The Role Archetypes


Archetypes are patterns of human behaviour, symbolized by standard types of characters. They allow readers to get a general impression of the sort of person a character is, without elaborate description. However, this results in flat characters if you don’t elaborate with contradictions,archetypes surprising traits and so on. It’s a handy guideline to keep in mind to ensure you have a rich cast of characters, rather than a lot of similar characters. Remember that this is just the starting point for a character that fulfills a certain role in a story.

Archetypes are often confused with stock characters. However, stock characters are defined by their personality, behaviour, and appearance: the neighborhood gossip, the town drunk, or the school bully. Archetypes are defined by their purpose or role in a story.

The role archetypes


Central figures in stories.  Everyone is the hero of his or her own myth.


Villains and enemies, perhaps the enemy within (his possibilities or his potential evil). Can be other kinds of repression, such as repressed grief, anger, frustration or creativity that is dangerous if it doesn’t have an outlet. It can represent the hero’s opposite or the worst possible outcome.

Mentor / Coach / Teacher

The hero’s guide or guiding principles. Often an old man or woman, offering invaluable advice and guidance. Sometimes the mentor provides an essential tool for the protagonist to solve the story-worthy problem. Mentors can have their own objectives. There are different kinds of mentors, such as straight forward, protective, tricksters and so on.


One who brings the Call to Adventure. Could be a person or an event. The herald appears when there is a major change coming, often just before the protagonist crosses into another world. 

Threshold Guardian

The forces that stand in the way at important turning points, including jealous enemies, professional gatekeepers, or your own fears and doubts. The guardian tests the protagonist and then permits or prevents him from going further into the journey. They usually test strengths, wits or fortitude and function as an obstacle. They usually belong to the villain’s side of the story, but can be good or neutral.


In supernatural stories these are usually werewolves or such creatures. In ‘real’ life this can be any thing that represents change. The way other people (or our perceptions of them) look at him keeps changing.  Can also represent the opposite sex, the way people can be two-faced.


Clowns and mischief-makers. Our own mischievous subconscious, urging us to change. They also provide comical relief, using their wits.

Characters who help the hero through the change.  Sidekicks, buddies, girlfriends who advise the hero through the transitions of life.