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Monday, April 9, 2012

Monomyth Archetypes Cheatsheet


Purpose: Look at this cheat sheet of sorts for ideas and direction whenever you are stuck as to where to go with a character. The ideas from here can be fit into one of the Hero’s Journey stages as Mythic threads or Fate questions.
I guess you could also treat this as a Mythic Character List by putting your story's characters under the Archetypes that make sense.


·         Hero:

o   Ego’s search for identity and wholeness.

o   Audience Identification: Should have universal qualities, motivations and emotions.

o   Growth: Gain new knowledge and wisdom.

o   Action: Hero should perform the most decisive action of the story; the one that requires the taking most risk and responsibility

o   Sacrifice: Willingness to give something of value on behalf of ideal or group

o   Confrontation with Death: actual or symbolic

o   Character flaws: humanize character, provide character arc

o   Willing/Unwilling: for unwilling hero, it’s best that he change and become committed at some point, after motivation provided.

o   Anti-Hero: Outlaw to society, but sympathetic to audience, because we have felt like outsiders sometimes. Cynical hero (wounded anti-hero, like Robin Hood or Man With No Name), or tragic hero (someone not likeable). Tragic heroes are brought down by their own inner demons/flaws, which they fail to overcome (e.g. Scarface).

o   Group Oriented Heroes: Separation from clan (act 1), lone adventure in wilderness (act 2), reintegration with group (act 3). Face final choice to remain in Special World or return to Ordinary World.

o   Lone Hero: Man With No Name. Estranged from society; natural state is solitude; natural habitat wilderness. Re-entry into the group (act 1), adventure within group and its turf (act 2), return to isolation wilderness (act 3).

o   Catalyst Hero: Exception to rule that hero is character who changes most.  Catalyst heroes don’t change much, but bring about transformation in others. Good in episodic stories.

·         Mentor:

o   Represent the self; the god within us; higher self; our highest aspirations. Eg. Jimmy Cricket in Pinnochio

o   They are often former heroes passing on the wisdom. Surrogate parents.

o   Teaching:  Key function of mentor. E.g. drill seargent, professor, coaches, etc. Sometimes they learn from student too.

o   Giving Gift: Aids hero by providing gift. E.g. magical swords, light saber, life saving advice. Gift should be earned by learning, sacrifice or commitment.

o   Inventor: gifts are his own devices, or inventions. James Bond’s mentor.

o   Conscience: e.g. Jiminy Cricket in Pinnochio

o   Motivation: reassure, help overcome fear, or push hero into adventure.

o   Planting Info: info meant to be noted, but forgotten about until climatic moment where it saves hero.

o   Sexual Initiation:

o   Dark Mentors: sometimes a decoy to lure hero into danger. Sometimes an anti-mentor leading hero into road of crime & destruction (Goodfellas). Sometimes becomes threshold Guardian, blocking path to adventure.

o   Fallen Mentors: mentor still on a Hero’s Journey of his/her own, or facing crisis of faith in their calling. Hero needs mentor to pull himself/herself together, but there is doubt that the mentor can.

o   Continuing Mentors: Useful for giving assignments and setting stories in motion.

o   Multiple Mentors: series of mentor who teach specific skills. Sometimes multiple mentors needed to express different functions of the archetype.

o   Comic Mentors: romantic comedies.

o   Shaman: healer, medicine man/woman.  Shamans guide their people through life. Help the hero seek a guiding vision to the quest to another world.

o   Inner Mentors: inner code of behavior (Ghostdog and Bushido). Memories of a mentor.

o   Other characters may temporarily wear Mentor mask.

·         Threshold Guardian

o   Understanding their nature can help with knowing how to handle them.

o   Not main antagonists. Often lieutenants, minions, mercenaries. Sometimes secret helpers put there to test hero.

o   Sometimes symbiotic relationship between antagonist and threshold guardian

o   Sometimes ordinary obstacles such as weather, oppression, prejudice, but also stand for inner demons: neuroses, emotional scars, self limitations, dependencies that hold back self-growth. Neuroses that hamper growth.

o   Testing: solve puzzle or pass test. Heroes can run away, attack head on, use craft or guile/deceit,bribe/appease, make it an Ally. Get into the skin of guardian. Acknowledge and recognize figures as threshold guardians. Loved ones and people familiar with you often are used to your neuroses, and sometimes benefit from them, so they resist change; they test you to see if you’re resolved to change.

o   New Power: heroes learn to recognize that threshold guardians not as threats but as signals of new power or success that is coming; resistance as source of strength. Ideally guardian should be incorporated, not defeated.

o   Sentinels, guards, bouncers, entrance examiners, bandidos, editors, doormen, physical barriers, forces of nature. Temporarily block the way and test hero’s powers.

·         Herald

o   In opening phase of story, generally hero is just “getting by”, with defenses and coping mechanisms. A new energy enters that makes it impossible for hero just to get by; a force, condition or person enters that changes balance, so action must be taken.

o   Call For Change: herald announces need for change; something inside us often knows that change is necessary.

o   Motivation: offer hero a challenge, and get the story rolling. Alert hero that change is coming. Person or force or a means of alerting (telegram, mail, etc).

o   Positive/Neutral/Negative: villain or emissary of villain; sometimes challenge not announced to hero, but to audience (Darth Vader). Agent of forces of good, calling hero to positive adventuren (a Mentor, and ally, a loved one). It could be neutral such as a Trickster or Threshold Guardian.     

o   Inner or Outer Call

o   Usually Act 1, but could happen in any act.

·         Shapeshifter

o   From hero’s point of view appear to change constantly.

o   Often of opposite sex. Romantic partner.

o   Sincerity in question.

o   Express the energy of femininity or masculinity of heroine/hero (respectively).

o   Positive or negative: helpful or destructive. Catalyst for change of attitude towards opposite sex.

o   Projection: internal image of opposite sex is projected unto others.

o   Doubt: brings suspense to story (femme fatale in noir). Loyalty and motives are in doubt. Dazzle and confuse.

o   Can be used by any character

·         Shadow

o   Anything that has been suppressed, neglected or forgotten.

o   Energy of the dark side. Unexpressed, unrealized or rejected aspects of something. Suppressed monsters of inner world: things we don’t like about ourselves, dark secrets we can’t admit to ourselves. Negative aspect of shadow is projected onto antagonists, villains and enemies in stories.

o   Sometimes can shelter things that are positive about self, but we have rejected. Feelings we are not supposed to feel, unexplored potential, “the road not taken”

o   Power of repressed feelings. Deep trauma or guilt.  Hidden or denied emotions. Psychoses that threaten to destroy hero. Needs to be confronted, and brought to light.

o   Challenge hero and give worthy opponent. Brings out best in hero

o   When hero acts in bad ways it can mean Shadow has overtaken him.

o   Humanizing shadow: add a touch of goodness, or some quality to admire, or making them vulnerable.Real human being with weaknesses and emotions.    Most shadows do not think of themselves as villains.

·         Ally

o   Represents unused parts of personality that must be brought into action to solve issue.

o   Introduction To Special World (Audience Character): ask questions that audience would ask, explain things that are unknown to audience, but familiar to hero.

o   Allow expression of humor, fear, ignorance that would not be appropriate for hero

o   Companion, sparring partner, conscience, comic relief

o   Do mundane tasks, but also humanize hero

o   Multiple allies

o   Sidekicks:

o   Nonhuman allies: animal, spiritual, imaginary, ghostly, serants

·         Trickster

o   Energies of mischief and desire to change.

o   Clowns and comical sidekicks.

o   Cut egos down to size:

§  bring hero’s and audiences down to earth; bring back needed perspective.

§  expose folly and hypocrisy of hero

§  bring laughter to make people realize common bonds

§  bring change and transformation by drawing attention to imbalance and absurdity of a stagnant psychological situation

o   Comic Relief: relieve tension, suspense or conflict with some laughter

o   Trickster Hero: Bugs Bunny, etc. Survive by their wits against stronger enemies. They are often catalyst characters.

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