Tag Archives: Storytelling

Archetypal Characters in Storytelling

The hero, the mentor, the sidekick. We’re all familiar with archetypal characters in storytelling. We’ve seen them before. We know the roles they play.

Archetypal characters shouldn’t be confused with stock characters or stereotypical characters. Although we’ve seen all these characters before and will surely see them again, stock and stereotypical characters are based on character traits; archetypes are based on the characters’ function or purpose within a story.

Characters’ Function in Story

Archetypal characters fulfill a specific function a story. The herald signals change or the beginning of an adventure. The mentor imparts gifts, skills, or knowledge to the hero. The threshold guardian tests the hero or blocks the path forward.

Stock characters feel familiar because they embody a personality type — behaviors and attitudes that we’ve seen in similar characters before. The tough guy, the girl next door, and the wise old man or woman are all examples of stock characters. They may serve a purpose in the story (somebody has to serve the main characters at a restaurant), but what stands out is their personality, which sometimes feels cliché.

Stereotypical characters reflect social stereotypes, which are widely held and often inaccurate or misleading beliefs about groups. Stereotypes occur when traits, behaviors, and attitudes are assigned to an entire group. They often based on race, religion, gender, or geographical origin, and they are usually negative. Stereotypes make irrational assumptions about individuals based on the group to which they belong.

How can we tell the difference between an archetype, stock character, or stereotype? Let’s use the Knight in Shining Armor and a Damsel in Distress as examples. The damsel functions as a plot device, providing the hero with a goal (to save her), and the knight functions as a hero whose primary goal is to rescue the damsel. But the function these characters perform within a story (to save or be saved) need not be assigned to a damsel or a knight. A child could save a puppy. A witch could save a wizard. Or a lifeguard could save a swimmer.

If we remove the personality traits, we’re left with the function: give the hero someone or something to save, i.e., an archetypal function.

Archetypal Characters from The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell discovered archetypal characters that exist in stories throughout time and across space. He presented his findings in the Monomyth (or Hero’s Journey), and Christopher Vogler later adapted Campbell’s findings in his book, The Writer’s Journey. Let’s take a look at the eight archetypes of the Hero’s Journey:

  • Hero: Protagonist who undergoes a meaningful transformation over the course of a story and who often changes the conditions of the story world for the better.
  • Herald: Signals that an adventure (or change) is imminent.
  • Mentor: Teacher and guide.
  • Threshold Guardian: Blocks a threshold that the Hero must pass; tests the Hero.
  • Shadow: The villain and other characters that stand in the Hero’s way; often they embody the Hero’s negative or undesirable traits.
  • Shapeshifter: A character or entity whose motives or intentions are unclear.
  • Trickster: Comic relief; Tricksters are often catalysts for change.
  • Allies: The Hero’s friends and helpers.

You’ll often see these archetypes in various combinations in storytelling. Some stories may not use a shapeshifter while others might have more than one trickster. A single character can embody multiple archetypes. For example, the character that performs the function of the Herald might also be a Trickster. The Mentor could act as the Threshold Guardian.

Other Archetypal Characters

The Hero’s Journey isn’t the only source of archetypal characters. There are other types of stories and other archetypes in fiction. Here’s a small sampling:

  • Anti-hero: This is an inverted hero, the protagonist is not likable or engages in despicable or immoral behaviors.
  • Audience surrogate: A stand-in for the audience, to inject questions and thoughts on behalf of the audience.
  • The Chosen One: A type of hero who is destined for greatness or tragedy rather than earning it.
  • The Cynic: This untrusting character often provides skepticism or challenges the status quo.

This is just a small sampling of archetypes you might find in fiction. You can have a lot of fun identifying archetypes, but make sure each one performs a function rather than represents a behavior or personality type. A common archetype I’ve noticed is The Oppressor, a character who uses their power to rob other characters of their rights, freedoms, and justice. The Misfit is a character that doesn’t fit in with mainstream society and either learns to fit in or eventually learns to be true to who they are.

Using Character Archetypes

Character archetypes can come in handy during the story development process. You might write a draft or outline and feel that it’s missing something. Maybe your story needs one of the character archetypes to mark the stages and progress of your protagonist’s journey.

Have you ever intentionally used archetypes in your stories? Are there any character archetypes you’ve noticed in fiction that aren’t mentioned here? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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Your Story Matters (Or… What a Reader Wants You to Know)

Hi, dear Villagers! *waves*

Let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. I’m Carrie, aka MeezCarrie, of ReadingIsMySuperPower. And I LOVE STORY!! I love short stories. I love epic stories. I love in between sized stories. I love contemporary stories. Historical stories. Mystery stories. Amish stories. Even some speculative and YA stories.

But most of all? I love THE Story. The one that starts with the ultimate ‘once upon a time’ – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) – and ends with the best ‘happily ever after’ ever (Revelation 21:4)

Because we are all part of that Story.

Yes, we all have a story in progress that is our own life. But everyone we meet does, too. And all those stories-in-progress are part of the Big Story that God is telling. Let me tell you – that is SO exciting to me!

I’m one of the new Seekerville bloggers, but I’m not seeking publication. I’m content to read other people’s stories and talk (incessantly) about them. But that up there? What I just said about being part of God’s Story?

That means I’m sorta like all the rest of y’all.

In a small way.

Ok.. not at all the same.

BUT… I am part of the greatest Story in the world. And so are you. That’s pretty stinkin’ incredible. The Author and Finisher of my Faith is telling a Story about me and about you. And He has promised to keep writing it until it’s completed – not when I die or when you die, but until the day Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

Back in November, I had the pinch-me privilege of speaking with Cynthia Ruchti at the Art of Writing Conference just ahead of the 2017 Christy Awards gala. We talked about the darts of author discouragement and how to dodge them. After our session, a woman came up to me in tears. She whispered, “I didn’t know anybody else knew how I feel.” And then we both were in tears lol!

Author friends – can I encourage you a moment? You’re not alone. Writing may be a solitary career but the discouragements are consistent. Fear of rejection. The reality of rejection. Fear of the  possibility of a bad review. The depths of despair over an actual bad review. Your family doesn’t take you seriously. Your friends don’t take you seriously. It doesn’t pay the bills. It barely pays for coffee.

Oh… wait… I was supposed to be encouraging you. LOL.

I really was headed here, I promise.

You’re not alone. And you’re not left defenseless.

God has given you each other, and He has given you His Word. Community and grace wrapped up in a safe place like Seekerville.

You want to know another secret? YOUR STORY MATTERS.

Yep. I went there: all caps.

Because it’s so incredibly true and so incredibly important to understand.

The story you’re writing matters.

That story you’ve agonized over. The one that’s kept you up all hours of the night. The one that may or may not currently be taunting you with a blinking cursor of ‘I got nothing’. It matters. Even if no one else ever reads it. Even if no agent or publishing house wants it. Even if your beta readers and editors send it back with more tracked changes than you had words to start with.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

But you know what? The story that God is writing in you and through you matters most of all. He is making you more like Jesus every day. He knew you before He formed you in your mother’s womb, and He had already had plans for your life. (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1) He created you as a writer before you even had fully developed hands to hold a pen or tap away on a keyboard. Even better – He knew your role in His Story before you ever made your grand arrival on planet Earth. And that story matters on a scale we can’t even begin to imagine.

Maybe you’re like me and the only thing you write is a blog post… or a grocery list. Your story matters too. God placed you in His Story at just the right time and in just the right place so that you would come to know Him (Acts 17). He pursued you with an everlasting love and has engraved you on the palm of His hand. (Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 49). Think about that for a second – you matter so much to the God of the Universe that those nail-scarred Hands have your name on them.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

I know good stories. I’m surrounded by them, à la the Dr. Seuss method of decorating. All the crannies, all the nooks, etc. This Big Story that God is telling is a good story. It’s the best story. It’s the standard by which all other stories are measured (whether they realize it or not). It’s also a true story. This fairy-tale to beat all fairy-tales – a prince on a white horse come to vanquish the enemy and rescue his bride – that’s OUR story (Revelation 19).

So when you’re tempted to throw in the towel and give up on your story – the one you’re writing or the one you’re living – remember this:

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

By Carrie Schmidt
Source: seekerville.blogspot.com

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Setting of a Story: 3 Ways Going Outside Can Improve Your Writing

Our job as writers is to transport our readers into our stories. A high-octane plot and three-dimensional characters are obviously necessary to accomplish this goal, but so is an immersive setting of a story.

The setting of a story is often overlooked when describing a scene. We all want to move on to the next plot twist and wasting important space on what trees look like will just bore the readers, right?

Wrong.

To draw readers fully into a scene, we need setting. We want them to forget they’re reading and make them experience everything our characters are experiencing.

Sometimes, you can get away with building the setting of a story straight from your imagination. Sometimes, you can’t.

The Argument for Going Outdoors

I’m what you would call an “outdoorsy person.” I love being outside in any weather, at any time of day. Nature inspires me, clears my head, and gets me out of my desk chair for a little while.

You don’t have to be a nature person to get the benefits of absorbing your surroundings. And you don’t have to live in the middle of the woods to write about the outdoors. Even sitting on your porch or taking a quick jaunt around the block can infuse you with new energy and enthusiasm.

3 Ways to Be More Present

Okay, you’re outside, standing on a hill, looking at the sunset. Now what?

We’re constantly surrounded by everything we need to build a great setting of a story, but we often ignore all that in our rush to the next thing.

Pay attention to your surroundings. Immerse yourself in your own experiences, and you’ll be able to draw on them later.

NOTE: I’ve used a rural setting as an example, but this applies to urban settings as well.

Here are three things to think about while outdoors:

1. Your Senses

You already know the importance of using all five senses to improve your writing, but it can be hard to notice anything deeper than the obvious.

Let’s take our sunset example from earlier. It’s obviously gorgeous, and you can probably describe the colors of the sunset quite well.

Look deeper.

Close your eyes. Can you hear someone crunching through the woods in the distance? Songbirds? Traffic? The woman walking her dog across the field: Is she slumped from cold or fanning herself from heat? Young, old, talking on her cell phone? Is she attentive to her dog or zoned out? What does the air smell like? What does the ground feel like?

Pay attention to the less obvious and you’ll draw in your readers.

Remember: You don’t have to use all five senses in every description. Select the most useful senses for the scene.

PRO TIP: Try observing the same setting at different times of day or during different seasons.

2. Similes and Metaphors

Similes and metaphors add layers to your prose, allowing the reader to experience a deeper understanding of the setting. They also allow you to enhance character description and plot, establish mood and tone, and can cut down on overly verbose descriptions.

When you’re observing your surroundings, don’t just note the sensory details around you, but think about comparisons.

Right now, I’ve got a pile of snow outside my house that’s mid-melt and looks like a Smurfs hat. See, I didn’t have to describe the shape and curve of this particular pile of snow in order for you to get my meaning.

Back to the sunset on the hill. You’ve noticed the sunset is purple and yellow. That’s all well and good, but boring. What do those colors remind you of? For me, it’s a bruise, which enhances other aspects of my story, as my main character has just been betrayed by a friend.

The sunset swirled with varying shades of purple and yellow, spreading like an angry bruise across the horizon.

The “bruising sunset” is a bit overdone anymore, but you get the point.

Don’t just go with the obvious (aka, cliché) similes and metaphors. Think deeper. Get creative. Have some fun with it.

3. Spying

We don’t all have access to that hill at sunset, and we don’t all want to write about nature. (Though plenty of nature resides in cities as well.) If you or your characters prefer a more urban environment, pay attention to the people around you.

Yes, I’m giving you permission to spy.

I once encountered a middle-aged man decked out like a hippie browsing outside an antique store. Long gray hair, bellbottoms, bandana, smelled awful. He was so out of place, I just had to linger near him for a moment. He was chatting on an iPhone about his investments while thumbing through art prints. The whole situation stunned me.

To this day, he is still the most fascinating person I’ve ever seen. I possibly would’ve noticed him without consciously spying, but I wouldn’t have moved closer to hear his conversation.

No matter what you’re doing, pay attention to the people around you. What are they doing? How do they walk? Noting mannerisms can add layers to your characters. Are they talking to someone? What are they saying? Snippets of conversation can spawn an entire chapter idea, and introduce you to better dialogue.

Try not to be creepy, though.

Immerse Yourself

The setting of a story is just as important as other aspects of your writing. In order to establish an immersive setting for your readers and not rely on overused descriptions, you need to go outside and experience your surroundings. Observe. Take note.

Be present in your setting and your readers will be, too.

Any other tips to immerse yourself in outdoor settings? Let me know in the comments.

By Sarah Gribble
Source: thewritepractice.com

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4 LESSONS IN STORYTELLING FROM A SCREENWRITER WHO’S ALSO A D&D DUNGEON MASTER

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Publishers – Aggregators – Master Distributors

Filmmaker and D&D devotee Matthew Robinson talks about what screenwriting and the fantasy roleplaying game have in common.

 

They say writers shouldn’t hesitate to kill their darlings. It’s not an invitation to actual homicide, but a plea for the willingness to jettison any element of a story, even if you love it like a friend. That’s just one of the many work-hazards writers share with those in charge of Dungeons and Dragons games—a dungeon master has to kill off his or her friends all the time.

Consider pouring out a flagon of mead, in that case, for poor Matthew Robinson. As a pro screenwriter and a recent convert to the world of Dungeons and Dragons, he is constantly deluged with decisions about character arcs and turns of phrase by day, and also responsible for the fate of those fellow D&D-ers whose weekly quests he architects. Naturally, he has found that there is some serious overlap between the skill sets of screenwriting and overseeing fantasy roleplaying games.

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What really makes a good story?

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An excellent article over at  ABC Copywriting by Tom Albrighton

In a recent post, I noted that the term ‘storytelling’ is being applied to more and more types of content, not all of them proper stories. On top of that, there’s often an over-emphasis on the channels and media used for storytelling at the expense of the stories themselves. But all that begs the question: what does make a good story?

This post draws on academic research into political storytelling, and other sources, to argue that the most effective commercial stories share seven closely related characteristics: drama, familiarity, simplicity, immersion, relatability, agency and trust in the teller. (Discussion continues below infographic.)

What really makes a good story? (Infographic)

 

Drama

Stories need dramatic development and emotional dynamics. Taking out the ‘bad bits’ damages trust.

dramaAt the very broadest level, drama is the spark that animates all creative forms of advertising and marketing. First, you have to take the features of a product and ‘turn them outwards’ by expressing them as benefits. Then you need to dramatise those benefits in a compelling and convincing way.

Just as drama turns a benefit into a creative concept, so it turns a neutral sequence of events into a story. A story needs conflict and resolution; tension and release; mystery and revelation. There should be losses and gains, setbacks and comebacks, peaks and troughs. And, above all, a story should be about people: their dreams and desires; loves and hates; problems and passions.

If your story is a work of fiction, it should be relatively easy to create drama. If it’s factual, you may have to dig around, or use poetic licence, to give it the drama it lacks. Or your story may have too much drama, so that you’re tempted to tone it down to show the characters in the best possible light.

A brand telling its own story will usually prefer to dwell on its successes rather than its setbacks. Even in the age of social engagement, few brands are interested in proving their authenticity by admitting mistakes unless they absolutely have to. When it comes down to it, most brand stories amount to ‘it’s all good’.

Read the rest of this over at  ABC Copywriting

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