Character Archetypes for Innovative Literacy Novel Writing Prompts

Character Archetypes

There are a number of common character archetypes. In this article, I will be discussing eight of the most important character archetypes. While you do not need to have each one of these character archetypes in your story, I would suggest you have the majority of them. Take the time necessary to find a place for each on in your writing. If you are having trouble developing a plot for your first book, you can check out the Magic Mirror novel writing prompts to create your own story.

Character Archetypes According to Campbell

In The Hero of a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell explores the eight types of characters in the hero’s journey.  These character types include the hero, mentor, ally, herald, trickster, shapeshifter, guardian, and shadow.

Hero Character ArchetypeS

The hero is almost always the protagonist, the central character in the story. The audience wants the hero to succeed. The hero usually grows throughout the story to meet the challenges in the story.

Examples: Luke Skywalker, Neo, Shrek, Mulan, Pinocchio, Batman, and Harry Potter.

Mentor Character ArchetypeS

The mentor is usually an old bearded man who assists the hero by offering advice, assistance, or with a gift. This character is older and wiser, but for some reason needs the hero to complete the adventure.

Examples: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Morpheus, Dumbledore, and Gandalf

AllY Character Archetypes

The ally is the character who assists the hero on the adventure. The adventure might be too difficult for one person to overcome and the ally helps the hero succeed by providing something the hero lacks, such as knowledge, a distraction, or just an extra pair of hands.

Examples: Chewbacca, Hermione, Watson (Sherlock), and Robin (Batman)

Herald Character Archetypes

The Herald is the character, or something else such as an item or event, that signifies that something is about to change for the hero. This archetype appears at the beginning of the adventure, often delivering a message.

Examples: R2D2 (with message from Princess Leia, messenger owl (from Hogwarts with a letter), and the letter to the ball in Cinderella

Trickster Character Archetypes

The trickster is the character that adds humor to the story. This character might also challenge the status quo or make the character reconsider their preconceptions or thoughts.

Examples: Donkey (Shrek), Dobby (Harry Potter), and Mushu (Mulan)

Shapeshifter Character Archetypes

The shapeshifter is the character that changes. This might not be a physical change, but instead is one between ally and enemy. For example, the character might start off seemingly helping the character only to betray the hero. The shapeshifter might be thought an enemy at first only to be revealed to be an ally.

Examples: Han Solo, Severus Snape, and Catwoman (Batman)

Guardian (Threshold Guardian) Character ArchetypeS

The Guardian is often the character who stops the progress of the hero on his or her adventure. The guardian might not be an actual character, but might be an obstacle instead. The guardian might not be an enemy, but is there to warn the hero that he or she should not go ahead because it is dangerous. The hero usually has to either trick, defeat, or find some other way around the guardian to continue on the adventure.

Examples: Wall guard (Stardust), hall monitors, and Whomping Willow (Harry Potter)

Shadow Character ArchetypeS

The shadow is usually the villain in the story, although this might not necessarily be true. For example, if something exists to cause conflict or create a threat the hero has to overcome, it would be considered the shadow.

Examples: Darth Vader, Voldemort, Sauron, and Dottie (the asteroid from Armageddon)

Find A place for these character Archetypes in your writing

If you are planning on writing a book, I would take the time to find a place for each of these characters archetypes in your novel. While you don’t have to include each one, I would include as many as you can. I would also decide upon distinct personal archetypes for each character in your book as well. If you are interested in writing a book and need novel writing prompts, check out the Magic Mirror writing prompts.


Students learned how to write a novel and a wrote novels using the magic mirror novel writing prompts
Student written novels using the magic mirror prompts with character archetypes