If you think about it, a lot of the characters you see on the screen fall into the same basic shape. Take Indy up there: he’s strong, smart, assertive, and undertakes quests to Do The Right Thing. He is a classic Hero archetype. You often see these guys defending helpless damsels, rescuing kittens, and of course defeating bad guys. (Superman, Neo, Kyle Reese… Jesus, Buddha, etc).
Archetypes are Everywhere
Look at movies and books, and you’ll realize: we looooooooove archetypes. It’s almost like hearing the same basic story told over and over, just because the characters are almost the same. Like the romance heroine who is basically the same woman in every single novel, just with a different hair color? Yeah. Archetype.
Or how about in every buddy movie ever made, there’s always the goofy sidekick friend, as well as the slightly nefarious friend? Yeah.
Here’s a list to watch out for:
- The Doppelganger (a.k.a. evil twin)
- The Mother
- The Hero
- The Monster
- The Sage
- The Social Outcast
- The Trickster (a.k.a. villain)
See the full cheat sheet here: Jung and Campbell on archetypes.
The point is, your characters are not unique. Every good character is based on an archetype.
Read it again. It’s still true.
Your characters are not unique. If they were, your movie would be unwatchable. It would have no likable or sympathy-evoking characters, and people would just uniformly hate it.
(Loophole: maybe your characters are totally unique. But if that’s the case, you’re not getting very far with that marketing, are ya?)
When writing or rewriting your film, understand your characters’ archetypes. They can and should stray a little. But that archetype is their soul. Your story will be richer, and your characters stronger, if you know who they really are.