Book Review: The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes

  Last week's review covered Archetype Cards, and maybe that got you thinking you'd like to know more about archetypes. I've got the perfect book.

The three authors, Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders, are members of a critique group who researched archetypes to help each others characters come alive. They cover sixteen "master" archetypes in depth in The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines.

You may be skeptical of the value of a book like this. Only sixteen archetypes? The authors explain that within each of these designations are many facets of a particular type. For example, Cowden states in an interview with Margie Lawson, "Even those characters within a pattern could be very different from each other, yet there were also strong connections that made them instantly recognizable as belonging in the same group. A good example – Encyclopedia Brown, Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes – all members of the same archetypal family (Professor), yet hardly so similar as to be stereotypes."

Sections one and two detail the hero and heroine archetypes, explaining each one's positives and negatives. The authors point out the styles the particular archetype presents in, and notes the occupations these characters gravitate to. Each archetype includes examples of characters from books or movies.

The book gets even better in section three. This is where the authors teach how to take a particular archetype and create a character. They explain the difference between core archetypes, evolving archetypes, and layered archetypes. This is where richly-imagined characters begin.

Section four is a big chunk of the book--Archetype Interactions. It takes each of the sixteen archetypes and examines how they relate, conflict, or get along with the other types. This is great for figuring out the best characters to increase the tension in your story. The authors even discuss which types tend to "pair up" well.

This is a great book for creating characters for your story. But it will also be helpful if you're getting mixed feedback on your manuscript. By examining your characters in the light of this book's information, you might just be able to modify them enough to make your book sing.

If your critique group wrote a writing book, what would the topic be?


  1. Debbie, I just finished reading this book and it is extremely helpful for when you're coming up with a new idea for a novel (which is the stage where I'm at right now.) It's interesting how we seem to intrinsically know many of these archetypes (probably through years of exposure to storytelling, or maybe because these archetypes remind us of people we know.) The part that was most interesting to me was the interaction of different archetypes and how they affect each other, as well as the layering and evolution of a character.


  2. That's the part I'm most interested in studying, Lorena. I'm fleshing out a new idea, and want to create characters that interact in realistic ways (and that inspire conflict with each other. Thanks for your take on it!




Related Posts with Thumbnails