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 lives an isolated life due to their inability to relate to or connect with others. Loners can be Rebels (and vice-versa), but because the former are more comfortable with their background status-quo, they don’t typically seek to effect major change.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre), the Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird), Eleanor Oliphant (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adventurous, Alert, Cautious, Confident, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Intelligent, Introverted, Meticulous, Observant, Organized, Pensive, Philosophical, Private, Quirky, Studious, Talented
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Abrasive, Cynical, Grumpy, Inhibited, Insecure, Judgmental, Needy, Nervous, Obsessive, Self-Destructive, Selfish, Stubborn, Suspicious, Tactless, Timid, Workaholic, Worrywart
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Preferring to observe rather than engage with others
Living on the fringes
Avoiding crowds and large social gatherings
Having a quiet voice
Having understated mannerisms
Preferring to work alone (and being more efficient that way)
Being socially awkward
Expecting to be underestimated by others
Naturally distrusting others
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Being forced to interact in a group
Being transferred to a new city where new friendships will have to be made
Having an extroverted or rowdy friend whose antics force the loner into the spotlight
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is a loner sometimes and a people-person in other situations
Is an excellent public speaker
Is forced into a leadership role and turns out to be very good at it
Has an atypical trait: cocky, funny, mischievous, sentimental, superstitious, vain
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The lone wolf character who doesn’t need anyone and is perfectly happy on their own
Jaded, cynical, emo loners
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.