Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 15: Introduction to the 6 Flat Archetypes

In studying character arcs, writers easily recognize Positive-Change Arcs and Negative-Change Arcs. But somewhat more baffling can be the stories that appear to feature neither. These are stories in which the protagonist does not change or seems to have no character arc at all. How do these stories fit into the discussion of archetypal character […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 14: The Mage’s Shadow Archetypes

Structurally speaking, it is always the end of a story—its Climactic Moment—that tells us what it is about. The Climactic Moment ends the external plot by telling us who “wins.” But it also, implicitly, ends the protagonist’s arc by showing us whether the character succeeded in arcing positively and helping others to do the same, […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 13: The Crone’s Shadow Archetypes

The final two archetypal character arcs within the life cycle signal a distinct departure from the realm of the known. After sacrificing herself for the Kingdom at the end of the King Arc, the seemingly diminished Crone, leaves behind the “real” world of Kingdom and throne and enters instead the spooky forests and liminal hinterlands […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 12: The King’s Shadow Archetypes

Throughout the progression of the six archetypal character arcs that make up the human life cycle, we see a steady progression of the character’s power. As we explored in the positive King Arc, this final mid-life arc represents the height of temporal power. The King is someone who wields a vast amount of influence not […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 11: The Queen’s Shadow Archetypes

A character who makes it through the Hero Arc is a character who has graduated into a brave new world—the Second Act of the life cycle of archetypal character arcs. This section of life, which deals with questions of relationship and power, begins with the first of the “mature” arcs—that of the Queen. But like […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 10: The Hero’s Shadow Archetypes

Here in the 21st Century, we often have a confused relationship with the Hero archetype. On the one hand, he is everywhere and we love him and resonate with him. On the other hand, his sheer omnipresence has inevitably highlighted his negative counter-archetypes in almost equal force. This is because wherever we find a would-be […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 9: The Maiden’s Shadow Archetypes

In so many ways, we view life as a story. Within the lifelong journey of this story, the first challenge is that of becoming an autonomous individual—an independent and responsible adult. However obvious that may be, the journey itself cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, although we may all grow up chronologically, the struggle to […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 8: Introduction to the 12 Shadow Archetypes

Where there is light, there is shadow. Where is there is a right way to do things, there are usually several ways to do it wrong. So it goes with archetypal character arcs and their potential shadow archetypes—of which there are two for every positive archetype. Over the last few months, we have explored six […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 7: The Mage Arc

The final two archetypal character arcs in the life cycle deal primarily with questions of Mortality—and thus inevitably with the ultimate questions about the meaning of life. Throughout this series, we’ve viewed the six “life arcs” as part of a unified story structure, or Three Acts. The First Act—featuring the Maiden and the Hero—focused on […]

Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 6: The Crone Arc

Within the saga of the six archetypal character arcs representing the cycle of human life, the two “elder” arcs that comprise the Third Act of life are perhaps the least dramatized. These arcs are those of the Crone and the Mage. In studying these arcs, it becomes evident that the Third Act of story structure […]