Creating Compelling Characters

Part One

Character Types

When speaking of Character Types, we are talking about 3 individual aspects:

  • Character Arc
  • Archetype
  • Trope

All three parts are crucial in understanding what Type of Character you are working with.

So, let’s break them down.

Character Arc

What is Character Arc?

There are two types of arcs you will encounter in any story.

  1. The Plot/Story Arc
  2. The Character Arc

The plot arc is the organized series of events that occur over the duration of the book.

The character arc is the specific journey a character will take over the duration of the book.

Different characters might take different arcs in the same book.

But no matter how unique your story is, there are still only so many types of character arcs a character can follow.

But no matter how unique your story is, there are still only so many types of character arcs a character can follow.

Here are the four main types of character arcs your character could follow:

  1. Growth Arc
    1. The character develops certain attributes of themselves to the next level
    2. Become Character 2.0 at story’s end
  2. Change Arc
    1. The character starts out as one person at the beginning, and changes into someone else by the end
  3. Fall Arc
    1. Also known as a tragedy arc
    2. The character starts out at the top of their game (or quickly rises there), but then “falls from grace” or “hits rock bottom” at the story’s end.
  4. Flat Arc
    1. The character is the same person start to finish
    2. They already have all the skills they need to accomplish the story’s goal

Understanding the arc or journey your character is going to take over the course of the book can help you figure out how to design them to create the best character for your story.

The second aspect of character type is the

Archetype

First, let’s discuss what an Archetype is NOT: An archetype is NOT a Trope – we’ll discuss tropes later.

An Archetype IS, however, also known as a Stereotype.

When first designing your characters, this is where a cliché might come into play. It’s a great first step for a character, and we’ll discuss how to build out an archetype later to keep them from becoming a cliché.

Some common examples of Archetypes are:

  • The Hero (The Chosen One, the Unlikely Hero)
  • The Wise Mentor
  • The Sidekick (Quirky Sidekick, Clumsy Sidekick/Comic Relief Sidekick, Animal Sidekick)
  • The Love Interest (Love Triangle, Lost Love)
  • The Monster (Villain, Turned Good, Transformation)

Knowing your character’s Archetype can help you understand what kind of personality they will have.

The last aspect of Character Type is

The Trope

Tropes are a little tricky.

Many writer’s use the words Trope and Stereotype synonymously, but this is not the case.

A trope is a specific element that conveys information about the character.

There are two distinct kinds of tropes.

  1. The Physical Trope
    1. A physical characteristic or item assigned to a specific character that will have meaning later in the story.
  2. The Emotional Trope
    1. A way a character behaves either toward a specific person or during a specific situation that will later be explained.

Mastering tropes takes time, but once you can learn to harness their power, it will bring a depth to your character that the other aspects can’t add.