Archetypes And Editing Pictures – They Have Nothing In Common Except… by Susan Lute

…they are both about telling story.

Most writers are familiar with Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. Readers too, though they don’t know it. I have a copy. The 2nd Edition. It’s pretty dog eared, but I’ve never read it from cover to cover. You can approach The Writer’s Journey in two ways – the “writer’s” journey, or the hero’s journey, which is how you build a story. Vogler talks about mapping the journey, stages of the journey, questioning the journey, and looking back on the journey. To me, that IS the “writer’s” journey.

It won’t surprise you at all that I take a personal view of this whole idea, but today I wanted to talk about the archetypes that accompany a writer, a reader, or the main character. Vogler suggests the archetypes are facets of the hero’s personality, that they become mirrors in a way, in the story, imagined or not, disguised as friend or foe, or characters living the story with the hero. I find this notion fascinating.

Every time we write a story, or retell a fairy tale, oral or written, a piece of the storyteller goes into the telling, even if the writer doesn’t think so. We write what we know, consciously or unconsciously, in my belief. So if Vogler is right, our friends – story or otherwise – are emanations of our own personalities. Let’s see.

There’s the Hero (for the purposes of this blog, interchangeable with heroine) “from a Greek root that means ‘to protect and to serve’.” The Mentor is the wise old man or woman. The Threshold Guardian presents obstacles on the road to adventure. The Herald “issues the challenge and announces the coming of significant change.” Shapeshifters “change appearance or mood”, keeping the hero off balance. Often this is the love interest. I find that tidbit interesting. The Shadow “represents the energy of the dark side”, and so much more we might not want to face in ourselves, or our characters. The Trickster mirrors mischief and the desire to change.

I can see all of these elements in myself and the characters I write. And they are the elements that people the pages of my stories. Can you also see them in your friends ? We won’t name names.

There’s another way to tell a story, and that is through photographs. I usually store my digital photos in a Kodak program, but the company recently sold and so last night I downloaded Picasa. I was up till midnight playing, editing, getting acquainted. Okay, one of the cool things Picasa does is turn most of my upside down pictures right side up. Thumbs up for that one.

Today I decided to take one photo and see how many ways I could tell a story with editing. You can tell me I’m barking up the wrong tree if you want, but if you can see the hero, the mentor, the herald…what story dies each photo tell?

Also, take a look at your life. Do you have archetypes numbered among your friends?


About Susan

Author, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, dreamer.

Posted on September 17, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Although I get the whole Vogler’s the Writer’s Journey, I have to say it never really spoke to me enough to go back to it again and again. Nor did I “cotton to” the earlier work it’s based on: The Hero’s Journey, based on the work of Joseph Campbell. I do understand a shared mythic structure and I agree that certain shared structures are the foundation of our stories and why we, as readers, gravitate to those stories. However, IMO the archetypes described by Campbell and Vogler are too restrictive or two-dimensional for me, and it has always felt contrived in the story structure.

    Being originally trained in counseling, I actually take the archetypal story structure back to Jung and what he calls “The Collective Unconscious.” Probably because Jung’s work is with the psyche, and that is where all human experience resides, it seems more detailed and three-dimensional to me. In addition, Jung believed the number of existing archetypes is not static or fixed. Instead, many different archetypes may overlap or combine and form new archetypes at any given time. In many ways, I think that is what our stories do–combine archetypes and make new ones.

    The four universal archetypes described by Jung as part of the collective unconscious are:

    Self: Represents the unification of the unconsciousness and consciousness of an individual. Jung often represented the self as a circle, square or mandala.

    Shadow: Composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts and shortcomings. This archetype is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown. It is in all of us, though often denied.

    Anima/Animus: The anima (feminine image) animus (masculine image) represents the “true self” rather than the image we present to others and serves as the primary source of communication with the collective unconscious.

    Persona: The word “persona” is derived from a Latin word that literally means “mask.” The persona represents all of the different social masks that we wear among different groups and situations. It acts to shield the ego from negative images.

    For more information, a book that describes much of Jung’s work on archetypes and mythical structures is “Man and His Symbols” (1964) New York; Doubleday and Company, Inc.


  2. Hi Su, What an interesting concept! I’m not a visual person, but here’s my take on the photos: the first says, Hero to me, because the focus in on the person at the center and the colors are bright. The second says Mentor, as the colors are old and faded and kind of sad – like, Lesson learned, don’t let the jacks fall. The third says herald, as the yellow screams ‘pay attention!’

    I’m married to the Hero, and have friends and relatives who fill the other archetypes.


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