Thursday, May 17, 2012

Use Archetypes To Build Three Dimensional Characters

I read the Hunger Games just before the movie came out--late to the party as usual. I wanted to experience the phenomenon. I was not disappointed. I still haven't read the other two (or watched the movie for that matter). I'm on it this summer. The first book was good, and I was trying to pinpoint the exact reason why. There were some twists in the plot that didn't sit well with me, and the future itself seemed bleak and hard to believe. No, what made the story great were the characters. Every person in that novel is well rounded and magnificently presented by Suzanne Collins.

There are three people in the story that really stand out for me: Katniss Everdeen, the heroine; Rue, her ally in the games; and Caesar Flickerman, the host of the show.

Especially Caesar, the way she brought him to life, in the few short scenes he was in, was brilliant. He's such a minor character, yet Collins makes him real and multi-dimensional. It's worth studying how she did it.

As I rewrite, I can see that my characterization needs help. I have started studying character archetypes. Every story has them, whether planned or not. Even in real life, people fall into personality types, so it only makes sense that characters in stories should fall into some type as well. These literature archetypes are tried and true characters found in almost all good tales told in all cultures around the world.

People's personalities are a mixture of several types. So it is with characters. That's what I'm working on right now. I have my 4 characters that drive my plot. As I rewrite I am looking at how they fit into character archetypes. Take any story--like the Hunger Games--and read through some of the mythic character archetypes. The characters naturally fall into them.

Here are some resources:

45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (I got this from my local library, a great resource)
Writer's Village University (detailed breakdown of popular archetypes and more)
Ageless Wisdom & the Hero's Journey (A website about mythic hero journeys)


  1. The characters are fantastic in The Hunger Games (even better brought to life through the movie in many ways too). For me, the story's pacing and underlying tension made it a page-turner. :)

    1. I could not agree with you more on the pacing. There was never a dull moment.


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