Character archetypes are broad categories into which most characters can fit. They feel familiar because they share similar traits, motivations, and failings. When creating characters, it can be helpful to think of archetypes as building blocks; each archetype fills a role in the narrative. Archetypes can help you figure out your characters’ motivations and fears, as well as their basic qualities. Then you can begin to map out their personalities and develop them more fully.
In this series, I’m exploring six archetype pairings. I’m looking at what makes the characters interesting on their own, as well as why they work well together as a pair.
“One of the phaenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was the structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed?”
The Creator is full of drive. They have a vision and the willpower to enact it. They often submerge themselves in their projects until they’ve completed them. The Creator can also have tunnel vision; they work so hard on their goals that they lose sight of everything around them. This can result in broken relationships when they don’t realize their self-involvement has cut them off from their loved ones.
Tony Stark is a great example of the Creator. He never stops tinkering with his inventions, always looking for new ways to make them better, even to the detriment of his relationships. Dr. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future and Cisco from The Flash are also notable Creators.
The Creator Who Goes Too Far
Dr. Victor Frankenstein: the eponymous mad scientist. Contrary to popular depictions of him, Victor is a young man—a university student studying chemistry—when he endeavours to unlock the secrets to life. He exhibits all the traits of a Creator: he unrelentingly pursues knowledge and, when he sets his mind on his goal, he stops at nothing to achieve it.
When he decides to figure out the secrets to life, he beings studying anatomy. He decides that, in order to do so, he first needs to know what happens in death. He spends his time observing the decay of dead bodies in charnel houses (vaults where human skeletal remains are stored): “I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted… I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain.” From these observations, he discovers the secrets to life, becoming “dizzy” with the information.
He spends the summer preparing for his experiment, setting up a laboratory in a room at the top of his house and collecting bones from charnel houses. He’s so focused that he doesn’t pay attention to the world around him; his “cheek [grows] pale with study,” his body “emaciated with confinement.”
Even more telling, he doesn’t consider whether or not he should go through with his experiment. Rather, he almost thinks of himself as a god: “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.”
Victor takes the Creator archetype to the extreme: he doesn’t understand the magnitude of his creation and reaps the consequences.
“I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? they spurn and hate me.”
Also known as the Child, this character embodies sincerity. The Innocent believes in truth and kindness, and wants happiness for others. This can result in them becoming too naive or vulnerable. Or, because of their innocence, they make mistakes because they don’t think through their decisions.
Pippin Took blunders through Middle-earth without a care in the world. Who can think of him and not hear Gandalf’s exasperated “Fool of a Took!”? His habit of leaping before looking gets him into some difficult situations. Kaylee from Firefly is another wonderful example of the Innocent; the other crew members of the Serenity often regard her as someone to protect.
Frankenstein’s Monster may seem like an odd choice for the Innocent, but I think that’s why he’s the perfect fit. He’s the Innocent who learns about humanity on his own.
After the Monster awakens, Victor rejects him: he hides himself away and leaves the Monster alone to fend for himself. Months later, after the Monster’s disappearance, Victor learns of his brother’s death; he immediately believes that it was the Monster who killed him and leaves to search for him.
After a long search, Victor finds the Monster, who can now talk. He tells Victor his tale, describing his days spent in the wilderness, how he learned to process what he was seeing and find food, shelter, and warmth. His first interactions with humans are discouraging: children shriek and women faint. He then finds an abandoned hovel attached to a cabin in which an elderly man lives with his two adult children, a son and a daughter. The Monster watches this family for months, learning how to imitate their speech and, eventually, stealing some books so he can learn how to read.
The Monster is moved by this family. They are kind to each other, though destitute, and he begins to help them: at night, he gathers firewood for them, so the son can spend more time with his family and work in the garden, and clears the path so the daughter can get to the barn unencumbered. He develops love for them, referring to them as his friends and protectors.
Through learning how to speak and read, the Monster gains more awareness of himself as an outsider. After reading Paradise Lost, he compares himself to Adam, who was loved by his creator:
“…[Adam] was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.”
The Monster is the Innocent whose circumstances corrupt his original nature to be kind.
How They Work Together
Victor and the Monster are the Creator and Innocent gone wrong.
After months of watching the family, the Monster decides to make himself known to them because he wants what they have: love and acceptance. He thinks that surely they’ll accept him because they’re kind. But, when he shows himself to them, they react with violence and chase him away.
The Monster realizes that no one will ever accept him because of the way he looks. When he finishes telling Victor his story, he asks that Victor make him a companion so that he won’t be alone. Victor, of course, refuses, and so the Monster says this:
“I am malicious because I am miserable; am I not shunned and hated by all mankind?….I will revenge my injuries: if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear; and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care: I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you curse the hour of your birth.”
The Monster didn’t choose his life; Victor created him for his own reward. The Monster, who started off as innocent as a baby, wanted family, but was rejected and scorned by everyone instead. As a result, the Monster swears vengeance on Victor: he kills Henry Clerval, Victor’s best friend, and Elizabeth, the woman he is to marry.
Victor and his Monster show what happens when the Creator rejects their creation and the Innocent learns about the cruelty of humanity on their own.
Remember, an archetype’s purpose is to provide characters with a foundation: characters don’t have to fit perfectly into these specific categories, but can embody general traits. When building on your characters’ archetypes, consider how they work in a pairing or a trio. Archetype pairings can create the possibility for dynamic character interactions.