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: Paranoid and prepping for the end of the world, doomsday preppers have a very specific skillset, as well as access to resources that are in short supply elsewhere. Their knowledge and assets can be useful in certain scenarios, and these characters often become important contacts for the protagonist, supplying exactly what’s needed in the moment.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Burt and Heather Gummer (Tremors), Hershel Greene (The Walking Dead), Howard Stambler (10 Cloverfield Lane), Dale Gribble (King of the Hill)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adaptable, Alert, Analytical, Cautious, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Nature-Focused, Observant, Organized, Private, Proactive, Protective, Resourceful, Responsible, Thrifty, Traditional
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Fanatical, Nervous, Obsessive, Paranoid, Pessimistic, Rebellious, Stubborn, Suspicious, Uncooperative, Withdrawn
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Stockpiling resources of food, fuel, weapons, tools, and more
Fortifying their homes or creating bunkers or underground shelters
Having knowledge of local flora and fauna that could be harvested for food and other needs
Looking out for their family’s interests
Being hard workers
Being skilled marksmen with guns or other weapons
Being alert to potential threats
Distrusting people from certain groups who think differently
Seeking out underground information sources instead of relying on mainstream media channels
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Experiencing a disaster they weren’t prepared for
Running out of supplies before the disaster has been resolved
Being ridiculed as paranoid and uncooperative
Being unable to grasp a necessary survival skill, such as growing crops or utilizing solar energy
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Becomes an unexpected savior in a non-apocalyptic emergency, such as supplying shelter for those in need during a deadly blizzard
Goes from paranoid and fearful to hopeful, trusting, and optimistic through the course of the story
Has an atypical trait: appreciative, generous, scatterbrained, gullible, reckless, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The paranoid gun collector with a bunker full of enough food and supplies to last a decade
The conspiracy theorist who adamantly warns people against highly unlikely scenarios instead of preparing for probable disasters
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.