Archetypes: Why I Love Writing the Fantasy Genre

Fiction writing, specifically fantasy fiction, is my favorite genre to write for many reasons. The biggest reason is that the basic archetypes or stock characters come standard in every fantasy package, especially when it details a hero's quest. Every source of fantasy fiction media can be traced backwards to their roots. Don't believe me? I'll be happy to show you.

Let's use Star Wars as an example. One of my all time favorite franchises has been hailed as a groundbreaking science fiction series because of it's success at creating an intricate story with a plethora of unique characters. However, what seems like a nerdtastic journey of twists and turns actually has a rather basic formula. Below are the eight archetypes used in a hero's quest:

The Hero - Luke Skywalker. The Hero is our guide to the unique fantasy world, and the person we want to root for in his/her journey. In our Star Wars example, Luke Skywalker is the perfect guide: handsome, blonde haired, blue eyed, and a country bumpkin who is opened to a whole new world outside of Tatooine. His experiences take him from a simple moisture farmer to a Jedi Knight that vanquishes evil and brings balance back to the Force. If that isn't an epic transformation, then I don't know what is.  

The Mentor - Obi Wan Kenobi/Yoda. The older figure that teaches the Hero about their innate abilities, instructs them about the world, and generally gives their wisdom. In Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda both train Luke in the art of using a Lightsaber and the ways of the Force. They impart knowledge about the dark side and their past history with the forces of evil.

The Ally - Han Solo. The Hero needs a reliable person because when the time comes, sometimes it is too hard for them to go through an ordeal alone. Han Solo plays the Ally role the best as he helps Luke break into the Death Star and covers him in his final dogfight showdown with Darth Vader.

The Herald - R2-D2. He acts as the catalyst to start the story. When Luke finds him and the message from Leia to Obi Wan, he's given the cue to begin his journey by finding the old hermit.

The Trickster - C-3PO. He acts as the comedic relief. Despite his good intentions, his bumbling ways tend to cause more problems even though he tries his best to help. Like when he discovers that Stormtroopers took over Cloud City, his attempts to warn them backfire when he gets blasted to bits. He comes back in a humorous form as a backpack for Chewbacca. 

The Damsel-in-Distress - Princess Leia. The Hero needs to save someone or something in order to prove his heroic deeds. Likewise, Luke saves Princess Leia from capture on the original Death Star, carrying her as he swings away from all the Stormtroopers chasing them.

The Threshold Guardian - The Stormtroopers. The Threshold Guardian tests the hero's resolve before they actually face by acting as a wall that blocks the hero's progress. In our example, the Stormtroopers act as the formidable army that impedes Luke's quest to stop the Death Star/Darth Vader. 

The Shadow - Darth Vader. The opposite of the Hero, or the one who shows what could happen to hero if he strayed off the path of good. Darth Vader represents exactly what would happen if Luke went to the dark side of the Force. George Lucas really emphasizes this when he actually shows a scene when Luke cuts off Darth Vader's arm and he realizes that it is also mechanical like his.

I guarantee if you read or watch any fantasy fiction media, you'll be able to spot these archetypes. Trust me, it's there. 

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