Your goal to making characters should be to create real people, not cardboard cutouts. You want characters to feel genuine and fleshed out, not one-dimensional. You also want them to be unique, even when you use an archetype. An archetype is a reoccurring type of character that serves a specific role in your story. So we have the wise, old mentor, or the fool, or the hero. They are familiar characters for us and we know how we should relate to them and understand their roles. However, we don’t want to stray into stereotype territory. Stereotypes fall flat and are full of clichés. For instance if our hero is the “chosen one.” This character is flat and overdone, special through no fault of their own, but just because they were born. But for some reason they’re special and we should pay attention to everything they do. This has been done too many times.
So how do we avoid creating stereotypes? By making our characters three-dimensional. Every character must have a goal to work towards and a flaw to make them human and relatable. No one is perfect, not even our hero, and it’s important to reflect that in our stories. Look at your character’s list of personality traits. Are they unique or overdone? Is your villain a black-eyed devil who dresses in all black and laughs maniacally? What if instead of just being evil he was driven by his mother’s tragic death at the hand of the king’s main advisor? Give him a motivation. Make him interesting. And stay away from black clothes and a maniacal laugh.
Make each character an individual. They should all have different defining characteristics just like in real life. No two people are the same. Give them a quirk. Maybe they always tell bad jokes or they only wear the color yellow. What makes them an individual?
Choose the unexpected. Instead of the orphan boy being the chosen one, make your hero the girl from a family of nine. How can you make your mentor different from the wise old man? Use the archetypes in new ways and delight your readers. Make your characters a refreshing change from the usual.
What are your favorite archetypes and how do you make them new? Share below and happy writing.