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Choosing Character Archetypes for Film

Character archetypes for a film represent underlying symbols or traits that a particular character may possess. In relation to their life experience and behaviors. We all know some of the most common character archetypes in film. Because the patterns make the next steps or actions that are expected from a character quite predictable. For example, the hero of a film is likely to have a genuine goodness about themselves. And will be the one doing everything possible to achieve the goal. Likewise, the villain is going to have poor qualities. Lacking morals and may act out of fear as they attempt to prevent the hero from achieving their goal. The hero, and the villain, are character archetypes. But how were these archetypes chosen?

Choosing character archetypes in film is a process of first learning about the different potential archetypes or predictable traits of a character and then shadowing specific traits within your own story.

A character that falls within a particular archetype will have what we call, “Archetypal behavior,” or, typical behaviors for that particular archetype. 

Most Common Character Archetypes

As a screenwriter or filmmaker, the first step to choosing character archetypes for film is to learn about the different archetypes that most characters will fall within.

These predictable patterns are incredibly common in literary works. And play out in many of the most well-known films and movies that we watch on the big screen today. 

Characters must be believable, relatable, and typical of their archetype. If you’ve ever created a character before, you know that most characters are going to have patterns and qualities. Or characteristics that are compatible or believable in real life. 

Even animated characters have these qualities!

Before determine the archetype for a character, consider the following:

  • The character’s fears.
  • What the character is motivated by.
  • What the character cares about.

This will help you to define the archetype of the character:

  • The Helper
  • The Reformer
  • The Mentor
  • The Achiever
  • The Hero
  • The Villain
  • The Everyman
  • The Peacemaker
  • The Individualist
  • The Challenger
  • The Enthusiast
  • The Loyalist
  • The Protector

Use Character Archetypes to Create Film Characters

Learning how to create film characters, you’ll have to recognize the various character archetypes that will make the most sense for your story. As you create your characters, think about all the different traits that a particular character archetype will have.

How does your character relate? This should help you to come up with a way to also work on your character’s backstory so that you can develop the background.

In a way in which you’re able to further define the character’s archetypes. So that they apply both on the screen, and are relatable in real life.

Trust Your Instincts

Creating archetypal characters will gradually come more naturally to you as you continue to learn more about the specific underlying symbolism of each character archetype.

For example, as you learn more about how the hero and the villain interact in various stories. You’ll be better equipped to integrate these same types of bonds and relationships into your own stories. 

Choosing character archetypes for film is really about writing the backstory of your characters. Defining the roles that each character will have in the story, and trusting your gut instinct. If your gut tells you that a particular character should be the villain. Do it!