively, they’re extremely highly effective.

A contemporary instance can be Steve Rogers within the MCU, who holds to the flat Ruler archetype all through a lot of the sequence, whereas different characters (most notably Tony Stark) change round him and due to him.


Captain America: Civil Struggle (2016), Marvel Studios.


The depth accessible in writing archetypal tales is endless. In case you select to go deep with a sequence, you’ll be able to discover your characters’ archetypes in so some ways. Understanding the right way to write archetypes in a sequence is a strong step ahead in bringing complexity, nuance, and deep thematic resonance to any sort of story it’s possible you’ll need to inform.

Wordplayers, inform me your opinions! What’s your finest recommendation for the right way to use archetypes in a sequence? Inform me within the feedback!

Click on the “Play” button to Take heed to Audio Model (or subscribe to the Serving to Writers Grow to be Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).


Love Serving to Writers Grow to be Authors? Now you can turn into a patron. (Large due to these of you who’re already a part of my Patreon household!)

Supply hyperlink

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles