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: A well-meaning priest, pastor, or other religious professional who exhibits moral weakness through a particular vice. Though he is acutely aware of his personal flaws, he continues to carry out his sacramental duties and takes his responsibility toward his charges seriously.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale (The Scarlet Letter), Father Donald Callahan (Salem’s Lot, The Dark Tower), Friar Tuck (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), Imperius (Ladyhawke)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Cautious, Centered, Cooperative, Courteous, Diplomatic, Discreet, Empathetic, Generous, Gentle, Kind, Nurturing, Observant, Passionate, Patient, Persuasive, Private, Protective, Responsible, Spiritual, Supportive, Wise
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Addictive, Compulsive, Cowardly, Evasive, Humorless, Hypocritical, Insecure, Nosy, Self-Indulgent, Weak-Willed, Withdrawn
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Struggling with personal demons
Being burdened with a dark secret
Having compassion for others
Feeling deeply compelled to serve God to the best of their ability
Feeling guilty about past mistakes or present weaknesses
Seeking redemption or forgiveness
Willingly making sacrifices for others
Being disillusioned by the cruelties and harsh realities of the world
Going to great lengths to keep his indiscretions secret
Being full of contradictions…
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
A situation that threatens to reveal the character’s vice
Encountering someone who challenges the priest’s beliefs
Being tempted in a new area…
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is a whiskey priest in an unorthodox genre, such as sci-fi or inspirational fiction
Has a reason for giving in to his temptation that goes beyond a simple lack of will power
Has an atypical trait: disrespectful, disciplined, perfectionist, quirky, etc…
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The flat character whose vice is the only thing the reader really knows about them
A weak-willed priest who declares a desire to overcome his sin but continually gives in with little resistance…
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.