Hola, I’m Jolene Navarro. Thank you for joining me on a discussion of craft. I love talking story and how our brain connects the dots to create something that no one else can write. Part of being a writer is being an observer of human nature.
Just look around you. Your life is a cast of characters!
Today we’re exploring archetypes and real life observations and how they can be twisted so your characters become real.
How can we make our characters grow in believable and interesting ways? We want them to live on in the reader’s mind after the book is closed.
It’s the characters we fall in love with and they are the ones that move our plot.
The key is to make sure your characters are deep enough to have solid internal and external conflict that will take them through the whole story without becoming episodic. Easy right? LOL Ready to break it down?
To create people that will make your story zing, you need conflict that flows naturally from your characters. (Not a lost job, snow storm or foreclosed house)
Let’s start with archetypes.
I use “The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines” by Cowden, LaFever and Viders and “Archetype Cards” by Caroline Myss.
Here are the archetypes outlined in The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines.
The CHIEF— a dynamic leader, he has time for nothing but work.
The BAD BOY— dangerous to know, he walks on the wild side.
The BEST FRIEND— sweet and safe, he never lets anyone down.
The LOST SOUL— a tormented being, he lives in solitude.
The CHARMER— a smooth talker, he creates fantasies.
The PROFESSOR— coolly analytical, he knows every answer.
The SWASHBUCKLER— Mr. Excitement, he’s an adventurer.
The WARRIOR— a noble champion, he acts with honor.
The BOSS— a real go-getter, she climbs the ladder of success.
The SEDUCTRESS— an enchantress, she charms to get her way.
The SPUNKY KID— gutsy and true, she is loyal to the end.
The FREE SPIRIT— an eternal optimist, she dances to unheard tunes.
The WAIF— a distressed damsel, she bends, but does not break.
The LIBRARIAN— controlled and clever, she holds back.
The CRUSADER— a dedicated fighter, she meets commitments.
The NURTURER— serene and capable, she nourishes the spirit.
And a little about the Archetype Cards: Here is the breakdown of the Myss archetypes.
Light Attributes would be positive attributes.
Shadow Attributes would be more negative attributes.
Starting with archetypes can work well because these characters are embedded in our DNA. We know them. We live with them. We read them. From Beowulf to Pride and Prejudice all the way to Avengers, writers use archetypes to help us connect to the characters they created.
Mr. Darcy, a romantic favorite, is clearly a CHIEF, a born leader and decisive.
Going to the archetype cards he is the JUDGE. On the shadow side, he starts off overbearing, inflexible and judging without compassion.
Through his character arc in the story he remains true to his character trait but he learns to use his judgment to seek balance between justice and compassion. He steps into the light of the JUDGE. It is wisdom. He understands there needs to be a fair distribution of power.
Yay, Mr. Darcy.
Another example is from my latest story, Forever Christmas Kiss.
Xaviar, the hero, is the LOST SOUL:
Tortured, secretive, wanderer. He's creative. To twist it, he hides behind an easy smile and a careless attitude. He needs and wants roots but has a deep fear of connections because of his experiences since childhood.
Using the cards, I give him the trait of a Seeker.
Shadow: Inability to commit, always moving on to another path. Lost.
Light: Thirst for wisdom and truth. Finding peace.
His heroine is the LIBRARIAN:
Controlled and clever, prim and proper. Hiding her true self out of fear of making a mistake.
Using the cards: Servant.
Shadow: Being responsible is used as an excuse to not life her own life. Resentment.
Light: Delights in serving others with free, loving and open heart.
He will teach her the joy of taking risks, of flying. She will give him the roots and family he longs for. Together they find the full purpose God has for them.
Now we are going to brainstorm from the beginning, using what we observe and the archetypes. I’m going to throw my friend, Teri Wilson, under the bus as an example…I mean I’m using her for inspiration. She is a girly girl. She loves glitter, ballet, and anything royal. Not necessarily in that order. She’ll also meet me before the sun clears the horizon with her hair in a messy bun to walk on the beach. Without a second thought, she’ll pick up a tiny turquoise fish stuck in the sand with her bare hands and return him to the ocean.
So I have these two pictures.
Yes, I take pictures of people all the time for my personal files. People that surprise me, inspire me, and intrigue me are all in an idea folder I have on my computer.
Using the pictures and archetypes, let’s go through a brainstorming exercise to develop an interesting, breathing character.
Remember this is not Teri, but a fictional character that will have all the flaws we need to create tension and conflict that will take our heroine from living in the shadows to her light and happy ending. No static characters!
For archetypes, we’ll make her a FREE SPIRIT.
Eternal optimist, dances to music no one else hears, she follows her heart.
Archetype twist: Protective of her heart because she has been hurt too many times by family, church & past boyfriends.
What can we do to make her more interesting?
Archetype cards: WOUNDED CHILD:
Shadow: resist forgiveness. Hangs on to old wounds.
Light: Opens to the path of forgiveness. Compassion and desire to help others.
2ND Archetype: MAGICAL CHILD:
Shadow: Lost faith. Cynical, Pessimism
Light: Finding the sacred beauty in life. Restored faith.
Now we are starting to know her. It’s time to develop a hero just for her, one that will push her, challenge her and bring out the best in her. Help move her from living in her shadow to living in the light. She will do the same for him. We will sigh at their happy ending.
One last note - to make them real you have to find out why. Always find out why. Also known as motivation. Why? Why? Why?
In the Christmas Carol we don’t see just one hard hit, but a series of scaring emotional events that shape Scrooge into a bitter old man.
It’s fun to dig deep and get to know your characters. It’s so much more than their favorite color or ice cream. Unless it has to do with a dead sister!
Back to our brainstorming!
I already see scenes even without having our hero fleshed out yet. Are you seeing them? In the intro, he sees her all put together, her public image of the beautiful graceful dancer. He’s the youth minister at a mega church. She has some experience that makes her cynical of big powerful churches. They are on opposing side of something.
Now their second meeting: His mother has asked him to pick up his niece from dance class.
Opening the door, he bumps into the heroine in baggy oversized workout clothes. Her hair is in a sloppy bun and she has no make-up on…in her hand she is calmly holding a praying mantis.
His niece is close behind, tears in her eyes.
The heroine will become awkward and uneasy because she doesn’t have her public armor on…he sees the real her.
His niece hasn’t spoken since the car accident that killed her parents. Standing next to the heroine, she speaks. “Mr. Bob was going to kill it.”
Right there, I think the hero will start to fall in love with her.
Can you see how we used their traits to set the scene and we are showing instead of telling the reader who they are. We can see so much character in this small action that all comes from our inspiration and playing with the archetypes. We flipped our princess and we gave our smart and serious hero a vulnerability.
Of course, it still needs lots of layers, but we have the bones of real characters that we can cheer for and watch fall in love. To ensure you have a power packed story you need threads and conflicts that stay connected and build on each other.
Character traits that are aligned and oppose to the internal and external goals will have your story popping and sizzling throughout the journey. All neatly intertwined, as you build to the climax. The characters will move from their shadow to their true essences, into the light, fulfilling the purpose God had for them since the very beginning.
Let’s apply what we talked about. It’s your turn.
What archetypes would you use for our hero in order to create the best possible tension for our Free Spirit, wounded heroine and help her find her light?
There are no wrong answers.
Jolene Navarro's life, much like her stories, is filled with faith, family, football, art, laughter, dirty dishes and all of life's wonderful messiness. She knows that, as much as the world changes, people stay the same. Good and evil. Vow-keepers and heart breakers. Jolene married a vow-keeper who showed her that holding hands and dancing in the rain never gets old. When she's not teaching art to energetic middle-schoolers or hanging out with her four kids, she loves creating stories of love and faith in her much loved Texas.
And if you want to chat more about story, you can find her at her favorite place – Facebook at Jolene Navarro, Author.
Leave a comment today for a chance to win an ecopy of Forever Christmas Kiss or a print copy of The Soldier's Surprise Family. Two winners.
And a bonus giveaway! Jolene will send Caroline Myss Archetype Cards to one person who mentions they'd like to win them in the comments!
Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
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