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: Brilliant, eccentric, and often insane, the mad scientist believes his work is vitally important and supersedes conventional morals or ethics.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Dr. Moreau (The Island of Dr. Moreau), Dr. Frankenstein (Frankenstein), Dr. Jekyll (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Doc Brown (Back to the Future), Walter White (Breaking Bad)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Ambitious, Analytical, Creative, Curious, Disciplined, Focused, Idealistic, Independent, Industrious, Intelligent, Introverted, Meticulous, Observant, Passionate, Pensive, Perceptive, Persistent, Quirky, Talented
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Antisocial, Fanatical, Impatient, Impulsive, Irresponsible, Obsessive, Reckless, Stubborn, Unethical, Workaholic
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Having eccentric habits
Obsessing over their work
Keeping odd hours
Working in long binges
Preferring to work alone
Difficulty engaging in small talk and other social niceties
Rejecting (or ignoring) those in authority
Forgetting to do basic life tasks, like cooking, cleaning, grooming, and sleeping
Their goals or methods putting them at odds with the establishment
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
An experiment creating unexpected (and bad) results
Being forced to work with a strict rule-follower
A “hack” achieving success and finding acclaim ahead of the scientist
Being prevented from doing the work they dream of
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is concerned with ethics and the consequences of their work
Is an amateur scientist (rather than a professional one) who’s passion is using science to create crazy stuff
Has an atypical trait: flirtatious, humble, optimistic, superstitious, proper, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The mad scientist with crazy hair and no fashion sense
The scientist who creates a creature or monster they can’t control, and it ends up destroying them
A scientist with multiple personalities
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.