In 1959, Carl Jung first popularized the idea of archetypes—”universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” He posited that every person is a blend of these 12 basic personalities. Ever since then, authors have been applying this idea to fictional characters, combining the different archetypes to come up with interesting new versions. The result is a sizable pool of character tropes that we see from one story to another.
Archetypes and tropes are popular storytelling elements because of their familiarity. Upon seeing them, readers know immediately who they’re dealing with and what role the nerd, dark lord, femme fatale, or monster hunter will play. As authors, we need to recognize the commonalities for each trope so we can write them in a recognizable way and create a rudimentary sketch for any character we want to create.
But when it comes to characters, no one wants just a sketch; we want a vibrant and striking cast full of color, depth, and contrast. Diving deeper into character creation is especially important when starting with tropes because the blessing of their familiarity is also a curse; without differentiation, the characters begin to look the same from story to story.
But no more. The Character Type and Trope Thesaurus allows you to outline the foundational elements of each trope while also exploring how to individualize them. In this way, you’ll be able to use historically tried-and-true character types to create a cast for your story that is anything but traditional.
Caregivers are compassionate and put the needs of others first. Their role is to help, protect, and provide emotional support for characters they care about or feel responsible for.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins), Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings), Molly Weasley (Harry Potter)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Affectionate, Appreciative, Calm, Diplomatic, Empathetic, Gentle, Kind, Loyal, Nurturing, Observant, Optimistic, Patient, Perceptive, Protective, Supportive, Unselfish, Wise
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Fussy, Gullible, Perfectionist, Subservient, Worrywart
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Providing a warm welcome
Seeing to the needs of others
Being a calming presence when emotions are activated
Asking questions to show interest and encourage others to open up
Providing food, comforts, a place to stay, etc. when needed
Standing up for others (especially those in need of advocacy or protection)
Being able to read people and their intentions
Lying or misdirecting in order to protect those in their care
Offering to help, run errands, or take on duties to help out
Sharing what they have
Being a peacekeeper
Being the voice of reason
Being a good listener
Validating the feelings of others
Offering advice that’s balanced and encourages people to think
Setting aside their own personal needs for others
Mending, fixing, or procuring the things others need
Letting others know they’re here to help or listen
Giving time, energy, and resources if it will help
Providing a safe haven to those who need it
Putting their own desires or needs on hold
Acting as a teacher or paternal/maternal figure
Showing unconditional love and support
Telling people what they need to hear, but respectfully
Displaying patience and understanding
Stepping in with childcare, offering a ride, etc.
Sharing what they have
Speaking up for others
Putting others first
Being open with praise and pride of others
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Misunderstandings where their actions are misunderstood
Dealing with people who are entitled and expect help rather than appreciate the gift of it
Setting boundaries with others
Making time for their own needs and self-care
Wanting to help but being asked not to
Letting go of worry when they have done all they can
Dealing with someone who is demanding or difficult
Wanting to help someone who struggles with trust and abandonment due to trauma
Offering advice and wisdom but not having it taken
Discovering well-meaning advice they gave led to disaster
INNER STRUGGLES TO GIVE THEM DEPTH
Helping but not feeling appreciated, and wondering if they’re being taken advantage of
Needing to put themselves first but feeling guilty about not being there for others
Feeling drained by being constantly needed
Having to quash frustration when they need to drop everything
Struggling with personal identity in times when they aren’t needed
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Has their own busy life outside of care-giving
Is an extrovert with a variety of interests and friends
Channels their caregiving in an unusual way, like being a fixer for people who have been wronged by others, specialized in matchmaking,
Is an anonymous caregiver, watching out for others or interceding on their behalf without them knowing
A caregiver who is famous in some way, and so is always in the spotlight
CLICHÉS TO AVOID
The caregiver who sits at home, waiting to be needed
The fretting, anxious caregiver
A caregiver whose identity begins and ends with helping others
A caregiver who meddles, interferes, or smothers out of a skewed belief that they know best
A caregiver who guilt trips loved ones or plays the martyr as a way to get attention or control
Other Type and Trope Thesaurus entries can be found here.
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (16 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.
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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Gifford MacShane says
Thanks so much for this — I’m currently writing a story with a caregiver and was wondering how I could escape the stereotype!
Y’all are the best!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I hope this gives you some good ideas, Gifford! 🙂