Female Archetypes …by Susan Lute

The Morror Has Two Faces_Last week I watched The Mirror Has Two Faces – you’re right, not for the first or even the second time. I love the scene where Rose (played by Barbara Streisand) is teaching her university class after her sister’s wedding to the man Rose has been in love with forever. She’s talking about the female archetypes and how they were alive and well in the personages of her mother, her sister and herself. She shares this information with a quirky, self-effacing sense of humor, a bit of tongue-in-cheek joking aimed at herself that always makes me laugh. This time it also got me thinking…

At my place there are four generations of women and girls. A good share of the female archetypes can be found here. The waif, a distressed damsel who bends with life’s tide, but who’s lived long enough she’s not so supple anymore. The boss, a go getter, always looking for perfection, but never quite getting there. The crusader, a dedicated fighter, determined to make her way. The free spirit, dancing to her own tune. The spunky kid, gutsy, testing her boundaries to see how well they’ll hold against her onslaught.

We are an interesting quadruplet, getting along, not getting along, but always loyal and true to each other. We also have two men, the professor, and the swashbuckler. And then there’s Larry, the cat, both the bad boy and the charmer.

Character archetypes are invaluable to story. If you know what archetype you’re dealing with, you understand the characters motivations. I think that’s true in life too. Do you know which archetype you are? Your spouse or significant other?

Here’s a list of archetypes as outlined by the authors of The Complete Writer’s Guide To Heroes & Heroines (pg 50 and 2):

      The Boss – a real go-getter, she climbs the ladder of success.

      The Seductress – an enchantress, she charms to get her way.

      The Spunky Kid – gutsy and true, she’s loyal to the end.

      The Free Spirit – an eternal optimist, she dances to unheard tunes.

      The Librarian – controlled and clever, she holds back.

      The Waif – a distressed damsel, she bends, but does not break.

      The Crusader – a dedicated fighter, she meets commitments.

      The Nurturer – serene and capable, she nourishes the spirit.

And for the men…The Chief – a dynamic leader, he has time for nothing but work.

      The Bad Boy – dangerous to know, he walks on the wild side.

      The Best Friend – sweet and safe, he never lets anyone down.

      The Lost Soul – a tormented being, he lives in solitude.

      The Charmer – a smooth talker, he creates fantasies.

      The Professor – coolly analytical, he knows every answer.Dragon's Thief

      The Swashbuckler – Mr. Excitement, he’s an adventurer.

      The Warrior – a noble champion, he acts with honor.

Can you guess from the cover which archetypes Logan and Beyla are?

The first archetype I ever wrote was the librarian, at least it was the first time I knew what I was doing. Which archetype are you? And which one do you like to write…or read the most?

About Susan

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

Posted on February 11, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think this might be true of everyone, Maggie 🙂 And I recently read somewhere that heroes and heroines – in real life that would be us – start out one archetype and end up another. That’s a very interesting concept.


  2. Great post! I guess I have to watch that movie now 🙂


  3. I am in turn something of all of these, depending on which part of my life’s journey is analyzed. Perhaps that means I am truly insane, or perhaps it means I am adaptable to my situation.

    The one I believe I was born with is The Free Spirit. When I think back to my childhood, I could walk along a busy street and compose music in my head and then run home to write down the tune. I could compose stories and plays, and seduce people in the neighborhood to act in them. I was perenially optimistic and even in the face of tragedy, I found silver-linings. Tied closely with The Free Spirit was the nurturer, probably based on my own dealings with tragedy early in life.

    I feel truly blessed to have been born that way. As I got older, I shifted to The Boss, The Professor (I don’t agree those are male only designations), and The Crusader. During those years of more analytical engagements and more battering of my optimism, I often had to escape and meditate or pray to again connect with that Free Spirit of my birth. I was always successful, at least for short periods of time.

    I believe I am once again returning to my birth spirit. In this return, I am very jealously fending off too much of that learned analytical side. I don’t know that I can be as innocent and carefree as I was as a child. Maybe that’s a good thing. We’ll see.


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