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.
Explorers thrive on adventure and discovery. These trailblazers are unafraid of new experiences or challenges, and boldly moving into the unknown is a part of their identity.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones Series), Captain Picard (Star Trek), Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), Evelyn O’Connell (The Mummy Franchise)
Adaptable, Adventurous, Ambitious, Appreciative, Bold, Confident, Curious, Decisive, Focused, Idealistic, Independent, Observant, Passionate, Persistent, Resourceful, Spontaneous, Wise
Abrasive, Cocky, Impatient, Impulsive, Macho, Manipulative, Obsessive, Possessive, Rebellious, Reckless, Selfish, Stubborn, Temperamental, Withdrawn, Workaholic
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Nomadic tendencies (being on the move, never staying too long in one place)
Not needing much in the way of creature comforts
Having fewer attachments (to things, people, places)
Having a broad understanding of people, cultures, and customs
Knowing more than one language
Being highly spontaneous
Being a ‘figure it out as I go’ sort of person
Having a strong sense of purpose and a clear goal at all times
Able to think on their feet and adapt to changing circumstances
Being able to learn the rules of a new environment quickly
Excellent survival and navigation skills
Recovering from disappointments quickly and moving on
Being drawn in by stories
Being curious about people, places, and experiences
A desire to see and experience things first hand
Always being up for a trip, outing, or adventure
Being unafraid of new circumstances or challenges
Being a thrill-seeker
Not being turned off by danger or risk
More likely to act on instinct rather than through a deep analysis
The ability to size people up quickly
Needing to be talked out of things, rather than talked into them
Preferring their own company to the company of others
A tendency to believe the ends justify the means (when they believe in the cause)
Being a lifelong learner
Focusing on the journey, not the goal
A tendency to push to find their own limits (and then push to challenge them further)
Fearing a boring life more than anything else
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Having no choice but to wait because another is in control of when things happen
Having to adhere to a routine
Being unable to travel (due to illness, legal restrictions, an injury, family responsibilities, etc.)
Being anchored by duty (becoming a caregiver to an elderly parent, having to run a family business, raising a child, etc.)
Being bound by rules and limitations
Having to give up personal freedom to serve the greater good
Being stuck in a single place for too long
Finding time for healthy, two-way relationships
Finding someone to talk through their feelings or struggles because while they may know a lot of people, few are close enough for those type of conversations
Being around people who are closed-minded and see the world in absolutes
INNER STRUGGLES TO GIVE THEM DEPTH
Feeling selfish for wanting to be out discovering new things when it means others must stay behind and pick up the slack
Wanting to have relationships but knowing the other party will only end up feeling neglected
Feeling guilt for abandoning people when the next adventure calls
Guilt over risk-taking that impacts others negatively
Regret over what they chose to give up (possibly a place to call home, close family bonds, a life partner, etc.)
Knowing the personal growth they seek may come at the price of a lonely life
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Finds ways to be dependable while making room for adventure
Gives back as a teacher or leader who encourages others to embrace open-mindedness
Becomes a role model to someone who is dependent or insecure, showing them how to become more independent
Is an explorer who is unselfish, putting the needs of others first
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
- The “lone wolf” adventurer
- The explorer who inspires deep loyalty despite never being around to nurture relationships
- The adventurer who only travels to far off, obscure places
- Being a collector of antiquities and objects when the lifestyle doesn’t support materialism
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.
V.M. Sang says
That has given me help with my stuck novel. I think my protagonist is such a person. I will use some of these ideas to build him up further.
It also helps with the reason I’m stuck!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
That’s terrific! I love it when something sparks ideas, and even better when it helps to solve problems. Good luck with your story!