Something I find interesting (other than writing of course) is the notion of self-discovery. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I analyze dreams in great detail. My iPhone is littered with apps for personality tests, color quizzes, handwriting analysis, and mood trackers (my husband once lovingly described my phone as a ‘cry for help’). But the way I see it, if I want to make the most of my life then I need to know who I am, what I want, and what I was born to do (OK, maybe I have been reading too many Oprah.com articles).
I’m also very interested in the inner-worlds of my characters. Even those without their own narrative voices are important. I want to get to know them as much as I know myself—their creator.
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s I read a book—recommended by Oprah—entitled Archetypes. It was written by Caroline Myss, and let me say, this book greatly enhanced my perspective on inner-exploration. It also opened my eyes to new and exciting ways to better characterization in my fiction projects.
According to Dictionary.com an archetype is as follows:
*2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of though, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.
*I used this definition (there was another) because it strongly relates to Myss’s theory on archetypes.
In one of my dream anthologies, there is a section on archetypes (i.e. The Hero, The Evil Mother, The Loving Mother, The Warrior, etc.) appearing in an individual’s dream; analysis can then be based on the qualities each archetype displays.
In her book, Myss surveys ten different archetypal roles that she believes (and I agree) all human beings (and fictional characters) portray. Of course we’re all mixtures of particular types, but clearly some take precedence over others.
I will list Myss’s archetypes and paraphrase an explanation of each. To get the full effect, you have to read the book!
The Advocate: Those who devote their lives to fighting a cause; Myss gives many examples such as human rights activists, animal rights activists, environmentalists, etc. And you don’t have to be Cesar Chavez to fit into this role. You can simply be the neighborhood watch looking to improve safety after a home on your block was robbed.
Myss’s Examples: Rosa Parks, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Mothers Against Drunk Driving
My Examples:Blogger & Writing Group Companion, Sylver Blaque
The Artist/Creative: Anyone who is compelled to create art falls into this archetypal role. It may be in the form of visual art, written art, or performance art. But Myss says we aren’t complete unless we can create.
Myss’s Examples: Vincent Van Gogh, Mozart, Edgar Allan Poe
My Examples: Thomas Kinkade, The Intrinsic Writer, aka me; all of you reading this!
The Athlete: This could be the marathon runner or the avid sports fan. It’s those who need to be in constant motion. The fitness hounds, the yogis, the skydiver, and the water-skier; the athlete’s focus is on health and nutrition. He or she uses the body as a form of expression.
Myss’s Examples: Michael Jordan, Maria Sharpanova, The Ancient Greeks
My Examples: My Aunt Eileen, star of the YMCA.
The Caregiver: Those who give their lives to serving and protecting others. Myss mentions that often these are the types that need to be told to stop and relax! Do something for yourself! Parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, healers, coaches, and more—these are the ones, according to Myss, who can tolerate to see pain in another human being. They are self-sacrificing, and at time, martyrs.
Myss’s Examples: The Mother, The Teacher, The Sister
My Examples: My mother, father, & grandparents; my Uncle Bob, who cares for my elderly grandfather; myself, as a teacher; many, many of my friends, colleagues, etc.
The Fashionista: If the athlete expresses herself through movement, then the fashionista expresses herself through…you got it…fashion! But this is more than just a professional shopper. This is someone who exudes confidence, prioritizes looking good, and perhaps most importantly, is exploring a sense of identity.
Myss’s Examples: Carrie Bradshaw, Coco Chanel
My Examples: My sister, Victoria.
The Intellectual: These folks tend to go by that old notion of using their heads over their hearts. Intellectuals love learning. They are well-read, researching types. As Myss explains it, the requirement of knowledge is their main life purpose. I imagine they can be rather argumentative as well. Intellectuals take a deep interest in unlocking all the mysteries of the world.
Myss’s Examples: The Sage, The Wise Elders, The Buddha
My Example: Just about every professor I had in college
The Queen/Executive: For all you Oprah fans out there, this one’s for you! The Queen is on top of her game (by the way, for each archetype, Myss has a whole section on the “male counterpart”), and doesn’t take any you-know-what from anyone. She is often in a high-powered position, but a Queen could also simply rule her own household—it has more to do with identity personal ruling style. I think you know the type—Myss says Queens create their own “empires,” and that often comes with a band of followers.
Myss’s Examples: Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth I, Barbara Walters, and Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.
My Examples: Laura, a former employer
The Rebel: I can’t help but think of a Punk Rocker (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols), but anyway, the Rebel is a reactor, a revolutionary—different from the advocate in the sense that he or she responds (often drastically) to all that is wrong with the world. The truth is, the rebel doesn’t have to be someone who elicits political upsurge—it could just be that kid in high school that skipped the last-day-before-vacation holiday concert—brought to you by the school’s jazz band and choral choir—to go smoke pot. OK, maybe I just went to Starbucks. But it was badass.
Myss’s Examples: Henry David Thoreau, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., The Feminist
My Examples: Elvis Presley. My friend Sara, who back in high school, managed to cut study for entire three-quarters of a year before getting caught.
The Spiritual Seeker: Oh, I love this one. Here we have people who want to know things by the end of their lives. They strive to find that sense of Nirvana inside and out. Myss explains that the true spiritual seeker isn’t someone who vows to buy a ten million dollar home; instead, he or she looks inward to find that true sense of knowing. He is a master of forgiveness, and is willing to turn his life into an odyssey of gratitude in the pursuit of helping others.
Myss’s Examples: The Mystic, The Buddha
My Examples: Deepak Chopra
The Visionary: Myss says the visionary is the person who can stand back, look at the world, and see clearly, what it needs. Then, he or she sets about putting those changes in motion. Visionaries are idea-makers. They are creators. They have a deep understanding of the human race.
Myss’s Examples: Rachel Carson, Gloria Steinem, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs
My Examples: John Lennon
By the way, you can find out your archetype by taking the quiz @ www.ArchetypeMe.com
My results were a mixed percentage of the following four archetypes: 1) Artist/Creative 2) Caregiver 3) Intellectual 4) Spiritual Seeker.
Also, while Myss goes into A LOT of detail about the types mentioned above, she also includes a glossary with other common archetypes such as: The Victim, The Warrior, The Storyteller, The Slave, and more.
By reading this book, I have a better sense of my life’s purpose; furthermore, through the process, I was able to discover my characters’ archetypes as well. It has turned into a great characterization tool. I even went in and took the above mentioned quiz as some of characters. Trust me, it will give both you and the tiny people who live inside your head much needed clarity.
What Archetype are you? What Archetypes are your characters?