Character Type & Trope Thesaurus: Orphan Archetype

From Writers Helping Writers:

In 1959, Carl Jung first popularized the idea of archetypes—”universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” He posited that every person is a blend of these 12 basic personalities. Ever since then, authors have been applying this idea to fictional characters, combining the different archetypes to come up with interesting new versions. The result is a sizable pool of character tropes that we see from one story to another.

Archetypes and tropes are popular storytelling elements because of their familiarity. Upon seeing them, readers know immediately who they’re dealing with and what role the nerd, dark lord, femme fatale, or monster hunter will play. As authors, we need to recognize the commonalities for each trope so we can write them in a recognizable way and create a rudimentary sketch for any character we want to create.

But when it comes to characters, no one wants just a sketch; we want a vibrant and striking cast full of color, depth, and contrast. Diving deeper into character creation is especially important when starting with tropes because the blessing of their familiarity is also a curse; without differentiation, the characters begin to look the same from story to story.

But no more. The Character Type and Trope Thesaurus allows you to outline the foundational elements of each trope while also exploring how to individualize them. In this way, you’ll be able to use historically tried-and-true character types to create a cast for your story that is anything but traditional.

Orphan Archetype

DESCRIPTION: Orphans are characterized by trauma, neglect, and/or rejection. Having lost their own family (or never having had one to begin with), they’re driven by a need to belong and will go to great lengths to find acceptance. This makes orphans especially susceptible to manipulation and abuse which, over time, can result in them becoming withdrawn and further isolated.

FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Harry Potter (the Harry Potter series), Oliver Twist (Oliver Twist), Kya Clark (Where the Crawdads Sing), Simba (The Lion King), Will Hunting (Good Will Hunting)

COMMON STRENGTHS: Alert, Cautious, Discreet, Empathetic, Humble, Independent, Intelligent, Loyal, Observant, Perceptive, Persistent, Private, Proactive, Resourceful, Spunky

COMMON WEAKNESSES: Abrasive, Apathetic, Childish, Cynical, Defensive, Dishonest, Evasive, Impulsive, Insecure, Irresponsible, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Rebellious, Reckless, Resentful, Rowdy, Self-Destructive, Stubborn, Uncooperative, Volatile, Withdrawn

Being highly observant
Sticking like glue to the trustworthy people in their life
Being highly attuned to injustice, manipulation, and other forms of abuse
Fighting for justice and equality
Having just a few close friends
Being unable to see the faults of the people they’re loyal to
Getting involved in toxic relationships (because it’s what the character is used to)
Sacrificing personal beliefs or standards if it means gaining affection from someone
Difficulty setting or maintaining personal boundaries
Being too eager when someone shows them attention
Difficulty trusting others
Becoming reconciled to isolation because it’s better than risking being hurt again
Being suspicious of people and their motives
Being jaded
Keeping people at arm’s length
Sabotaging relationships to avoid abandonment or rejection
Not rushing into new relationships or situations; taking time to evaluate them first
Being dishonest or evasive when it comes to personal information
Finding community on the fringes (through hobbies, interests, lifestyle, etc.)
Being insecure and unsure of their own worth
Struggling with depression
Abusing drugs or alcohol
Adopting a victim mentality
Being highly independent (because they’ve had to be)

Suspecting that a trusted friend is being dishonest
A friend questioning the motives of someone close to the character
Being forced to face their unresolved past trauma
Being specifically targeted by a con-artist or manipulator
Entering a new environment (school, a new job, etc.) that requires the character to start over with strangers
A love interest wanting to take the relationship to the next level

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers