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 self-sufficient and tenacious woman seeks out adventure and new discoveries, often breaking with the conventions of her time to do so.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Arya Stark (Game of Thrones), Eowyn (the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Mulan (Mulan), Dolores Abernathy (Westworld), Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adaptable, Adventurous, Alert, Bold, Confident, Courageous, Curious, Decisive, Efficient, Enthusiastic, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Passionate, Perceptive, Persistent, Resourceful, Spontaneous, Spunky
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Cocky, Impatient, Impulsive, Irresponsible, Obsessive, Pushy, Rebellious, Reckless, Self-Destructive, Self-Indulgent, Stubborn, Uncooperative, Volatile
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Being street smart
Restlessness; needing to be on the move
Thinking for herself
Rejecting the conventions that don’t suit her
Persistently pursuing her goals; seeing things through
Disregarding people in authority—specifically those who would try to force her into a specific role or keep her from certain activities
Avoiding long-term commitments (in case a better offer comes along)
Believing that romantic entanglements will slow her down
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
A romantic partner wanting to settle down
Sustaining an injury that affects her mobility
Rules changing that restrict women’s freedoms
Being saddled with additional responsibilities at home or work, making travel and adventure less possible
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Has a stable home life, with children
Has an atypical trait: indecisive, nature-focused, sentimental, verbose, whiny, vain, etc.
CLICHÉS TO BE AWARE OF
The adventure-seeker with no flaws and all the skills needed to win
The lady of adventure who is able to physically defeat men despite being physiologically unable to do so
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.