November 16, 2009

Archetypes are recurrent themes in literature and films. You can use these tropes to inspire your characters when writing a novel.

AMNESIA: Is he/she married, a parent, a missing bride/groom, presumed dead? Did she kill someone? Did someone try to kill her? Is she a witness to a violent crime? Is he an undercover agent who got hurt by the bad guys? American Dreamer, The Bourne Identity

BRIDES: marriage of convenience, fake fiancé, mail order bride, virgin bride, runaway brides/grooms, green-card, royal, shot gun, jilted, terms of the will, mismatch. Runaway Bride, Father of the Bride, Wedding Crashers, Sleepless in Seattle

CHILDREN: abandoned, lost, adopted, biological, inherited, stolen, secret baby, true identity unknown, switched-at-birth, kids playing matchmaker for single parents.

DISGUISE: secret identity, switching places: True Lies, The Prince and the Pauper, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Freaky Friday

FISH OUT OF WATER: Enchanted, City Slickers

MAKEOVER: The Ugly Duckling, The Princess Diaries, My Fair Lady

MISMATCHED COUPLES: Bad boy/Good girl, Cowboy/Lady, Pirate/Princess, Wanderer/Homemaker, May/December, Duke/Governess, mentor/protegé, opposing occupations, boss/employee. Romeo & Juliet, Beauty and the Beast, Six Days Seven Nights.

RAGS TO RICHES: Cinderella, Pretty Woman, Ever After

REUNION: former lovers, estranged spouses, lost love, thwarted romance, divorced but still in love. Sweet Home Alabama.

SINGLE PARENTS: struggling unwed mothers, clueless divorced dads, inexperienced surrogate. Three Men and a Baby, Baby Boom

TWINS: switched identities, mistaken identities, trading places to fool people and having the tables turned on them instead. Parent Trap, New York Minute

Think about the books on your shelves at home. Do you tend to repeatedly buy the same types of stories? Does this tell you something about the plot devices that appeal to you?

Try picking out a couple of your favorite archetypes and mix them to create a new story.

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0 thoughts on “Archetypes

  1. It has just been pointed out to me that I tend to read books about strong women with falling down houses, family curses, creepy exes…… I guess I need to watch what I lend to my friends.

  2. I love to read people in disguise stories. Fish out of water tales are popular in the movies…just saw a preview for one coming out about an estranged couple from the city who witness a crime together and have to go into the witness protection program out west. It’s a romantic comedy, can’t remember the title but it looks cute.

  3. I love anything with hidden passageways.

    And what a great post, very helpful, in a here’s-a-new-way-to-think-about-it kind of way. Glad I found your blog!

  4. I’ve read every one of the situations you offered, multi times
    over, in my more than fifty years reading “experience.” Combining
    titles of some gave me these new titles: “The Spy’s Baby Gamble”
    “The Forbidden Touch of Savage Thunder,” and “For The Children’s
    Second Nature.”

    Pat Cochran

  5. If I am doing any of those things, I am not doing them consciously. I’ll have to start thinking about that. Interesting post Nancy, Cool!

  6. Texanne, if you like hidden passageways, you’ll love Dead Roots. It’s my haunted resort story.
    Lots of secret passages. Pat, that’s a cool way to get new titles!