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 compromises others and leads them down the wrong path. They could be villainous, deliberately attempting to misguide others, or may be the friend who’s always getting people into trouble.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Grima Wormtongue (the Lord of the Rings series), Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind), Amy Dunne (Gone Girl), Faith LeHane (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adaptable, Adventurous, Ambitious, Analytical, Bold, Charming, Creative, Decisive, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Intelligent, Observant, Persistent, Persuasive, Resourceful
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Controlling, Devious, Dishonest, Hypocritical, Impatient, Impulsive, Irresponsible, Jealous, Manipulative, Melodramatic, Mischievous, Pushy, Rebellious, Reckless, Selfish, Spoiled, Stubborn, Uncooperative
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Manipulating and controlling others
Having a charismatic presence
Breaking social norms
Advocating for and taking shortcuts
Using bribes to entice others to their way of thinking
Encouraging risky or destructive behaviors
Shifting blame to others
Identifying threats or risks before they become a problem
Homing in on others’ weaknesses
Knowing how to exploit others’ desires to their own advantage
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Being confronted by someone they’ve wronged and having to deal with the consequences
Encountering a cunning rival and having to up their game to outmaneuver them
Becoming friends with a positive role model who seeks to make the character better
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Is being manipulated into manipulating others by a behind-the-scenes puppet master
Isn’t overtly trying to be a bad influence
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The rebellious teen with a tragic backstory leading others astray with their flagrant disregard for the rules.
The heartless seductress who uses her beauty and charm to manipulate men for personal gain.
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.