17.25: Archetypes, Ensembles, and Expectations

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

We’ve talked about making every member of the ensemble meaningful. In this episode we’re discussing who, in archetype terms, everybody is. How can archetypes help us get started, how can they help us set reader expectations, and what are the archetype-related pitfalls we need to avoid? And finally, is ‘archetype’ even the correct term here?

Liner Notes: Here’s the “Black Superheroes with Electrical Powers” article.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Identify the archetypes of each character in your work-in-progress. Change that archetype or give them a sub-archetype, to try to branch out and create rounder, unexpected characters.

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

5 thoughts on “17.25: Archetypes, Ensembles, and Expectations”

  1. Recently I posted a piece about the old TV show M*A*S*H. The characters that made up that ensemble were unique and original. I now want to talk about another old TV show where that was NOT true.

    Check out the first few seasons of “Mission Impossible”. The Movies are just Tom Cruise and a supporting cast. But that was not true of the TV show. There the balance was much more even. That said, the characters in the TV show were little beyond archetypes.

    You had the leader. You had the hot babe. You had the master of disguise. You had the strong man. You had the technical whiz. There was literally little to each character beyond the thumbnail I have provided.

    In later seasons there was some cast turnover, and the archetypes were less sharply delineated. And, since the show was essentially “The heist of the week”, each character filled out the team by providing a narrowly defined set of skills. And each got his/her moment to shine in each episode. Finally, the leader did not dominate either action or screen time. So, it was about a pure of an ensemble piece as you can find.

  2. I loved the episode, but is there a place where we can get a list of archetypes that are typically in an ensemble that aren’t just the jobs in a heist? I know there’s TV Tropes, but I’m not sure how to search it for this exact thing.

    I’m currently writing an ensemble(ish) story and I’m worried about making sure each character is not only unique, but also serves a purpose, and starting with a set of archetypes then molding them to my liking would be great.

  3. This week, the masterful foursome, Dan, Zoraida, Kaela, and Howard, mixed it all together with archetypes, ensembles, and expectations! Would Carl Yung and Campbell agree? Hitter, hacker, grifter, thief, mastermind? Trickster and mentor? Braided roses? Watch out for thorns! Go ahead, read all about it in the transcript, available now in the archives.

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