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: This character takes the protagonist under their wing with the aim of helping them succeed. This aid often comes in the form of gifts, such as a monetary contributions, providing a place of shelter, or paying for necessary schooling or training.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Magwitch (Great Expectations), Aunt Josephine March (Little Women), James Hobart (The Goldfinch), Dan Cody (The Great Gatsby)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Ambitious, Appreciative, Cautious, Confident, Decisive, Discreet, Generous, Idealistic, Independent, Kind, Optimistic, Passionate, Protective, Quirky, Resourceful, Sophisticated, Supportive
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Controlling, Extravagant, Haughty, Hypocritical, Manipulative, Martyr, Materialistic, Needy, Obsessive, Possessive, Pretentious, Pushy, Resentful, Self-Indulgent, Stubborn, Temperamental, Vain
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Wanting to do good things with their resources
Offering to pay for things
Seeing the potential in ideas and people
Enjoying the finer things in life (good meals, nice clothes, etc.)
Being culturally sophisticated
Believing their “generosity” should automatically engender respect and esteem
Making a show of spreading their wealth around
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Being generous with someone who doesn’t appreciate it
Supporting someone (or a cause) who turns out to be dishonest or even criminal
Losing all their money
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Only gives anonymously
Has a quirky or eccentric hobby
Has an atypical trait: paranoid, vindictive, whimsical, worrywart, simple, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The benefactor who starts out selfish and undergoes a significant transformation
The benefactor-mentor who has is wise and all-knowing and has all the answers
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.