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 take-charge character is a born (micro) manager who has strong opinions and no problem telling people what to do.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Hermione Granger (the Harry Potter series), Harriet M. Welsch (Harriet, the Spy), Lucy (Peanuts), Regina George (Mean Girls), Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Ambitious, Bold, Confident, Decisive, Disciplined, Efficient, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Intelligent, Meticulous, Organized, Passionate, Persistent, Persuasive, Responsible, Sensible, Studious
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Abrasive, Cocky, Controlling, Haughty, Humorless, Inflexible, Judgmental, Know-It-All, Manipulative, Nagging, Obsessive, Perfectionist, Pushy, Tactless, Workaholic
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Being unafraid to stand up for themselves
Enjoying being in charge
Being on time (or early) for everything
Having a knack for getting things done
Is highly competent
Having good leadership qualities
Is often well-liked by teachers, bosses, and other authority figures
Being annoyed by inefficiency and incompetence
Not knowing how to have fun
Using a tough exterior to mask insecurity
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Having to work with someone who’s lazy or incompetent
Being replaced as a leader
Having a child who sees the world and operates differently than the character
Having to learn a skill or hobby they’re not good at
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Has high empathy for others
Has a strong group of friends
Knows how to compromise
Has an atypical trait: humble, mischievous, nurturing, philosophical, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
A bossy character who is domineering 100% of the time, in every situation
The Hermione Granger schoolgirl version of a bossy britches
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.