Last week we took a look at a number of diverse male archetypes that might inspire the characters in your fiction. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the female archetypes.
Archetypes can spark great ideas for characters because they are classic “types.” While one character might wear a particular archetypal “mask” throughout a story, sometimes characters will switch masks, depending on the situation and relationship involved.
You may think that fashioning a character to match all the qualities of a particular archetype might be like stereotyping, but that’s not necessarily so. Within a “type,” there is room for much originality in personality and traits.
The idea here, when borrowing archetypal characteristics, is to look at the purpose as it relates to your premise, protagonist’s goal, and themes of your story.
We want to populate our novels with a diverse cast of characters, all of whom have a specific—purposeful—role to play. It may feel like generalization to turn an ally character into a Magi or Mentor archetype, but try to look at the markers of these types and see who might embody them and when and why and how.
I mentioned in a prior post that as I fleshed out my idea for my new novel that I just released, Colorado Dream, I’d already worked out who my hero and heroine already were—what personalities they’d have and what things were important to them.
After I’d done that important work (so that my characters would be just right for my premise), I researched archetypes to see just which ones might fit best. All in order to get deeper insights and spark plot and conflict ideas.
I found that my hero, Brett Hendricks was a perfect representation of The Protector (described in last week’s post). And it wasn’t hard to come up with the best archetype for my heroine, Angela, an aspiring musician.
Just knowing music was the center of her life made it easy to link her to the Mystic, who has a rich internal world, is extremely sensitive, and can feel the emotions of others.
The Mystic fears not having a place in the world, doesn’t want to depend on others, and covets her privacy and solitude. She needs to connect with something greater than herself.
Choosing this archetype for Angela promised much conflict, for Brett, as a Protector, would clash in many ways with his focus on his physicality, heedless to danger, and lack of creativity.
The challenge for me (as always, and one I love) was to find common ground between two seemingly unalike characters. When it comes to writing romance, to me, the trick is to make the hero and heroine as different as possible in many ways, but find common ground. Usually this is tied in with past trauma, and the big “fear” each has, as well as core need, is the same.
With my characters, both have abusive, domineering fathers. They both know what it’s like to yearn for parental love and instead get a slap instead of encouragement. They are both passionate about their gifts, and they see and respect the passion they see in the other.
So I hope you’re starting to whirl with ideas for your characters as you read these posts on archetypes. Let’s now take a look at the 8 key female archetypes.
8 Female Archetypes
1) The Seducer (Aphrodite): She cares about men, but loves being in control. This type rarely has true female friends. Women are competition. She is all about her body and appearance. She fears losing her beauty, being passed over. She is motivated by wanting to experience life sensually, to the full. She isn’t always “bad.” She can embody the powerful attractive woman who is seeking true love, but an extreme of this archetype can be a very vicious, backstabbing, manipulative woman.
2) The Amazon (Artemis): This type is the outdoors gal. She, in contrast to the Seducer, loves the company of her female friends. She is supportive of women and children, sometimes a feminist, one who stands up for causes, likes being self-sufficient. In extreme, this type can be headstrong, pushy, want instant gratification with no regard for others’ needs. She might be reckless, easily enraged, stubborn, or boastful.
3) The Father’s Daughter (Athena): This woman aligns herself with powerful men and supports them. She yearns for male approval and wants to be accepted into their circle. She values work, dresses professionally, is smart, but often can’t see or accept her female side (which she might consider weakness). She fears loss of control and might feel trapped in relationships. In extreme, she’s wholly self-centered, caring only about her needs and advancement, and because of that might lie, cheat, or destroy another to get to her goal.
4) The Nurturer (Demeter): As the name implies, she’s all about caring about others, often to her own detriment. She might work for children, charities, rarely considering her own needs. She’s a good listener and is generous. She fears losing those she cares for, and she just wants to be loved and have a sense of belonging. In extreme, this type might be passive-aggressive, angrily codependent, manipulative to appear unselfish and nurturing. The over-controlling mother.
5) The Matriarch (Hera): Being a wife is her life, and everything she does is to please her husband and family. Family is everything. She might be highly controlling of her “empire,” and enjoys entertaining to a fault. He biggest fear is losing her husband or children, or losing their love. She fears being alone in the world, being abandoned. In the extreme, this character type might become suicidal, threatening, paranoid, doing everything to save face—even destroy her family—in order to keep up appearances.
6) The Mystic (Hestia): The Mystic likes to be alone, and often doesn’t want to marry or have a family. She is very sensitive, creative, and fears constriction on her freedom and creativity. She longs to connect with something greater than herself. She is spiritual and fears not having time to be alone and pursue her creativity. She’s motivated by a need for balance and order in her life, and she’s sensitive to the plight of others, but she tends to live in a dream world. In the extreme, she is a loner or sociopath, is socially inept, afraid to take risks or make friends, feels so inadequate that she tries to please everyone around her.
7) The Female Messiah (Isis): This type of character is concerned about the plight of women and all living things. She wants to help others grow spiritually, find their path, be healed in body and soul. She fears being persecuted or misunderstood. She’s motivated by a sense of purpose, and in extreme, she’s dogmatic and unbendable, heartless at times, pushes others and punishes them.
8) The Maiden (Persephone): This type of woman cares about fun, not worrying about daily affairs. She feels carefree and invulnerable to trouble, and her self-confidence rubs off on others. She’s the party girl, regardless of her age, and hasn’t grown up. But she can have a big heart and helps others. She’s your BFF that stands by your side. She likes to meet new people and she takes care of her mother. She fears being trapped in a job or relationship, and she doesn’t want to appear naïve. She’s motivated by a need for safety and being different, and in the extreme, she might oppose authority (rebellious teen), get depressed, act out with bad behavior, and can’t seem to love anyone.
A Seducer might charm people to get her way. She might be a cool, calculating nemesis or a siren who entices.
The Amazon might be your boss, someone trying to climb the ladder, a confident and dynamic woman who seems to take charge and achieves big goals.
The Father’s Daughter might be a fun, loyal friend, team player, the one who sticks by your side and tells everyone else where they can go. She might be the girl next door or a coworker.
The Nurturer is ever the optimistic, telling you that you can do it. She might be the trend-setter, impulsive (let’s stop moping and go shopping!), and is often funny.
The Matriarch, controlled and clever, is analytical, detail-oriented, and often rigid in her manner and beliefs. She can be a know-it-all or a bookworm, a perfectionist that can drive you crazy.
The Mystic is sensitive and gentle. She might be that quiet, trusting, encouraging friend or someone who is just plain innocent and naïve.
The Female Messiah fights for your cause, meets her commitments. She is the stubborn sister or friend who is determined, quick-tempered, and says it like it is. She will tell you what you need to do in no uncertain terms.
The Maiden is the woman who brings peace and calm to a crazy situation. She is all about making peace, helping others get along. She inspires by her example of being capable, optimistic, and selfless. She might be a caregiver or a teacher.
Do any of these types sound like your characters? Can you find a place in your novel for a few of these female archetypes to make your story richer and push your conflict higher? Which type do you especially like?