What is an archetype?
Carl Jung, in all of his psychoanalytic wisdom, theorized that we all have, within us, shared experiences within what he termed the collective unconscious–that we all have, deep down, similar feelings and reactions and desires. This comes through with archetypes–identifiable characters, themes, motifs, symbols, etc–that manifest through storytelling. Every culture has a hierarchy of power, a system of learning, and the players within that framework who set out to accomplish their goals. In storytelling, those archetypal players entertain us with their motivations, their blunders, their victories, and their losses.
If I’ve already posted this brilliant video by Glove and Boots, forgive the repetition, but if you need a crash-course on archetypes, the best way is through their lesson on Joseph’s Campbell’s Hero’s Journey:
Odds are you’re already using Jungian archetypes. Perhaps you’re aware of this fact, perhaps not, but in your story, you have a hero and a villain, a sidekick and a mentor, and perhaps even Threshold Guardians and Shape-shifters. Have you used them with intent and purpose? If not, how would your story change if you did?
For your convenience, please feel free to use this archetype worksheet to help develop the archetypes in your novel. Use it often, print several copies, and share this worksheet with other writers.
I hope you’ve enjoyed Glove and Boots’s video on Monomyth, and I hope you study Campbell’s theory on the hero’s journey. Below are some additional resources, if you’re interested in diving in deeper!
- The Writer’s Journey’s take on the Hero’s Journey, from the mind of Christopher Vogler. By his book here!
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell
- The Hero’s Journey, by Joseph Campbell
- The Power of Myth, an interview of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers.
- MythologyTeacher.com — A great resource for learning about myth and the hero’s journey.