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: For magicians, the pursuit of knowledge (in any area, not just magic) isn’t enough; fulfillment only comes through understanding and mastery of the seemingly unknowable. While this is similar to the SAGE archetype, magicians differ in that the acquisition of knowledge is meant to increase their own power or achieve their goals. Primarily, their quest for knowledge is meant to benefit themselves more than others.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Sherlock Holmes (the Sherlock Holmes canon, Dr. Strange (the Marvel universe), Voldemort (the Harry Potter series), Anakin Skywalker (the Star Wars franchise), John Locke (LOST)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adventurous, Alert, Ambitious, Centered, Confident, Curious, Decisive, Disciplined, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Intelligent, Meticulous, Passionate, Patient, Persistent, Persuasive, Private, Resourceful, Studious
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Abrasive, Cocky, Confrontational, Disrespectful, Fanatical, Haughty, Know-It-All, Obsessive, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Perfectionist, Possessive, Rebellious, Selfish, Stubborn, Uncooperative, Withdrawn, Workaholic
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Being passionate about the area of knowledge they’re pursuing
Facing challenges and opposition with confidence; being undaunted
Using highbrow language that isn’t easy for laypeople to understand
Preferring to work alone
Being focused; knowing what they want and going after it without hesitation
Believing that things will work out, even when it’s hard to see the path forward
Learning from mistakes
Thinking on a higher level than most people
Having a fluid moral code depending on what’s needed in the moment
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
A competitor making significant strides and threatening to overtake the character in the pursuit of their goal
Being unable to solve a problem or grasp a concept
Having to mentor or work with someone who will only slow the character down
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is pursuing knowledge and power in an unconventional area—e.g., as a teacher, in the world of animal husbandry, as a baker, etc.
Has an atypical trait: nurturing, empathetic, indecisive, insecure, traditional, innocent, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The magician villain who craves power and is evil just to be evil, with no known reason or motivation
Magicians who are wholly devoted to the cause and never doubt themselves or shrink from the goal
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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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.