Hello, weirdos of the world, in the previous article on African recipes for storytelling, we covered the first and probably the most important part of creating your own African fantasy – your world. Today we get to talk, read and write about your character creation.
Rather than getting into the daunting processes of making characters from scratch, let’s talk about a really easy technique that can fit into virtually any kind of story – character archetypes.
In literature, an archetype is typically a character, an action or a situation that seems to represent universal patterns of human nature. An archetype, also known as “universal symbol,” may be a character, theme, symbol or even a setting. There are about 47, perhaps even a hundred, but today we’re going to talk about five.
Unlike the hero, the explorer is not always the protagonist but usually fits the role. These characters are also known as the seeker, the wanderer or the individualist. Their core desires always revolve around having the freedom for discovery or to achieve their goals. The thing they fear the most is being trapped, conformity and an inner sense of emptiness. These characters are often thought to have what is called the wanderer’s syndrome.
The rebellious rebel is a character who can also play the role of an antagonist, though not often. Their core desire usually relates to revenge or a sense of revolution. Their goals are to overturn systems or beliefs they think are not working. Their greatest fear is often that of being too weak to effect the change they desire..
Don’t we love love-triangles? Most stories will not be possible without this archetype. The lover is also called the partner, love interest, sensualist and spouse. Their core desire is often intimacy. Their goal is obviously to be intimate with the character of interest and their greatest fear is non-intimacy and rejection.
The mentor is possibly my favourite archetype because you just can’t go wrong with this guy. Also, I just haven’t seen a story that worked without one. Their core desire is to lead the hero or their friend to their goal. Mentors are caring, wisdom-giving characters whose greatest fear would be to see their friend/ hero fail at their quest or come to harm.
The boy next door, the orphan, the good neighbour, the baker. The everyman is the silent majority, those who pass in the background, whose staleness adds to the unique tapestry of your story. Their core desire is usually connecting with others, to feel a sense of belonging with society. They are often realistic, empathetic and their greatest fear would be, as the name connotes, to stand out in a crowd.
As I previously stated, there are over a hundred models and archetypes. With further research and study into archetypes and their applications in different media, I’m sure you could discover more complex and interesting ones to experiment with. With these five important pieces, however, you’re set to at least start putting the puzzle of your story together easily.
Stay tuned…The plot thickens.
About Cassandra Mark
Cassandra Mark is an award-winning writer, comic book creator and anime enthusiast resident in Lagos, Nigeria. She is the author and creator of the hit comic Tatashe and has also lent her pen and colors to other Comic Republic titles like Hero Kekere.
She is also a concept artist, hardcore gaming junkie, and illustrator who enjoys gardening, Yoga, and dabbles in African spirituality. She’s also one of our cherished contributors at Squid Magazine. Read her posts here.