The Twelve Archetypes

Renee Collins, one of the author guests at FanX,  walked into the green room shaking her head in mild disbelief at an encounter she’d had in the hallway. Someone had pitched his writing tutorials to her, and when she said “no thank you” he said “if you’re a writer, then you obviously know the twelve archetypes, right?”

Our table’s response was a mixture of wide-eyed surprise, and eye-rolling at the bad behavior. And maybe just a little embarrassment. For myself, I know of the archetypes, but I don’t have them memorized, and I certainly don’t work from that list while creating a story.

So I put myself in Renee’s shoes and role-played my answer:

“Of course!” I began ticking things off on my fingers “Joan of Arc, Arc de Triomph, Noah’s Ark, Arc Reactor, The Ark of the Covenant…”

We burst into laughter, and everyone at the table began shouting suggestions. We swiftly added Archimedes, Archaeology, Arc Welder, and Archipelago, and then lost some steam.

“Come on, folks! That’s nine!” I said, feigning panic while waving nine fingers. “We just need three more!”

I think Monarch, Archaeopteryx, and Arkham Asylum finished the list off.

This morning I got to wondering if words, terms, and names with the “ark” sound in them could be usefully mapped onto the actual Twelve Archetypes. And by “usefully” I mean “as a mnemonic.” For instance, “Monarch” maps pretty directly onto “The Ruler,” and if you’re thinking about the end of the 1st Indiana Jones film, “The Ark of the Covenant” can correspond nicely to “The Destroyer.”

Unfortunately, some of my favorites, like Archaeopteryx  and Arc Reactor, are harder to plug in. Or at least, I had to stretch them so far that it was easier to go looking for other words.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Innocent—Joan of Arc
  2. Orphan—Archipelago (because islands. Eh?)
  3. Warrior—Arc de Triomph
  4. Caregiver—Noah’s Ark
  5. Seeker—Archaeology
  6. Lover—Marc Antony
  7. Destroyer—Ark of the Covenant
  8. Creator—Tony Stark
  9. Ruler—Monarch
  10. Magician—Parkour
  11. Sage—Archimedes
  12. Fool—Arkham Asylum

It’s by no means a perfect list, but now I’ve got it out of my system. And I’m sure it will fail completely when used as a mnemonic.