There are 8 essential archetypal characters, each of which represents a different aspect of our own minds.
The Protagonist portrays our initiative, Antagonist our reticence to change. Reason is our intellect, Emotion our passion. Skeptic is our self-doubt, Sidekick our self-confidence. Finally, Guardian represents our conscience and the Contagonist is temptation.
Naturally, each must be developed as a complete person as well as in its dramatic function so that the reader or audience might identify with them. Yet underneath their humanity, each archetype illustrates how a different specific aspect of ourselves fares when trying to solve the problem at the heart of the story.
In this manner, stories not only involve us superficially, but provide an underlying message about how we might go about solving similar human problems in our own lives.
Here are the eight archetypal characters, described in terms of their dramatic functions:
PROTAGONIST: The traditional Protagonist is the driver of the story: the one who forces the action. We root for it and hope for its success.
ANTAGONIST: The Antagonist is the character directly opposed to the Protagonist. It represents the problem that must be solved or overcome for the Protagonist to succeed.
REASON: This character makes its decisions and takes action on the basis of logic, never letting feelings get in the way of a rational course.
EMOTION: The Emotion character responds with its feelings without thinking, whether it is angry or kind, with disregard for practicality.
SKEPTIC: Skeptic doubts everything — courses of action, sincerity, truth — whatever.
SIDEKICK: The Sidekick is unfailing in its loyalty and support. The Sidekick is often aligned with the Protagonist though may also be attached to the Antagonist.
GUARDIAN: The Guardian is a teacher or helper who aids the Protagonist in its quest and offers a moral standard.
CONTAGONIST: The Contagonist hinders and deludes the Protagonist, tempting it to take the wrong course or approach.
Learn more about archetypal characters