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.
DESCRIPTION: Innocents are goodness personified. They are morally grounded, optimistic, see the light in others, and view the world as a safe and wonderful place. They are gentle and caring, walk playfully through the world with the best intentions, and will always try to do what is right.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz), Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump), Charlie Bucket (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adventurous, Affectionate, Appreciative, Centered, Charming, Courteous, Creative, Curious, Generous, Gentle, Happy, Idealistic, Imaginative, Innocent, Kind, Obedient, Playful, Trusting
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Flaky, Frivolous, Gullible, Needy, Subservient, Verbose
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Gravitating to people with strength or authority
Asking questions & displaying curiosity
Noticing the little things
Appreciating small simple things
Giving others compliments
Giving people the benefit of the doubt
Taking people at their word
Always finding the silver lining of a situation
Being less adept at picking up on sarcasm, double-speak, or deceptiveness
Voicing the positives in every situation
Smiling and acting upbeat
Being kind to everyone and everything
Rarely getting mad or upset
Feeling hurt when someone shouts or snaps
Building friendships quickly and easily
Turning the other cheek quickly and not holding onto things
Saying what they mean, being open and honest
Being gifted at bringing people together
Voicing the questions that others won’t ask
Trying to make others happy in small ways
Being unafraid to call out wrongs even if it’s dangerous or could cause problems, because it’s the right thing to do
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Wanting people to be equal and care for each other but not knowing how to make that happen
Wanting to help others but feeling in need of help and protection themselves
Being in a competition
The realization that they are being manipulated (and the subsequent pain of a loss of trust)
When they need to set boundaries or be assertive
When someone is trying to take advantage of them
When situations are complicated or political instead of simple and straightforward
Being in a situation where they must make the decisions rather than another
INNER STRUGGLES TO GIVE THEM DEPTH
Having to make a choice where someone will suffer as a result
Feeling disillusioned when exposed to the darker side of people
Wanting to be independent but lacking the confidence to get there
Suspecting someone of lying but not wanting to rock the boat
Struggling over what to do with negative feelings
Wanting to forgive someone but finding it hard to do
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is an older character who has maintained their innocence
Comes to realize their moral beliefs were flawed and they must calibrate
Is someone who never gives up their hope and sense of wonder in a world that has as much darkness as light
An innocent who inspires others and through that inspiration, becomes a great leader
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
Innocents who never seem to ‘wise up’ after being repeatedly taken advantage of
Innocents who are quick to forgive being portrayed as ‘weak’
Innocents being betrayed as a device to show the reader just how bad or evil another character is
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.
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.
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