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 doom-and-gloom character believes that if something bad can happen, it will. They tend to focus on flaws and potential pitfalls and see every opportunity as a new way that things can go wrong.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Eeyore (the Winnie the Pooh series), Marvin the Paranoid Android (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), George Costanza (Seinfeld), Sadness (Inside Out)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Alert, Analytical, Focused, Honest, Introverted, Meticulous, Observant, Pensive, Persistent, Resourceful
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Apathetic, Cowardly, Cynical, Fussy, Grumpy, Humorless, Inflexible, Inhibited, Insecure, Lazy, Martyr, Melodramatic, Morbid, Nervous, Obsessive, Paranoid, Pessimistic, Uncooperative, Withdrawn, Worrywart
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Noticing even the smallest details
Identifying problems and risks before they happen
Avoiding potential trouble spots others may not see coming
Easily identifying things that need improvement
Always seeing the glass as half empty
Frequently frustrating others with their constant negativity
Having only a small circle of friends
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Having to share space with an extreme optimist
Facing a situation with unknown factors they haven’t had time to prepare for
Being complimented for their skills or abilities
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is empathetic and insightful, supporting others during the crisis the character was able to prepare for
Has a witty and dark sense of humor (instead of just being annoying)
Has an atypical trait: affectionate, confrontational, persuasive, vain, workaholic, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The team member who rains on everyone’s parade, creating a perpetually gloomy atmosphere
The cynical best friend who always prophesies doom (and turns out to be right)
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.