Every screenwriter knows that writing a great screenplay takes more than just a good plot or good world building. It relies heavily on constructing memorable characters. Understanding character archetypes are an important step in this endeavor.
Character archetypes are broad character types that represent aspects of human nature that transcend time, location, and circumstance. In short, they reflect universal human motifs and experiences.
Because of this, they are mouldable and can be used again and again as a character template.
When these archetypes are used well, they result in characters and character arcs that feel instantly familiar but fresh. However, when overused or used poorly they become stock characters.
These are character archetypes that have been moulded into a more specific character type already. They often feel generic and flat since they lack any deeper characterization. This is especially true for stock characters used regularly enough to become cliches.
They might be quick, easy, and great for pushing out a book or movie fast. However, audiences recognize these fluff characters when they see them.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely though! Part of being a great writer is subverting expectations. What better way to do this than using stock characters in new, inventive ways?
To help with this, we’ve compiled this list of 201 character archetypes and stock characters you can use to craft fantastic characters.
- Absent Father: A father who left his family or was never involved to begin with.
- Absent-Minded Professor: An often kindly and intelligent but distracted teacher.
- Addict: Character addicted to something, whether substances, a person, or a cause.
- Ambitious Queen: A queen wanting to gain more power.
- Angry Chef: A chef whose anger is to the detriment of himself as well as those around him.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: An abstract given physical form.
- Anti-Hero: A protagonist of a story who lacks heroic traits like idealism and morality.
- Authority Figure: Someone in a position of power, especially over a child.
- Author Surrogate: A way for the author/screenwriter to insert themselves into their work.
- Backstabbing Friend: A friend who ultimately betrays the protagonist.
- Bad Boy: A rebellious boy or man who doesn’t care about social convention, usually just for show.
- Bad Friend: The friend who either disregards those around them or somehow just constantly gets it wrong despite trying.
- Bard: Storyteller and music-maker singing tales of the past and commemorating heroic deeds.
- Believer: A character with strong spiritual, ethical, or supernatural beliefs.
- Benevolent Ruler: A ruler who is compassionate and empathetic towards their people.
- Blind Seer: A sightless woman who can instead see the future.
- Boss: A person in a position of power, namely in a company or job.
- Boy-Next-Door: Wholesome boy who is classically handsome.
- Bully: A character who hurts others to make themselves feel better about themselves.
- Bumbling Sidekick: An incompetent companion and helper to a hero.
- Bureaucrat: They insist on following the rules regardless of personal beliefs.
- Bruce Lee Clone: A stock character competent in various martial arts.
- Byronic/Tortured Hero: A hero who is usually arrogant, broody, and darkly romantic.
- Career Criminal: They won’t let handcuffs or iron bars stand in the way of their business. Criminality is their lifelong, full time job.
- Caretaker: The character who insists on taking care of others before themselves.
- Catalyst: The character who sets everything in motion or whose actions push the plot forward quickly.
- Childhood Friend: Some character that was close with the hero in childhood. Oftentimes, they become either the hero’s close ally or their arch nemesis.
- Child Saviour: A baby/child who is the chosen one destined to save others.
- “Chosen One”: Hero regarded as the only one who can defeat evil.
- Chooser of the Chosen One: Often an older mentor/master who finds the Chosen One.
- Christ-Figure: An all-loving figure that sacrifices themselves for the greater good.
- Cinderella Type: A young, beautiful woman who is treated poorly by an evil matriarch.
- Class Clown: A young stock character who acts silly to make friends.
- Comic Relief: A funny, silly character whose main function is to break dramatic tension.
- Complicated Past: Stock character with a complicated past that often makes their motivations and allegiances unknown and mysterious.
- Con Artist: They know how to get what they want before you even notice.
- Contender: An underdog you can’t help but root for.
- Coward: One who is afraid of coming to harm. They may become a turncoat or act as a double agent to save themselves.
- Crazy Cat Lady: She has enough cats but don’t bother trying to tell her that. Often lonely and unhinged.
- Creepy Twins: Pair of often identical twins who appear dark or unsettling.
- Damsel in Distress: A woman in ill-fated circumstances that needs/is waiting for a male rescuer.
- Dark Jester: A joker whose appearance/silliness is a facade hiding dark intentions.
- Deformed: Someone who appears “ugly” in appearance or personality. They’re treated like a monster in response.
- Devil Incarnate/ Dark Lord: Archetype that is used as an all-evil, devil figure and foil to a Christ-Figure.
- Devotee: Someone entirely devoted to a leader or cause.
- Divorced Dad: Stock character who usually has a child and is looking to start dating again.
- Double Agent: Agent working against one country while acting on behalf of the enemy.
- Dreamer: Someone who is more involved in dreaming than practicality.
- Dumb College Student: No one knows how he got in, but everyone’s sure his major is in partying.
- Easy Adapter: One who finds themselves able to adapt to any situation and change.
- Eccentric Foreigner: Someone from a foreign land whose ways/customs seem odd to onlookers.
- Elderly Master: An old man who teaches a young person an old tradition.
- Emotionally Repressed: An emotionally unhealthy person who would rather repress their feelings than work through them.
- Empath: An archetype that feels the pain of others deeply and wants to help.
- Enabler: One who supports another character’s decisions, despite their goodness or lack thereof.
- Eternal Klutz: An awkward character who is particularly clumsy. They often fall into bad or typically avoidable situations.
- Everyman/woman: A regular person who comes to represent others just like them.
- Evil Matriarch: An older, often influential woman who acts as an evil force.
- Experiment Gone Wrong: A mad scientist’s experiment that becomes self-aware and (usually) aggressive towards its creator.
- Explorer: Archetype that’s constantly seeking knew experiences, items, and worlds. They are rarely happy in one place.
- Femme Fatale: A woman who uses her beauty and cunning to her advantage.
- Final Girl: The resourceful girl/woman who is the last one standing in a horror movie.
- Friendly Rival: This archetype is the rival of the protagonist. Rather than operating as negative influences, they tend to motivate each other to be better.
- Fallen/ Corrupter: A character who attempts or succeeds in turning the good towards evil.
- Guardian Grandparents: Grandparents who become guardians of an orphaned grandchild.
- Generic Audience Stand-in: A character who the audience can “put themselves” in. They are usually plain, relatable, and awkward.
- Generic Horror Girl: The girl who always goes in the house despite it being a horrible idea.
- Generic Slasher: The stereotypical horror/slasher villain.
- Genius: Smart, rational, and resourceful person who may struggle with emotions.
- Gentle Giant: Friendly and warm, in contrast to how they are perceived because of their size.
- Gentleman Thief: A thief but with manners.
- Gifted Child: A child with extraordinary talents, whether natural or supernatural, often a saviour for the story.
- Girl-Next-Door: Wholesome girl who is pretty.
- God/ Goddess: Powerful spiritual entity that retains human-like traits on the surface.
- Good Guy/Traditional Hero: The character archetype of a traditionally all-good protagonist. Their goal is to save others from evil.
- Good Samaritan: An onlooker or side character who tries to do good.
- Good Time Traveler: A time traveler committed to fixing some negative event in the past or future. However, they will only bend the rules of time so far.
- Grieving Widow: Person grieving the loss of their spouse.
- Groupie: Someone who hangs around a band or specific person.
- Guide: Someone who guides a hero along their quest, giving them access to places and information previously inaccessible.
- Hard-boiled Detective: Stock character of a tough detective who solves crimes because of their persistence.
- Hardworker: A person who is willing to work long, hard hours for the betterment of themselves.
- Harsh Judge: Their decision is harsh and swift, sometimes regardless of the evidence.
- Hedonist: One whose life goal is the pursuit of pleasure.
- Hermit: A typically older man who lives alone. The hermit also often functions as a mentor to the protagonist.
- Hippy: Make peace, not war. Often an empathetic and idealistic visionary.
- Hopeless Romantic: They love the idea of love and are attracted to anyone who’s the same.
- Human-Like Creature: An alien, monster, or other creature who possess human-like characteristics.
- Human Plot Device: A character whose only use is to move the plot forward.
- Hunchback: A character who is treated like a monster but has a heart of gold.
- Idiot Turned Hero: An awkward, village idiot type forced to become a hero.
- Imposter/Pretender: A character who poses as another or pretends to be on one side when they’re actually on the other.
- Innocent: Those impacted by the protagonist and antagonist’s actions, despite having no part in their struggle.
- Innovator: Their inventions will usher in a golden era, or so they think.
- Invasive Neighbor: A stock character that is gossipy and intrusive to their neighbors.
- Jaded Lead: Connected to the anti-hero, this lead lacks many of the qualities we expect from a protagonist.
- Jock: Great at sports and usually loved by everyone except the nerds he might bully.
- Joker/ Jester: A literal or figurative fool that provides a sense of comic relief. They are largely funny and lighthearted. Yet, they’re also used to point out a protagonist’s insecurities.
- Journalist: One who is always out to get the scoop, often at the expense of their personal lives.
- Leader: A character who commands respect from everyone around them and acts in everyone’s best interest.
- Liam Neeson Type: He will find you and he will kill you. At least, if you are threatening someone he cares about.
- Liar: Character who consistently can’t tell the truth.
- Living Legend: One of extreme fame and influence. They’re often a rock star, actor, or other creative.
- Logician: The character who runs purely off of reason and scoffs at emotion. They’re related to the Emotionally Repressed archetype.
- Loose Cannon/Crooked Cop: A police officer who has gone off the rails. He takes justice into his own hands regardless of right or wrong.
- Lovable Pervert: A perverted character that is still seen in a good light due to redeeming qualities. (Ex. Master Roshi)
- Love Interest: The protagonist would do anything to protect them and win them over at the end of the day.
- Macho Action Guy: Stereotypical action protagonist who is usually strong, good-looking, and good with guns.
- Mad Scientist: A scientist who does unconventional, extreme experiments that are often seen as immoral or “too far.”
- Magician/Mage/Shaman: Someone with magical powers coming in aid of the hero or protagonist.
- Maiden: A fair, lovely woman characterized by purity and innocence.
- Martyr: An archetype willing to die for their beliefs or cause.
- Masked Superhero: A superhero who does not want their true identity to be revealed.
- Masochist: A character that keeps engaging in a situation that leads to their pain and suffering. They’re often a visionary who regards their toil as necessary for their cause.
- Maverick: Independent loner who prefers their own company above others’.
- Mentor: An often older, intelligent person who helps the hero on their journey.
- Messenger: A bearer of truth or news.
- Messiah: A liberator of the oppressed and downtrodden.
- Momma’s Boy: This character is a man who will listen to anything his mom says, despite being an adult.
- Monk: A pious character who tries to act in accordance with their faith.
- Monster: A scary creature or person who poses a threat.
- Mother/Matriarch: A character archetype of a nurturing woman who offers guidance and comfort in hard times. Alternatively, she can be displayed as overbearing, evil, and manipulative.
- Mr. Fix It: That one guy who insists he can fix anything, whether physical or emotional.
- Narrator: Character who guides the audience through the events of the book/movie.
- Nature Lover: Person who loves to be in natural places.
- “Nice Guy”: The guy who swears he’s nice but really isn’t. His motivations tend to be selfish in nature.
- Non-Conformist: A rebel who does not believe in conforming to the norm.
- Outcast: One who seems to never quite fit in anywhere. The Outcast often has gifts or characteristics unbeknownst to them that are noticeable to others.
- Out-of-Towner: A mysterious stranger who is an outsider.
- Overly Patient Wife: Woman who tends to put up with an emotionally distant or eccentric spouse.
- Paranoid Conspiracy Theorist: That person who always thinks aliens or the government are responsible.
- Patriarch: An authoritative man at the head of a family.
- Peacemaker: Character who tries to be the voice of peace and reason.
- Perfectionist: They can’t let it go even when it’s the best they can do.
- Perpetual Traveler: Related to the explorer, this archetype is constantly wandering in search of something.
- Philosopher: The character who asks profound questions about life, death, meaning, and power.
- Pinning Friend: The friend who wants to be more than friends.
- Predator: Out for themselves and willing to feed on any who cross their path.
- Prey: A victim of the predator.
- Prince on a White Horse: A stock character that rescues a damsel in distress.
- Psychopath: A character with no sense of morality or duty to others.
- Puppeteer: A character who is pulling strings behind the scenes. They are often an unknown or mysterious force for most of the plot.
- Rags to Riches: A poor character who comes into money by inheritance, chance, or magical intervention.
- Reluctant Hero: A character who never wanted to become a hero but does, usually because they have to.
- Reluctant/Unwilling Monster: A monster who doesn’t want to be a monster/cause harm.
- Rich Woman: Woman who has lots of money and influence and shows it.
- Rightful Heir: Child who shrugs off their royal roots but should become ruler.
- Rightful King: The Rightful King confronts an illegitimate ruler and succeeds in battle. He then takes his place on the throne and restores his kingdom’s peace.
- Robin Hood: A character who takes from the rich to give to the poor.
- Romantic Runner-Up: The one in a love triangle who is left behind despite their best efforts.
- Royal Usurper: One who has taken the throne illegitimately, often by violent means.
- Savant: Someone who is exceptionally talented, even without much practice.
- Scapegoat: One blamed for another’s actions, usually for the image of swift justice.
- Scrooge: A miser who is distant or outright aggressive towards others.
- Secretive: Stock character who is mysterious and has an unsaid secret.
- Servant/Slave: A person forced to serve someone or something against their will.
- Shapeshifter: A dangerous character that is not what they appear.
- Sherlock Holmes Type: They solve mysteries no one else can with their superior deductive skills.
- Sickly: Often used in older literature and period pieces, this character archetype is constantly frail.
- Skeptic: A character who immediately rejects or unconvinced of certain spiritual, ethical, or supernatural beliefs.
- Sleazy Politician: The cliched politician who is willing to engage in unethical practices to benefit their own interests.
- Soubrette: An archetype characterized by a young, often frivolous and flirtatious woman.
- Southern Belle: A southern woman with a heavy accent and feminine/flirtatious mannerisms.
- Stand-in Parent/Role Model: A character who serves as a good parental figure to an orphan.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Romantic pair doomed to fail due to warring families, different classes, or other circumstances.
- Starving Artist: Stereotypical artist with little money but lots of passion and talent.
- Straight Man: A serious character that makes the fool look all the more ridiculous.
- Student: Person who is always trying to learn new things in the context of school or life.
- Stupid Muscle: A character who shows little intelligence and is expected to handle the protagonist or their supporters.
- Super Soldier: A character engineered by a secret program to be stronger, faster, and smarter than anyone else.
- Surprise Genius: Someone unexpected to displays surprising intelligence.
- Survivalist: A person who has great survival skills and training.
- Survivor: One who somehow survives, even against insurmountable odds.
- Thrill-Seeker: They’re here for a good time, not a long time.
- Time Traveler’s Wife: The time traveler’s other half. Their love transcends time and space.
- Tortured Superhero: A superhero who decided to fight for good/gained their powers because of a tragic event in their past. (Ex. Batman)
- Town Drunk: Instantly recognizable to everyone in town. He constantly has an empty bottle of booze and little to no common sense.
- Traditionalist: They would rather live in the past than the present and insist that everyone else should do the same.
- Tragic Hero: A hero with a tragic flaw that leads to their downfall or demise.
- Trickster: A character who plays tricks and disobeys traditional social convention. They encourage chaos over order and unrest over complacency.
- Troubled Teenager: A rebellious teenager with a rough past who often gets in trouble.
- Truth Seeker: A character devoted to finding either spiritual or personal truth. Oftentimes, their truth-seeking leads to a long journey.
- Troubled Vet: A veteran who suffers from PTSD or other ill-effects because of war.
- Turncoat: Someone who switches sides and may be seen as a traitor.
- Tyrant: One who rules with an iron fist, disregarding the damages to innocents.
- Underling/Henchman: A person who serves a person of power.
- Unfortunate Orphan: A child who loses their parents to tragic circumstances. They then fall into poverty, a bad family, or other bad situations.
- Unknown Threat: A villain who is lurking in the shadows, unbeknownst to the hero or others.
- Unlikely Hero: An everyday character who is forced to become a hero due to previously unknown powers or circumstances.
- Vampire: Someone who preys on the blood of others, either figuratively or literally. Literal vampires are often displayed as reluctant supernatural creatures rather than true monsters.
- Vigilante: This character takes justice into their own hands.
- Visionary: One who believes in and strives for change despite insurmountable odds. Despite little representation of it, they have a positive vision for the future.
- Warrior: A character defined by their courage, strength, integrity and skill.
- Wannabe Hero: A character who looks up to an actual hero and tries to follow in their footsteps.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: A character archetype that goes too far in the name of good.
- Whiskey Priest: You should do as he says, not as he does. He may hold others to a high moral standard, but he doesn’t expect the same of himself.
- Wicked Stepmother: An evil stepmother who mistreats her stepdaughter in favor of her own daughters.
- Wicked Witch: An evil matriarch type who is also a witch. She’s usually the antagonist to a hero.
- Wise Mentor: A stereotypically wise and sharp teacher figure. They guide a protagonist’s growth and journey. (Ex. Dumbledore)
- Workaholic: The character who is obsessed with work. If they’re not working, they’re thinking about work.
- Yokel: Backwards country folk. Usually a stereotype used for comic effect.
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4 thoughts on “201 Character Archetypes Writers MUST Have In Their Armoury”
I must have missed the part where I said “But no, that doesn’t happen.” And I m pretty sure my pointing out that they tend to be paired with similarly clad women IS saying “Not in the same way AT ALL, YOU DELIBERATELY OBTUSE FOOL.” I’m a romance reader, and I’m not going to lie: I think the shirtless dudes on romance covers are meant to titillate me. I think they are objectified for me to look at and fantasize about. I agree that many types of idealized images of men (such as the covers of Conan books, and most male comic book and video game characters) are more about male power fantasies than female sexual fantasies, but I would argue that many modern romance novel covers seem more like the latter to me, especially when I’m increasingly seeing shirtless men alone and reclining, or shirtless men paired with clothed women.
This one time I took a Simpson’s personality test and got Cletus the slack-jawed yokel.
An interesting compilation