In 1959, Carl Jung first popularized the idea of archetypes—”universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” He suggested 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.
Jesters are the comedians and tricksters in the story. Their job is to make light of serious things and provide comic relief, but they also can impart wisdom through their shenanigans.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the Fool (King Lear), Timon and Pumbaa (The Lion King), the Genie (Aladdin)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Confident, Easygoing, Enthusiastic, Flamboyant, Friendly, Funny, Happy, Imaginative, Observant, Perceptive, Persistent, Persuasive, Philosophical, Playful, Quirky, Spunky, Supportive, Uninhibited, Whimsical, Wise, Witty
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Abrasive, Addictive, Childish, Disrespectful, Evasive, Foolish, Frivolous, Impulsive, Irresponsible, Mischievous, Reckless, Tactless
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Encouraging others and lifting their spirits when they’re down
Cracking jokes (even in in appropriate situations)
Using self-deprecating humor
Being able to laugh at themselves
Finding humor in every situation
Being able to say things with a humorous twist
Changing the subject when a conversation gets too serious
Spontaneity; trying new things
Living each moment to the fullest rather than planning for the future
Not holding grudges or living in the past; letting things go
Taking things in stride; not being easily ruffled
Remaining neutral rather than taking sides
Exploring or broaching deep topics in a roundabout way—e.g., through the context of a story rather than a one-on-one debate
Going over the top to gain attention (in their appearance, with extravagant pranks, etc.)
Not knowing when to stop
Taking jokes and pranks too far
Irritating others with their behavior
Using humor as a shield to hide their pain
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Serious moments, when humor is unacceptable
Being partnered with someone who doesn’t appreciate humor
Seeing a friend in a difficult situation and being unable to cheer them up or lighten their load
Trying to impart a truth to someone in an indirect way, and them not getting the message
Another jester entering the character’s friend group—one who is funnier, more charismatic, better liked, etc.
INNER STRUGGLES TO GIVE THEM DEPTH
Developing a mental health challenge that makes humor and lightheartedness difficult
Being forced to take a stand on a serious moral issue that will create strife with others
Feeling like they always have to be “up” and fun, even when they’re sad or down
Struggling to care properly for themselves (because they’re always encouraging others and cheering them up)
A traumatic or devastating situation that steals the character’s joy and lust for life
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Has a serious, deep side
Is interested in current events and uses their gifts of satire, irony, etc. to tackle injustices
Is dry and deadpan instead of flamboyant and melodramatic
Is masking a deep insecurity
Is funny without meaning or trying to be (à la Adrian Monk)
Has an atypical trait: fussy, timid, proper, cautious, etc.
CLICHÉS TO AVOID
• Funny people with no substance; all they care about is having a good time and making people laugh
• The preachy jester who always has a message to convey
• Jesters who are happy and upbeat all the time
• Jesters with no flaws
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.
If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough for this site, and then give our Free Trial a spin.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Love this. I never thought of my secondary character as a jester, but he meets just about every description. Thanks for the new way to think about him.
BECCA PUGLISI says
As an archetype, this character occurs fairly frequently, so it’s good to know what basics to cover and how to write them in a new way.
Jan Sikes says
What a fabulous tool! I love this idea so much, Angela and Becca. This example of the Jester is great!
BECCA PUGLISI says