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: Rebels are out-of-the-box thinkers who like to push boundaries and are undaunted by chaos. Whether they’re organizing a revolution, seeking revenge, or are making personal choices that challenge the status quo, these characters are often the catalyst for change.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Robin Hood (the Robin Hood legend), Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), William Wallace (Braveheart), Ferris Bueller (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Estella/Cruella (Cruella)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adventurous, Bold, Creative, Decisive, Focused, Independent, Intelligent, Passionate, Persistent, Persuasive, Private, Quirky, Resourceful, Socially Aware, Spunky
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Antisocial, Confrontational, Cynical, Disrespectful, Evasive, Impatient, Impulsive, Judgmental, Manipulative, Pushy, Rebellious, Reckless, Stubborn, Uncooperative, Vindictive, Volatile
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Deviating from societal norms—has their own style, refuses to conform to expectations or roles, etc.
Easily breaking laws and rules they disagree with
Being oppositional; is comfortable being at odds with others
Calling out injustice when they see it
Exhibiting loner behaviors (prefers solitude, keeps their own council, values privacy, etc.)
Scorning people who follow the rules or do what society dictates
Viewing themselves as being alone against the world
Engaging in delinquent or criminal behavior
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Being asked by a trusted loved one to conform in some way
Having to enforce rules or norms (with a younger sibling, at work, etc.)
Being forced into a situation where the character must follow rules and take orders (being sent to military school, needing to stay in a job with an overbearing boss, etc.)
INNER STRUGGLES TO GIVE THEM DEPTH
Seeing admirable characteristics in someone with opposing views or beliefs
Wanting to remain self-reliant but growing tired of the isolation
Discovering the cause they are fighting for is not what it purports to be
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is secretly attracted to someone with opposing beliefs or who is in a position of authority
Is an extrovert and is always part of a group despite despising what the group stands for
Has an a-typical trait: diplomatic, tactful, hypocritical, vain, nurturing, materialistic, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The reluctant rebel who must lead the revolution but doesn’t want to
Inspirational rebels with no flaws to humanize them
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.