Friday, March 11, 2011

Vogler's Archetypes

Wrote this Wed. and forgot to post it on Thursday before I headed to Denver for two days. Sorry!

If an author knows the purpose or function of characters in a story, she can discover if the character is pulling her weight. The archetypes do not have to all be real persons. Some can be personality traits of one character. For instance, a Mentor is not necessarily a rigid character role but can be a function of one character. A character may have many masks he wears temporarily. The hero may even pick up the character traits of everyone she meets to make herself a whole person.

As Vogler does, we'll discuss each archetype one at a time but not as thoroughly as the book. The most common archetypes are:
Threshold Guardian

A Hero is male or female, the protagonist of the story. She is willing to sacrifice for others to gain her goal. Ego makes up the Hero and teaches her to become a complete person. In the process she faces internal guardians, monsters and helpers. She finds teachers, guides, demons, gods, mates, servants, scapegoats, masters, seducers, betrayers and allies. Even the villains, tricksters, lovers, friends and foes can be found within ourselves as Hero.

The Hero has dramatic purpose. A story expects the audience to identify with the Hero. Her desires are understood by the audience - "to be loved and understood, to succeed, survive, be free, get revenge, right wrongs or seek self-expression." To make the Hero interesting, she needs to be like each member of the audience in some way. She needs to grow, do something, sacrifice something, deal with death metaphorically, and have flaws. She can't always be perfect. The audience needs to see her make some dumb choices. She must be active rather than passive.

There are Group Heroes (those who get separated from the group but usually return),  Loner Heroes, (like Shane, John Wayne's character in  The Searchers, or the Lone Ranger) who are invited to return to the world of relationships or society, and Catalyst Heroes, those who transform others but change little themselves (like Eddie Murphy's character in Beverly Hills Cop).

This discussion barely touches the surface of a Hero. Take time to study the Heroes in your favorite stories and determine how they change, how they change others or if they return to the Ordinary World. Next we discuss the Mentor.

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