Hey everyone, I’m starting a new series of posts about different types of archetypal heroes and how we can individualize them to our own specific stories. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, archetypes exist for a reason, and even though we are striving for originality in our writing it is important to recognize that when something works well we should be willing to adopt it. Simply put, archetypes are practical and effective, but we must not only adopt the archetype into our story we must also adapt it to our character. The archetype is the foundation and it is our job to build a house that people will want to stay in.
For the first archetype I want to look at the Tragic Hero. Tragic Heroes are those characters who have a fundamental flaw or desire that often leads to their downfall. Perhaps the most common example of this character archetype would be Annakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, although I think a strong argument could be made for Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo as well. Which brings me to an important point; good characters don’t just fit into one archetype. Many of them will have a combination of elements from different archetypes, which is key to creating interesting and original characters. In The Count of Monte Cristo Edmond Dantes’ fatal flaw is that he is too trusting and naive, which leads to his tragic imprisonment where he learns the truth and begins his quest for vengeance. No longer the trusting and naive man that he was, Edmond Dantes escapes prison and extracts his revenge, but loses the love of his life. Even as his simple trusting nature led to their separation, his quest for vengeance caused that separation to continue, even when opportunity arose to be reunited as lovers. In essence Edmond Dantes is two characters, both of whom are tragic heroes; one by nature and the other by his choices. This is one of the reasons why the story is a classic; the character never breaks from the tragic archetype even though he undergoes extensive changes throughout his life. He is both consistent and diverse, and I think that is something that ought to be emulated in our own stories.