8 Common Character Types Writers Should Know – Christopher Vogler


Film Courage: What are the eight common archetypes or psychological functions found in most stories? 

Christopher Vogler, Hollywood development executive, screenwriter, author and educator: When I was composing my model of storytelling I looked to the work of Carl Jung who had made this hypothesis that there is some kind of collective unconsciousness and that out of that, which is like the dreaming state or the unconscious mind of an individual person, the whole culture has got a swirling cloud of ideas and energies. Out of that there were some common things that he noticed. Those common forms (or characters sometimes) he called those archetypesand the word means a version that’s very old, the original version of something. The archetypes are kind of core beliefs or almost models from which all kinds of other variations can be described. The ones that I found most useful were first of all The Hero who stands for an idealized version of ourselves. It’s somebody who is maybe more athletic or successful or bold or brave or funny or some in some way is a little bit exaggerated but has qualities that we would like to have. We project ourselves into that hero. The next one that I studied was The Mentor because I noticed that a lot of stories like Star Wars have strong relationships between a young hero and an older master like the Jedi Masters, the various ones that you find in the Star Wars saga. That was a very interesting study on how those teachers and student relationships developed. You could get a lot of comedy and a lot of drama out of those. The next thing would be The Shape Shifters because it seemed as I studied many movie examples and fairy tales and so forth that there was often a character who might be a love interest or a friend or an ally for the hero but their nature was always a little bit shifty. They sometimes appeared to be friendly or to be useful allies and at times maybe there was danger of betrayal or disappointment, so their nature is kind of shifting. I think that reflects how people relate to other people, you form first impressions of people and then maybe you learn more about them and you see they were…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


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BUY THE BOOK – THE WRITER’S JOURNEY: Mythic Structure for Writers


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BUY THE BOOK – MEMO FROM THE STORY DEPARTMENT: Secrets of Structure and Character




Christopher Vogler made documentary films as an Air Force officer before studying film production at the University of Southern California, where he encountered the ideas of mythologist Joseph Campbell and observed how they influenced the story design of the first Star Wars movie. He worked as a story consultant in the development departments of 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures and Animation, and Paramount Pictures, and wrote an influential memo on Campbell’s Hero’s Journey concept that led to his involvement in Disney’s Aladdin, The Lion King and Hercules. After the publication of The Writer’s Journey, he had a hand in developing the stories of many productions, including Disney’s remake of 101 Dalmatians, Fox’s Fight Club, Courage Under Fire, Volcano, The Thin Red Line and many others. Vogler lives in Los Angeles, California.






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