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Friday, February 10, 2017

What's The Deal With Inspiration And Archetypes by Sarah J. McNeal

Although I don’t depend on inspiration to get me through my story once I get started writing, I do need inspiration to develop a story line and plot it out. Knowing I need that inspiration, I have developed ways to get inspired—no sense in being passive about something this important.

I keep a writer’s journal and I carry a tiny notebook with me everywhere I go to jot down things like pieces of conversation I overhear in a restaurant, or someone who seems odd, or an event I witnessed. Most of all I know that images inspire me the most. I see a certain image in a magazine or on TV and I can imagine that image in a story I’m about to write.
National Geographic Mongolian Eagle Hunters

I saw a documentary on National Geographic about Mongolian hunters who use golden eagles to catch game when they go hunting on their sturdy ponies. That image of a man with a huge golden eagle he had trained so intrigued me that it became my character, the Gypsy, Pennytook. Of all my characters in the Legends of Winatuke trilogy, Pennytook the Gypsy, and Raphael, the Nimway prince were my favorites.
Pennytook Loves Horses And Knows Magic

Raphael’s archetype was the protagonist mixed with a bit jester and sidekick. Pennytook was the mixed archetypes of mentor, magician, and jester. I didn’t realize at the time that I had combined some of the archetypes because, quite frankly, I didn’t really know much about archetypes. I know. It’s sad, but true. It would be some time before I became acquainted with the archetypes for novels. Hey. Most of learn by doing. I would never claim to be a hifalutin’ know it all. I took many creative writing classes and cannot recall a single instance where archetypes were even mentioned. It sure would have saved me a lot of trouble if only I had that information. Fortunately, while I was a faithful member of RWA and my local CRW chapter, I learned about archetypes in a terrific workshop.

The 12 Common Archetypal Characters
The Caregiver
The Caregiver is typically a “parent” character who cares for the protagonist in some way. They desire to protect and care for others and are compassionate and generous. However, they’re often a martyr whose sacrifice aids the protagonist’s quest in some way.
The Creator
The Creator is some kind of creative and imaginative character. They can be an artist, inventor, writer, or musician, and are generally innovative and visionary. They seek to express themselves, their visions, and contribute to the overall culture through valuable creations.
The Explorer
The Explorer wants to experience new things and be free. They often seek self discovery through a physical journey. They seek a better, authentic life and fear conforming to the status quo, and believe adventure is around every corner. They can also be seen as pilgrims, individualists, or wanderers.
The Hero
The Hero is a character who seeks to prove their worth through courageous and heroic acts. They might be arrogant and fear being seen as weak or scared. They want to make the world a better place and never give up, regardless of the odds. They are a warrior, rescuer, soldier, and team player.
The Innocent
The Innocent is an optimistic character whose worst fear is doing something bad. They seek to always do the right things and have a certain naive innocence about them. They don’t seem to understand the harshness of the world and are continually stuck in a romantic, dreamy place.
The Jester
The Jester is a character who wants to enjoy their life and have a good time. They like to joke around and make other people laugh, and genuinely want to make the world a happier place. They might also be portrayed as a fool, a trickster, or a comedian.
The Lover
The Lover is a loyal companion who fears being unwanted or unloved. They’re passionate and committed, but they also desire to be more attractive to others and please everyone at the risk of losing their own identity. They might be portrayed as a partner, friend, or spouse.
The Magician
The Magician is a visionary who understands the way the world works. They fear accidental negative consequences and love finding win-win solutions to problems. However, in their search for knowledge and solutions, they often become manipulative. They might be portrayed as a shaman, a healer, or a charismatic leader.
The Orphan
The Orphan is the character who wants to belong more than anything. They fear being left out and being alone. They’re often down to earth and empathetic, but lose their own identity when trying to fit in. They are portrayed as the everyman, the guy/girl next door, or the silent majority.
The Rebel
The Rebel believes the rules are meant to be broken and wants to change something that isn’t working. While they might start out with a good goal in mind, they easily cross the line from rebellion to crime. They’re portrayed as revolutionaries or misfits.
The Ruler
The Ruler wants control and wants to create a successful community/society. They fear being overthrown and as a result, can become authoritarian or not delegate any roles to the people closest to them. They are the boss, the king/queen, politician, or role model.
The Sage
The Sage is a truth seeker who uses their intelligence to analyze the world. They fear ignorance and spend lots of time studying and self-reflecting. Because they fear ignorance, they may only study and never act on what they discover. They’re the scholar, philosopher, academic, and teacher.
Most of you are probably already familiar with these archetypes, but I wanted to share them with you. My characters don’t fit into just one type, but I think that’s okay, too
Have any of you written a character into an archetype intentionally? Did you plan your characters out using archetypes as a guide, or did you realize after you finished the piece that your characters fit into a certain archetype?

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

 DARK ISLE, Book 1
The legend begins when love and evil collide.
Jade’s mother, Mahara, the malevolent queen of the Dark Isle holds the Nimway prince, Gabriel, in the castle’s dungeon. Jade cannot help falling in love with the whimsical Nimway whose magic lies in his voice.  But time is running out for Gabriel as Mahara plans a bloody war. Jade risks her life to seek help from an enemy, Gabriel’s brother, Raphael. Raphael gathers a band of brave friends to take the Dark Isle and free Gabriel. Among them is Raven who once ruled Valmora and escaped into the modern world from Mahara’s spell, a boy with a violin, a shape-shifter with regrets and Pennytook, the fun loving Gypsy who knows the ways of magic in Winatuke. The comrades travel on their quest toward the deadly evil of the Dark Isle. Will they save Prince Gabriel or will all of Winatuke fall beneath Mahara’s evil rule?

The legend continues with a curse, a quest and undying love.

Hawk is a troubled man with a secret. Emma is a burned-out doctor weighed down by emotional baggage. Can they forget their past long enough to save Hawk's brother, Peregrine, from dying beneath the curse of the Lake of Sorrows? Or will the secrets hidden within the Lake of Sorrows swallow them all under its evil enchantment?

A quest for an enchanted light...a Gypsy’s love...and a warrior’s sacrifice to save Valmora.

To free his father from the witch-queen of the Dark Isle, Falcon must find the legendary Light of Valmora that lies hidden in the darkest place on earth—right under the witch’s feet.  To complicate things further, he is falling in love with Izabelle, the Gypsy woman who loves his brother, Peregrine.
Izabelle struggles with her feelings for her first love, Peregrine, and her growing affection for his brother, Falcon.
No one may survive the quest for the Light of Valmora or the wicked queen of the Dark Isle who intends to rule the world of Winatuke.


  1. This is a very informative post, Sarah. I enjoyed refreshing my memory on the archetypes. I did learn about these when I had psychology classes that included the theories of Jung, Freud, and others re the human mind. But I confess that I do not try to create characters using the information nor try to fit my characters into any of the categories after their creation. But I do admire the way you apply this kind of knowledge to your writing. Since I'm a writer who creates my characters and then lets them tell their stories,I'm not sure I could make this work. But it would be interesting to take a few of them and psychoanalyze their personalities and behavior based on these categories. On second thought, I guess I'll just let them be for now. I enjoyed these blurbs from your books. I can see that these stories would require plotting skill which you obviously have.

  2. You're very kind, Linda. In truth, I realized my characters fit into these archetypes after the fact. Some of them fit into more than one archetype. It seems kind of clinical to develop a character on purpose according to an archetype, but I have done that. It starts off with a thought like, goodness, Hawk sure needs a friend to talk to--enter "The Caregiver", or these warriors need someone to tell them where they kind find some help destroying some evil--enter "The Magician", The Mentor", or "The Sage"...maybe even a combination of the three.
    Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your thoughts and experiences, Linda. I really appreciate it.

  3. Third time a charm..here I am I read this, began to make a comment, got interrupted, forgot what I was going to say...how about 3 times today? What a day I'll be happy to have it over.
    However...Archetypes--I couldn't decide if I knew these or not, but after, say all day...and what a day...I do know them and get the meaning. I use titles like this for Heroes in Western novels, and have written blogs about them.
    You continually surprise and challenge me. Me? I don't like anything paranormal, truthfully, but when I read about these fantastic stories you write, I wonder..is this the Sarah I know? Probably, these books are your best..don't know because I like the others you write. These seem more "literary."
    Good post, very well done, and worth a read from everyone.

    1. I hope your day got better, Celia. It's so disturbing when things get disorganized. I don't like that feeling.

      I took many classes in creative writing and not once were archetypes mentioned. What a shame. But I was very glad to get this information in a workshop for Carolina Romance Writers. I took notes.

      I wrote the stories for the Legends of Winatuke in the beginning of my career. I wrote Pennytook's story last year and enjoyed writing it because it's been a long time since I wrote a fantasy / paranormal story. I don't think I would call them literary works. Fantasy stories usually are dark, contain sensual scenes, and have a quest with plenty of danger along the way. These stories are very different from my other stories, but I enjoy writing them from time to time because it's a nice change for me. Similar to my Wildings series, I have several more characters to write about in the world of Winatuke.

      I hope you've gotten back into your writing groove. It's always a thrill for me to read your comments. They mean so much to me. Thank you so much for coming, Celia.

  4. Love the post and all the information about archetype.

    I used to keep a journal of all my stories and jotted down my characters names and traits, etc. Now I keep folders on my computer. How times have changed. lol

    Real life banter is always helpful when creating characters and how they would respond to different situations. It keeps them real. :)

    Images and places inspire me the most too. I have to see the story in my mind, and see the characters interact with gestures and body language.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences in creating your fascinating characters. I love your stories and the worlds you've created where you bring the legends and lore to a new light.

    1. Karen, I have never gotten the hang of using my computer the way you do. In fact, I handwrite most of my rough draft before I write it in the computer and there is no way I can make myself write notes about characters and such in a computer file--it all goes in a notebook written by hand. I'm sadly archaic. LOL
      I love my story boards filled with pictures from magazines of my imagined characters, important objects or scenes to make my imaginary ideas comes alive.
      I agree about characters interacting, especially dialogue, to bring them to life. I am often surprised by what I learn about them once I get them talking.
      Thank you for your lovely compliment about my work. It's especially complimentary since you write amazing paranormal stories yourself. And thank you for coming by and sharing your thoughts on my blog.


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