Archetypes and a Rich, Balanced Story

by Brent King
(Lake Oswego, OR USA)

Question: Does Dramatica recommend that every story have all of the archetypes to be a balanced, rich, fulfilling story? It seems like I've read it somewhere, but I can't find it. I think I'm trying to assimilate too much, to fast. =)


Answer: Dramatica recommends that all 16 of the underlying character motivations or functions be reflected in the characters.

The eight archetypal characters are common ways to group motivations together and assign them to various characters. In genre fiction especially, readers expect to see a protagonist who Pursues the goal and Considers its importance. They expect an antagonist who tries to Avoid or Prevent the goal from being achieved and tries to get the protagonist to Reconsider his efforts (i.e. give up).

However, if you are writing a more mainstream story, you may find that making your characters to less archetypal makes them more interesting and realistic. So you can create different combinations of motivations and assign them in non-archetypal ways. You might have one character who works externally to Avoid the goal, and another who, for emotional reasons, tries to get someone to Reconsider it. You might have a character who fits the Reason archetype but also Pursues the goal (many detectives in mysteries are like this).

Of course, the other way to make your characters unique is to play with their external traits. Here you want to imbue your characters with authenticity over stereotypical features. The more literary you want your story to be, the more important this becomes.

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