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 rebel sub-type is a loner with a devil-may-care attitude. His confidence, charisma, and disregard for authority only add to the attraction of his physical appeal, which is usually significant.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Dally Winston (The Outsiders), Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby), Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Han Solo (Star Wars series), Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adventurous, Bold, Charming, Independent, Observant, Pensive, Persuasive, Resourceful, Sensual, Spontaneous, Spunky, Uninhibited
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Abrasive, Addictive, Antisocial, Apathetic, Callous, Cocky, Confrontational, Cynical, Devious, Disloyal, Disrespectful, Evasive, Impatient, Impulsive, Insecure, Irresponsible, Lazy, Macho, Rebellious, Reckless, Rowdy, Self-Destructive, Selfish, Stubborn, Uncooperative, Volatile, Withdrawn
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Defying rules and authority
Knowing their own mind
Seeking out excitement and adrenaline rushes
Preferring to create their own destiny
Wearing clothing (often dark or black) that sets them apart
Always having a witty comeback
Struggling with emotional intimacy
Saying things just to rock the boat
Dismissing others’ opinions or experiences as invalid
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Falling in love with someone and needing to be vulnerable in the relationship
Encountering someone with an even bigger persona than they have
Not being able to attain the object of their affection
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is in charge of a business or other corporate venture
Works for a charity that protects others
Has an atypical trait: nervous, nurturing, diplomatic, sophisticated, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The vintage “cool guy” who dresses in black leather, smokes cigarettes, and rides a motorcycle
The vampire as a bad boy
A bad boy who is saved and redeemed by the love of a good girl
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.