Writing process: 12 common archetypes

The 12 Common Archetypes


Writers can use these 12 Archetypes to create characters

The 12 Common Archetypes by Carl Golden

The twelve archetypes are divided into ego types, self types, and soul types.

1) The Four Ego Types

1. The Innocent
Motto: Free to be you and me
Core desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
Greatest fear: to be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: to do things right
Weakness: boring for all their naive innocence
Talent: faith and optimism
The Innocent is also known as: Utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.

2. The Orphan/Regular Guy or Gal
Motto: All men and women are created equal
Core Desire: connecting with others
Goal: to belong
Greatest fear: to be left out or to stand out from the crowd
Strategy: develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Weakness: losing one’s own self in an effort to blend in or for the sake of superficial relationships
Talent: realism, empathy, lack of pretence
The Regular Person is also known as: The good old boy, everyman, the person next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbour, the silent majority.

3. The Hero
Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Core desire: to prove one’s worth through courageous acts
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Greatest fear: weakness, vulnerability, being a “chicken”
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight
Talent: competence and courage
The Hero is also known as: The warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, the soldier, dragon slayer, the winner and the team player.

4. The Caregiver
Motto: Love your neighbour as yourself
Core desire: to protect and care for others
Goal: to help others
Greatest fear: selfishness and ingratitude
Strategy: doing things for others
Weakness: martyrdom and being exploited
Talent: compassion, generosity
The Caregiver is also known as: The saint, altruist, parent, helper, supporter.

2) The Four Soul Types

5. The Explorer
Motto: Don’t fence me in
Core desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Biggest fear: getting trapped, conformity, and inner emptiness
Strategy: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Weakness: aimless wandering, becoming a misfit
Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul
The explorer is also known as: The seeker, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim.

6. The Rebel
Motto: Rules are made to be broken
Core desire: revenge or revolution
Goal: to overturn what isn’t working
Greatest fear: to be powerless or ineffectual
Strategy: disrupt, destroy, or shock
Weakness: crossing over to the dark side, crime
Talent: outrageousness, radical freedom
The Outlaw is also known as: The rebel, revolutionary, wild man, the misfit, or iconoclast.

7. The Lover
Motto: You’re the only one
Core desire: intimacy and experience
Goal: being in a relationship with the people, work and surroundings they love
Greatest fear: being alone, a wallflower, unwanted, unloved
Strategy: to become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Weakness: outward-directed desire to please others at risk of losing own identity
Talent: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment
The Lover is also known as: The partner, friend, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, spouse, team-builder.

8. The Creator
Motto: If you can imagine it, it can be done
Core desire: to create things of enduring value
Goal: to realize a vision
Greatest fear: mediocre vision or execution
Strategy: develop artistic control and skill
Task: to create culture, express own vision
Weakness: perfectionism, bad solutions
Talent: creativity and imagination
The Creator is also known as: The artist, inventor, innovator, musician, writer or dreamer.

3) The Four Self Types

9. The Jester
Motto: You only live once
Core desire: to live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: to have a great time and lighten up the world
Greatest fear: being bored or boring others
Strategy: play, make jokes, be funny
Weakness: frivolity, wasting time
Talent: joy
The Jester is also known as: The fool, trickster, joker, practical joker or comedian.

10. The Sage
Motto: The truth will set you free
Core desire: to find the truth.
Goal: to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.
Biggest fear: being duped, misled—or ignorance.
Strategy: seeking out information and knowledge; self-reflection and understanding thought processes.
Weakness: can study details forever and never act.
Talent: wisdom, intelligence.
The Sage is also known as: The expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative.

11. The Magician
Motto: I make things happen.
Core desire: understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: to make dreams come true
Greatest fear: unintended negative consequences
Strategy: develop a vision and live by it
Weakness: becoming manipulative
Talent: finding win-win solutions
The Magician is also known as: The visionary, catalyst, inventor, charismatic leader, shaman, healer, medicine man.

12. The Ruler
Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Core desire: control
Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: exercise power
Greatest fear: chaos, being overthrown
Weakness: being authoritarian, unable to delegate
Talent: responsibility, leadership
The Ruler is also known as: The boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model, manager or administrator.

Note: There are four cardinal orientations: freedom, social, ego, order. The types have a place on these orientations.

Writing process: Play to your strengths

Play to your strengths.
“I haven’t got any,” said Harry, before he could stop himself.
“Excuse me,” growled Moody, “you’ve got strengths if I say you’ve got them.” ― From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling


What are your strengths as a writer? Are you good at writing humor? Sex scenes? Humorous sex scenes? Maybe your friends have told you that you’re good at writing dialogue. Or action. Whatever you’re good at, focus on that.  Make a list of your strengths as a writer and refer to it during your next writing session.

Writing process: Why description is important

Why Description Matters to the Brain

May 9, 2013 § 14 Comments

A guest post from Andrea Badgley:

Sticks and stones may break your bones, and words may too, it turns out. At least as far as your mind is concerned. I won’t write a grisly description of a bone breaking, but according to cognitive research explored on National Public Radio last week, if you read vivid language describing the action of say, a femur splintering, your mind doesn’t just see the words and paint a visual picture, your brain simulates the experience. If the writing is good, you might hear the femur crack, see a shard slice through skin, sense a shiver in your own femur. Feel your stomach turn.This research has powerful implications for creative nonfiction writers. It gives us insight into how descriptive writing works, why it is effective, and how we can make an impact with our words.Until the 1990s, linguists believed that language was processed by a discrete region of the brain, a language “module” that humans evolved uniquely, since no other species shows an aptitude for language like mankind does. But in the 1990s, scientists who wanted to find this module in the brain found something else entirely when they used functional MRIs to observe the brain’s response to words. They found that when a human hears language, a discrete region of the brain does not respond. The entire brain responds. As Benjamin Bergen and Jon Hamilton described in the NPR piece:

If someone read a sentence like, “the shortstop threw the ball to first base,” parts of the brain dedicated to vision and movement would light up.

“The way that you understand an action is by recreating in your vision system what it would look like… and recreating in your motor system what it would be like to be that shortstop, to have the ball in your hand and release it,” Bergen says.

Your vision system and your motor system react to language. In other words, as Bergen explains, “When you encounter words describing a particular action, your brain simulates the experience.”

This is the key element that got me excited as a writer and a reader – that language creates a virtual reality. They didn’t go into it on the show, but presumably when your mind interprets words, it doesn’t just form images and motor reactions, but good writing may also trigger physiological responses, such as the release of adrenaline or endorphins. Like when Shirley Jackson terrifies me, makes my heart race, and triggers the fight (keep reading) or flight (hide the book behind others on the shelf) response with The Haunting of Hill House. Or when Natalie Goldberg does the opposite – relaxes my muscles, lowers my blood pressure, and cloaks me in calm – with her gentle language in Long Quiet Highway.

So what does this mean for creative nonfiction writers? These findings are the essence of the author’s adage, “Show don’t tell.” They explain why showing works and telling doesn’t. When we tell a story in the form of “this happened, and then this happened,” we’re not giving the reader much to work with.

Alice went to the window and got mad when she saw Tom had showed up.

What experience can the brain simulate from that? Not much. “Went” and “got mad” don’t trigger specific images that give the mind traction for launching a virtual reality. But if we use strong verbs, if we show Alice’s stride, if we describe her anger with a facial expression:

Alice strode to the window and scowled when the chauffeur opened the car door and Tom stepped out.

The reader’s brain has specific images to work with, like “strode” and “scowled,” that conjure not just visual cues, but emotional cues as well. The reader will likely experience a more vivid simulation with the second sentence. Maybe there will even be a reaction – a little fluttering in her heart as her mind braces for a confrontation.

From a big picture standpoint, these findings are thrilling because they show why good writing moves us, why we crave it, why we are driven to create and consume it. Language is not just for communicating, as bees communicate the location of a flower patch through the waggle dance. Human language is also for evoking feeling, for connecting us through common crises, for teaching us how others have lived. For suggesting significance beneath the surface of it all.

As the NPR piece explored, the brain can make sense of something that doesn’t exist – a flying pig, in their example – by extrapolating and inferring meaning through language cues. With creative writing, we are able to simulate experiences the reader has never had, or trigger ones that she has. If we write well, especially as creative nonfiction writers, we are able to create a virtual reality that links a 21st century executive with the struggles of a 19th century slave, or a modern 7-year-old with a pioneer prairie girl, or a gregarious extrovert with the inner workings of an introvert.

If we use language well, we make it possible to understand each other. We transmit an awareness. If the reader’s mind feels that femur splintering, she will have compassion.

If we write well in our creative nonfiction, we share the human experience. If we write well, we gift the gift of empathy.

Andrea Badgley holds a B.S. in Ecology, but left that field to raise children and write. Her work appears in the Southern Women’s Review, and has been honored with the Freshly Pressed blogging award by the editors at WordPress.com. She grew up on the coast of Georgia and now lives with her husband and two children in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. She writes creative nonfiction on her blog at andreabadgley.com

Writing process: 3 books that will inspire you to write

When it comes to books on creative writing, three inspirational examples stand out: Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.

Although those books are by no means new (The Artist’s Way was first published in 1992, Bird by Bird in 1994 and Writing Down the Bones in 1986), they’re still helping writers today. Just recently, a student of mine mentioned that Bird by Bird helps him deal with the anxiety that can be brought on by writing.

Each of the books is different yet the same. The Artist’s Way is formatted like a work book. Bird by Bird is part memoir, part writing tips. Writing Down the Bones includes writing prompts. All of them focus on the psychological and emotional aspects of writing rather than on craft. All leave the reader knowing it’s possible and normal and worthwhile to write.

The Artist’s Way, first self-published as Healing the Writer Within by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan, is a work book meant to be completed in twelve weeks. Designed not just for writers but for anyone who wants to unleash their creativity, the book reveals Cameron’s belief that expressing one’s creativity connects us to the divine in each of us. Whether or not you agree with Cameron’s spiritual beliefs, her book presents two writing tools worth trying:

  • Morning pages: Three pages of longhand, free-association writing. The purpose is to focus on the process rather than on the product of writing and to establish a writing habit.
  • The artist date: An appointment you make with yourself to spend time alone doing something nurturing, whether it’s a walk in a park or a trip to a craft store. The artist’s date will make it easier to make creativity a priority in your life.

The rest of the chapters in The Artist’s Way explain how to overcome limiting emotions such as fear and jealousy.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird reveals her trademark honesty and quickness. She’s known for explaining the importance of writing the “shitty first draft” and for encouraging writers to break large projects into small pieces, what she refers to as writing “bird by bird.”

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg uses a Zen-like approach. She encourages writers to practice their writing and to remember the importance of details. She suggests trying timed writings. The rules of timed writing are to keep your hand moving; don’t cross out; don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar; lose control; don’t think; don’t get logical and go for the jugular.

Writing process: Get out of your own way

Hollywood on the Couch

The inside scoop on Tinseltown, USA.

by Dennis Palumbo

For an artist, “being yourself” may be simple, but it’s not easy.

I want to talk about the most important thing a creative person must know how to do—which, for lack of a better phrase, is just to get out of his or her own way. Or as cellist Pablo Casals said, about playing music well, “Learn the notes and forget about ‘em.”

Simple, isn’t it? You have a story to tell, plot beats to tell it, characters to live it, and the will to create it. (You may even have a deal to deliver it.) All you have to do is get out of the way and let the creativity “happen.”

See? Simple, right? Not exactly. Because, as a former teacher of mine once remarked, “It may be simple, but it ain’t easy.”

For years, as a Hollywood screenwriter, I struggled to “get out of my own way,” without really understanding what that meant. The phrase always had a kind of down-home, common-sense, don’t-make-such-a-big-deal-out-of-it quality that I was often frustrated with myself for my difficulty in achieving it.

(Similar to my response to the advice to just “be myself,” whenever I was anxious about some upcoming interpersonal conflict. Again, simple but not easy.)

As it’s generally understood, “getting out of your own way” implies somehow putting aside the anxieties and doubts,ego concerns and career pressures, “mental blocks” and “critical inner voices”—pick your favorite pet term—that stand between you and the effortless flow of work. As though, if you just did enough therapy, or meditated deeply enough, or visualized sincerely enough, or manifested enough positive energy, you could disavow all the “stuff” that gets in the way of your creativity.

If only, in other words, you were different than who you are.

Because the simple fact is, we do bring our “stuff” to our creative endeavors, “stuff” that runs the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime, the irritating to the overwhelming. Some artists can’t get past their fear of failure; some struggle with a nagging sense of inadequacy regarding their talent; some feel the pressure of being unknown and thus feeling powerless. (Or even, ironically, the reverse: Norman Mailer once talked of the feeling of creative paralysis that came over him after he’d achieved fame. “It wasn’t just me sitting down to write,” he said. “It was Norman Mailer sitting down to write. I had to live up to him.”)

Add to that the relationship issues, financial pressures, marketplace fluctuations, and sense of isolation that creative types must contend with on a daily basis—and suddenly the amount of “stuff” you’re supposed to put aside in order to “get out of your own way” starts to feel like a veritable mountain of personal baggage.

That’s because it is. Each of us lugs around enough baggage to warrant the name Samsonite. It’s the trait we share with every other human being. Our “stuff” is who we are. Our hopes and fears, faith and doubt, empathy and envy, loves and hatreds and fantasies and habits and prejudices and favorite movies and the way we tie our shoes and whether we like asparagus and on and on and on. That’s us. Human beings.

One particular subset of human beings, creative artists, have all the same “stuff” as the rest of the tribe. Except for the need and desire to create art out of it. We may produce stories or screenplays. Or films or TV pilots. Or novels, poems, and songs. But what all artists, regardless of approach, really do is try to make sense of their “stuff.” In a language or medium or form that is understandable to the audience. In other words, “stuff” talking to “stuff.”

Now comes the paradox. If I, the artist, get out of my own way—that is, put my “stuff” aside so I can create—what’s left to explore creatively? My “stuff” is the raw materials of my work.

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and just say it: there is nothing but stuff. Which is great, because that means I’ll never run out of raw material. As long as I’m a human being, I have an inexhaustible supply.

I began this column by stating that the most important thing an artist had to do was get out of his or her own way. Haven’t I just challenged this statement? No. I’m only challenging the conventional view of what that means.

Let me explain: From my perspective, a creative artist who invites all of who he or she is into the mix—who sits down to work engulfed in “stuff,” yet doesn’t give these thoughts and feelings a negative connotation; who in fact strives to accept and integrate whatever thoughts and feelings emerge—this artist has truly gotten out of his or her own way.

From this standpoint, it’s only by labeling a thought or feeling as either good or bad, productive or harmful, that you’re actually getting in your own way. Restricting your creative flow.

Getting out of your own way means being with who you are, moment to moment, whether you like it or not. Whether or not it’s easy or comfortable, familiar or disturbing. And then creating from that place.

As I said, simple but not easy.

Writing process: Memoir writing

Thanks to my writing student Michael for sending me the link to this New York Times article by Andre′ Aciman. In the article, Aciman says writers write memoirs because “we want a second chance, we want the other version of our life, the one that thrills us, the one that happened to the people we really are, not to those we just happened to be once.”

Do you agree with Aciman? Or do you think there are other reasons for writing a memoir?