Carl Jung’s archetypes are a powerful tool for writers as they tap into universal symbols and themes that resonate with a broad audience. Using them can enrich your writing by connecting your story to universal themes and symbols. By understanding and thoughtfully incorporating these archetypes, you can create resonant and compelling narratives that engage readers on a deep, subconscious level.

What Are Jungian Archetypes?

wizard | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

The concept of archetypes was introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in the early 20th century. Jung believed that archetypes are universal symbols and themes that reside in the collective unconscious, a level of the unconscious mind shared by all human beings that contains memories and ideas inherited from our ancestors.

Jung proposed that archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas, which may be used to interpret observations. They are unlearned and function to organize how we experience certain things. He developed the idea of archetypes as part of his theory of the psyche. He posited that the psyche is divided into three parts:

  • the conscious mind,
  • the personal unconscious, and
  • the collective unconscious.

The collective unconscious houses archetypes—innate, universal prototypes for ideas, which serve as the foundational structures of our thoughts and experiences.

Jung’s concept of archetypes has had a profound impact on psychology, literature, and the arts. It has influenced the study of personality, the interpretation of mythology, and the analysis of literature and art. His archetypes have been explored and expanded upon by numerous psychologists, writers, and scholars, contributing to a rich, multidisciplinary dialogue about the universal elements of human experience.

Today, Jungian archetypes continue to be a significant influence in storytelling, allowing writers to create narratives that resonate with readers on a deep, subconscious level. They serve as a bridge between the individual and the universal, the known and the unknown, enabling the exploration of timeless themes, moral dilemmas, and human complexities.

1. Common Archetypes

Jung identified several primary archetypes, including The Hero, The Mother, The Shadow, and The Anima and Animus, each representing different aspects of the human experience. These archetypes manifest in our dreams, myths, religions, and works of art, reflecting universal themes such as transformation, rebirth, conflict, and balance. Here are some of the most common ones.

The Hero

The Hero is a central figure in any story, representing the character who embarks on a journey and overcomes obstacles to achieve a goal. This archetype is not just about the courageous and the bold but also about growth, sacrifice, and the journey to self-discovery. The Hero’s journey is one of transformation, where the character evolves, learning valuable lessons about themselves and the world around them.

The Mentor/Old Man

The Mentor archetype is often depicted as a wise, older figure who aids the hero on their journey. This character provides guidance, support, and often, crucial knowledge or skills that are pivotal to the hero’s success. The Mentor is a symbol of wisdom and protection and is crucial in preparing the hero for the challenges ahead.

The Shadow

The Shadow represents the darker, hidden side of individuals. It embodies the suppressed, unacknowledged aspects of one’s personality, often projecting negative traits that one dislikes about themselves onto others. In storytelling, The Shadow can be a powerful antagonist or a conflicting inner force, driving tension and conflict within the narrative.

The Anima/Animus

The Anima and Animus are representations of the feminine side of a man and the masculine side of a woman, respectively. They symbolize the unconscious, inner opposite gender of an individual, reflecting the idea that the psyche is inherently bisexual. In stories, exploring these archetypes can lead to rich, multifaceted characters and can delve into themes of balance, union, and the interplay between the masculine and feminine.

The Mother

The Mother archetype symbolizes creation, nurturing, and sustenance. It’s not confined to the literal mother but extends to anything that gives birth to, nurtures, and sustains life. This archetype can be explored in various forms in writing, such as the nurturing mother, the motherland, or Mother Nature. Each of these provides a rich tapestry of symbols and themes related to life, growth, and sustenance.

The Child

The Child archetype represents beginnings, innocence, and potential. It’s a symbol of the future and brings a sense of renewal and rebirth. In literature, the child can be a character who embodies purity and innocence or can represent a new start or a fresh perspective, offering opportunities to explore themes of hope, potential, and transformation.

Understanding these archetypes is not about rigidly applying a template to characters or narratives. Instead, it’s about recognizing the universal patterns these archetypes represent and using them as a starting point to create nuanced, relatable characters and compelling, resonant stories. By delving into the collective unconscious and tapping into these universal themes and symbols, writers can connect with readers on a profound level, exploring the human condition in all its complexity.

The Explorer

Speaking of exploration, the Explorer is driven by a desire to experience new things, venture into the unknown, and seek out new horizons. This archetype is characterized by its independence, ambition, and pioneering spirit. In stories, the Explorer can be a character who embarks on journeys to unfamiliar territories, driven by curiosity and the pursuit of freedom. This often leads them to face the unknown and discover uncharted realms of knowledge and experience.

The Outlaw/Rebel

The Outlaw, or Rebel, is characterized by a desire to overturn what isn’t working and to disrupt the status quo. This archetype often represents the counterculture and is driven by a profound desire for revolution or reform. In narratives, the Outlaw can be a powerful force for change, challenging established norms and conventions, and can symbolize the struggle against oppression and injustice.

The Trickster

Exemplified by Loki, the Trickster is a playful and cunning figure who uses wit and humor to outsmart others and disrupt the ordinary course of events. This archetype is often a symbol of transformation and change, using its cleverness to challenge the established order and to expose the absurdities of life. In stories, the Trickster can be a humorous and disruptive character, bringing levity and unpredictability to the narrative. However, he also serves as a catalyst for change and reflection.

The Persona

The Persona represents the mask or façade that an individual presents to the outside world, concealing their true self. It is the socially acceptable front that one puts on to conform to societal expectations. In literature, exploring the Persona can lead to a deep examination of identity, societal pressure, and the conflict between one’s public image and true self, offering a rich ground for character development and conflict.

The Self

The Self is a central archetype representing the unified consciousness and unconsciousness of an individual. It is the totality of the psyche, encompassing all other archetypes and elements of the personality. In writing, the exploration of the Self can lead to profound narratives about self-discovery, actualization, and the quest for identity, allowing for the exploration of the deepest aspects of human existence and the universal quest for meaning.

The Lover

The Lover archetype represents passion, desire, and the pursuit of beauty and love. It is characterized by its sensuality, devotion, and commitment to the pursuit of the heart’s desires. In stories, the Lover can be a character-driven by love, beauty, or passion, and can explore themes of romance, desire, and the human connection, allowing for the exploration of relationships, intimacy, and the human heart.

The Everyman

The Everyman archetype represents the common man and the collective experience of ordinary life. This archetype is characterized by its relatability, humility, and the representation of the common human experience. In literature, the Everyman can be a protagonist who is easy to relate to, experiencing universal trials and tribulations, and offering insights into the human condition through the lens of everyday life.

The Ruler/King

The Ruler archetype symbolizes control, power, and responsibility. It is characterized by its leadership, authority, and the desire to create order and structure. In narratives, the Ruler can be a character who holds significant power and responsibility, and whose actions have far-reaching consequences. This allows for the exploration of themes related to leadership, governance, and the moral implications of power.

The Artist

The Artist archetype represents creativity, imagination, and expression. It is driven by a desire to create and express one’s inner world through various forms of art. In stories, the Artist can be a character who sees the world differently, who challenges conventional views, and whose creations reflect deeper truths about existence. This lets authors explore themes related to creativity, artistic struggle, and the transformative power of art.

Each of these archetypes offers a unique perspective and a wealth of thematic possibilities, allowing writers to explore a diverse range of characters, situations, and philosophical questions, and to connect with readers through universal symbols and experiences.

2. Identify the Archetypal Journey

knight vs dragon | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

To start using these archetypes in your writing, start by identifying the archetypal journey. This provides a narrative framework that resonates with universal human experiences. The archetypal journey is not just a physical journey but also a process of transformation and self-discovery, often involving trials, tribulations, and revelations. There are several such journeys you can identify in fiction.

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is perhaps the most well-known archetypal journey. It consists of several stages, including the Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Crossing the Threshold, Trials and Tribulations, The Ordeal, The Reward, The Return, and The Resurrection. This journey is not merely about external adventures but also about internal transformation, self-discovery, and enlightenment. It’s a journey from the known to the unknown and back again, whereby the hero is fundamentally changed and enlightened by the experiences.

The Transformation

The Transformation is another crucial archetypal journey, focusing on the metamorphosis of a character. This journey also involves a process of change, often prompted by a crisis or a series of challenges, leading to a profound realization or a shift in understanding. The character may undergo a moral, emotional, spiritual, or psychological transformation, emerging from the journey with a new perspective, a greater understanding of themselves, or a renewed sense of purpose.

The Quest

The Quest is a journey undertaken in pursuit of a goal or a significant object. It typically involves overcoming obstacles, solving puzzles, and facing adversaries. The character embarks on this journey driven by a desire, a need, or a duty. Along the way, they encounter challenges that test their resolve, intelligence, and strength. The Quest is not just about achieving the goal but also about the knowledge and the insights gained during the journey.

The Initiation

The Initiation is a journey of maturation and self-discovery, often involving rites of passage, trials, and revelations. The character undergoes a series of experiences that lead to growth and enlightenment, marking a transition from one state of being to another. This journey is about acquiring new knowledge, skills, and understanding. It often involves facing fears, overcoming challenges, and embracing one’s true self.

The Fall

The Fall is a journey from a higher to a lower state of being, often involving loss, tragedy, and suffering. The character experiences a decline in fortune, status, or morality, leading to a state of disgrace, isolation, or despair. This journey is not just about the descent but also about the potential for redemption, learning, and rebuilding, offering a profound exploration of human frailty, resilience, and the possibility of recovery.

The Ascension

The Ascension is the opposite of The Fall, representing a journey from a lower to a higher state of being. This journey involves rising above challenges, achieving enlightenment, and attaining a higher level of understanding or spirituality. It’s about overcoming limitations, transcending boundaries, and achieving a state of grace, wisdom, or fulfillment.

Integrating the Journey

When integrating the archetypal journey into your writing, consider the internal and external aspects of the journey, the transformation of the character, and the universal themes explored. The journey should be woven seamlessly into the narrative, reflecting the character’s growth, the challenges faced, and the insights gained, resonating with the readers on a deep, subconscious level.

By identifying and incorporating the archetypal journey, writers can create narratives that are rich in symbolism, meaning, and universal resonance. They can explore the human condition and the myriad ways in which individuals navigate, experience, and make sense of the world.

3. Incorporate Archetypes into Characters

Incorporating archetypes into your characters is a nuanced process that involves more than just assigning roles. It’s about understanding the essence of each archetype and weaving it into the fabric of your characters to create multifaceted, resonant individuals. The whole process is about creating a symbiosis between the universal and the individual. It’s about weaving the timeless essence of archetypes into the unique tapestry of each character, creating individuals who are resonant, authentic, and deeply human. By doing so, writers can explore the myriad facets of human nature, experience, and existence, creating narratives that are rich, layered, and universally compelling.

Define the Role

Start by defining the role each character plays in your story. Assign archetypal roles based on their functions and the themes you want to explore. For instance, if you are exploring themes of rebellion and transformation, you might choose to incorporate the Outlaw or the Trickster archetype. This step involves understanding the core attributes of the archetype and how they align with your character’s motivations, actions, and development.

Develop the Character

Once you have assigned an archetypal role, it’s time to develop your character beyond the archetype. Use the archetype as a foundation, but build upon it by adding unique traits, backgrounds, desires, and flaws. Consider the character’s history, relationships, motivations, and conflicts. This process involves creating a balance between the universal aspects of the archetype and the individual nuances of the character.

Explore Internal Conflicts

Archetypes can be a powerful tool to explore internal conflicts within a character. For example, a character embodying the Hero archetype might struggle with fear and doubt, or a character facing their Shadow might grapple with their darker impulses. Delve into the psychological and emotional dimensions of your characters, exploring how the archetypal elements influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Create Dynamic Relationships

Consider how the archetypal roles influence the relationships between characters. For instance, the dynamic between the Hero and the Mentor will be different from that between the Trickster and the Ruler. Explore how the archetypal elements create tension, harmony, conflict, or growth in the relationships between characters, and how these relationships evolve over the course of the narrative.

Subvert and Deconstruct Archetypes

Don’t be afraid to play with, subvert, or deconstruct archetypes. Challenge the conventional attributes and expectations associated with an archetype to create characters that are unexpected and refreshing. For example, an absolute Ruler or an Outlaw who is nevertheless constrained by their moral compass can add depth and intrigue to your story.

Ensure Consistency and Coherence

While developing your characters, ensure that the archetypal elements are consistent with the character’s actions, motivations, and development. The archetype should serve as a coherent framework that supports and enhances the character’s journey, rather than a rigid mold that restricts their growth or contradicts their nature.

Reflect on the Journey and Transformation

Finally, consider how the archetypal journey and transformation align with the character’s development. Reflect on how the character embodies the archetype at different stages of the journey and how the archetypal elements contribute to their transformation. This involves considering the character’s growth, the lessons learned, and the insights gained through the lens of the archetype.

4. Use Archetypal Symbols and Themes

knight on dragon | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Knights and dragons – archetypes don’t come more archetypal than this

Using archetypal symbols and themes is about tapping into the universal human experience and the collective unconscious. It’s about exploring the timeless and the transient, the individual and the collective, creating narratives that are rich in meaning, resonance, and emotional depth. By integrating archetypal symbols and themes thoughtfully and creatively, writers can elevate their work, connecting with readers on a profound level and exploring the myriad facets of human existence. It also lets readers connect with your work on a subconscious level.

Here’s how to achieve this:

Understand the Symbolism

Archetypal symbols are loaded with meaning, representing universal concepts, themes, and experiences. For instance, light often symbolizes knowledge and enlightenment, while water can represent the subconscious and transformation. Understanding the symbolism associated with each archetype is crucial. For example, the Hero might be associated with swords representing valor, or the Mother with nurturing imagery like the earth or the moon.

Integrate Symbols Seamlessly

Once you understand the symbolism, integrate it seamlessly into your narrative. Symbols should feel like a natural part of the story, enhancing the narrative rather than feeling forced or contrived. They can be woven into descriptions, actions, settings, or even the characters themselves, serving as metaphors or motifs that reinforce the themes and emotions of the story.

Explore Universal Themes

Archetypal themes are universal ideas or concepts that resonate with a broad audience. Themes like the battle between good and evil, the pursuit of self-discovery, love and loss, and the quest for power are inherent to human experience. By exploring these themes through the lens of archetypes, you can delve into the human condition, examining the complexities, contradictions, and nuances of human nature and existence.

Develop Thematic Cohesion

Ensure that the archetypal themes are cohesive and consistent throughout your narrative. They should align with the characters, plot, and overall message of your story, serving as a unifying thread that ties the narrative together. Thematic cohesion contributes to a more harmonious and impactful narrative, allowing the archetypal themes to resonate more deeply with the readers.

Subvert and Reinterpret Symbols and Themes

Don’t hesitate to subvert or reinterpret archetypal symbols and themes. Challenge conventional interpretations and explore new perspectives, adding a layer of originality and depth to your work. For instance, if darkness is traditionally associated with evil or the unknown, you might explore it as a symbol of the untapped potential or the mysteries of the self.

Reflect on Cultural Context

While archetypal symbols and themes are universal, their interpretations can vary based on cultural context. Be mindful of the cultural nuances and variations in interpreting symbols and themes. Consider how different cultures perceive and interpret archetypal elements and incorporate this awareness into your writing to create a more inclusive and nuanced narrative. For example, white is a symbol of purity in the West but one of death in the East.

Evoke Emotional Responses

Use archetypal symbols and themes to evoke emotional responses from your readers. The universal resonance of archetypal elements can tap into the collective unconscious, eliciting emotions, memories, and experiences that are shared across humanity. By doing so, you can create a more immersive and emotionally engaging reading experience.

5. Create Archetypal Situations

As part of the archetypal journey, you will need to create archetypal situations. This involves crafting scenarios that resonate with universal patterns of human experience, allowing readers to connect with the story on a deeper, more intuitive level. These situations often revolve around fundamental human concerns, desires, and conflicts, providing a fertile ground for exploring the human condition.

When creating archetypal situations, approach them thoughtfully and creatively. While these situations are universal, they should be integrated into the narrative in a way that feels organic, nuanced, and relevant to the characters and the world they inhabit. By doing so, writers can create stories that resonate with timeless human experiences while offering fresh perspectives and insights, allowing readers to reflect on the multifaceted nature of human existence.

Typical archetypal situations include the following:

The Quest

The Journey may involve several quests undertaken to achieve a goal or obtain a valued object or state of being. Each is a situation steeped in challenge, discovery, and transformation. In crafting a Quest, consider the motivations driving the characters, the obstacles they face, and the transformations they undergo. The Quest should be a crucible for character development, revealing the strengths, weaknesses, and true natures of the characters involved.

The Initiation

The Initiation is a situation involving a character’s transition from one state of being to another, often marked by rites of passage, trials, and revelations. It’s a powerful scenario for exploring themes of growth, self-discovery, and identity. When creating an Initiation scenario, focus on the character’s internal and external challenges, the lessons learned, and the impact of the initiation on the character’s worldview and self-perception.

The Battle between Good and Evil

This situation involves a conflict between opposing forces representing good and evil, order and chaos. It’s a fundamental scenario for exploring moral, philosophical, and existential themes. When creating this situation, consider the motivations and values of the opposing forces, the nature of their conflict, and the implications of their battle for the characters and the world they inhabit.

The Transformation

The Transformation is a situation where a character undergoes a significant change in form, nature, or appearance. It’s a versatile scenario for exploring themes of change, renewal, and metamorphosis. When crafting a Transformation, focus on the catalysts for change, the character’s journey through transformation, and the ramifications of their new state of being on themselves and their surroundings.

The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice involves a character giving up something valuable for the sake of a greater good or a higher purpose. It’s a profound scenario for exploring themes of altruism, loss, and transcendence. In creating a Sacrifice situation, consider the character’s motivations, the value of what is being sacrificed, and the impact of the sacrifice on the character and the broader narrative.

The Forbidden Love

This situation revolves around a love that is forbidden due to societal, familial, or supernatural constraints. It’s a timeless scenario for exploring themes of desire, duty, and defiance. When crafting Forbidden Love, consider the reasons behind the prohibition, the lovers’ struggles against their constraints, and the consequences of their love on themselves and their world.

The Return

The Return involves a character coming back to their place of origin after a significant absence, often marked by change and revelation. It’s a resonant scenario for exploring themes of home, identity, and reconciliation. When creating a Return, consider the character’s reasons for returning, the changes they have undergone, and the impact of their return on themselves and their original environment.

6. Blend Archetypes

Robot mentor | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

No one said archetypes should only be used in fantasy settings or that the mentor can only look like a grizzled wizard. Mix things up by using your archetypes in unexpected ways.

While it could be fun using “raw” archetypes in your fiction, real life doesn’t work that way. That is why it is even more effective to blend them within your characters. Doing so involves combining elements from different archetypes to create more complex, multifaceted characters, situations, or themes. This approach allows for richer, more nuanced storytelling and offers fresh perspectives on traditional archetypal elements.

Blending archetypes is a creative and thoughtful process that can elevate your storytelling. It allows for the exploration of complex characters, intricate relationships, and nuanced themes, thus providing a rich, layered narrative experience. By combining archetypal elements cohesively and thoughtfully, writers can create stories that are both universally resonant and uniquely compelling, offering readers a multifaceted exploration of the human experience.

Combine Elements Thoughtfully

When blending archetypes, combine elements thoughtfully and cohesively. Consider how different archetypal traits, motivations, and conflicts can coexist and interact within a character or situation. For instance, a character might embody elements of both the Hero and the Outlaw, striving for a noble cause but doing so outside the boundaries of law and convention (think Robin Hood).

Explore Internal Conflicts

Blending archetypes can lead to compelling internal conflicts. A character combining the Ruler and the Rebel archetypes might struggle between their desire for order and their inclination toward defiance and disruption. Exploring these internal tensions can offer deep insights into the character’s psyche and drive the narrative forward, providing opportunities for growth, transformation, and self-discovery.

Create Dynamic Interactions

Consider how blended archetypes can influence the dynamics between characters. A relationship between a character embodying the Lover and the Trickster archetypes and one representing the Everyman and the Explorer archetypes can be rich in contrasts, conflicts, and complementarities, allowing for multifaceted interactions and developments.

Subvert Expectations

Blending archetypes allows you to play with and subvert readers’ expectations. By combining unexpected archetypal elements, you can create characters and situations that are surprising and unconventional, challenging traditional archetypal representations and offering new interpretations and possibilities. For example, blending the Shadow and the Mentor archetypes can result in a wise figure who imparts knowledge through challenge and confrontation, rather than guidance and support.

Develop Nuanced Themes

Blended archetypes can lead to the exploration of more nuanced, multifaceted themes. For instance, blending the Mother and the Warrior archetypes can allow for the exploration of themes related to nurturing strength, protective fierceness, and the balance between compassion and combativeness. This approach can offer fresh perspectives on universal themes and enrich the thematic tapestry of your narrative.

Ensure Cohesion and Consistency

While blending archetypes offers creative freedom, it’s important to maintain cohesion and consistency. Ensure that the blended archetypal elements align with the character’s motivations, actions, and development, and that they are integrated seamlessly into the narrative. The combination of archetypal elements should feel organic and coherent, contributing to the overall depth and authenticity of the character or situation.

Reflect on Symbolism and Journey

When blending archetypes, consider the symbolism and the archetypal journey associated with each archetype. Reflect on how the blended elements influence the character’s symbolic representation and their journey through the narrative. Consider how the combination of different symbols and journeys can enrich the narrative texture and enhance the resonance of the archetypal elements.

7. Reflect on the Collective Unconscious

monster | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

There are monsters galore in our collective unconscious

Reflecting on the collective unconscious is a profound aspect of utilizing archetypes in writing. Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious refers to the part of the unconscious mind shared by humanity, containing memories and ideas that are universal and archaic, inherited from our ancestors. It is populated with archetypes, universal symbols, and themes that have permeated human storytelling throughout history.

Reflecting on the collective unconscious is a journey into the heart of humanity. It’s about exploring shared experiences, universal truths, and the eternal human condition. By tapping into the collective unconscious, writers can create deeply resonant, emotionally impactful, and universally relevant narratives, offering readers a profound exploration of what it means to be human. This exploration can lead to a richer understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world we inhabit, creating a sense of unity and shared humanity.

Connect with Universal Experiences

To reflect on the collective unconscious is to tap into the experiences, fears, desires, and truths shared by humanity across time and culture. It’s about exploring the universal aspects of human existence and the common threads that bind us all. Writers should seek to understand and convey the shared human experiences that resonate with readers on a fundamental level, creating a sense of connection and recognition.

Evoke Emotional Responses

The collective unconscious is a reservoir of shared emotions, and tapping into it can evoke powerful emotional responses from readers. By utilizing archetypal symbols, themes, and characters that resonate with the collective unconscious, writers can elicit deep, primal emotions. This lets readers connect with the narrative on an instinctive, intuitive level — a connection that can make the narrative more impactful, memorable, and emotionally resonant.

Explore Shared Symbols and Myths

The collective unconscious is rich with symbols and myths that have been shared and interpreted in various ways across different cultures and epochs. Reflecting on these shared symbols and myths allows writers to explore universal truths and timeless narratives, offering insights into the human condition. Writers can re-imagine, reinterpret, and weave these symbols and myths into their narratives to explore contemporary issues, questions, and themes, creating a dialogue between the ancient and the modern.

Delve into Human Nature

Reflecting on the collective unconscious allows writers to delve deep into the essence of human nature. It’s about exploring the primal instincts, the universal desires, and the eternal conflicts that define humanity. By examining the archetypal elements present in the collective unconscious, writers can explore the complexities, contradictions, and mysteries of the human psyche. This offers readers a mirror to reflect on their own nature and existence.

Examine Cultural Variations

While the collective unconscious contains universal elements, consider the cultural variations in interpreting and expressing these elements. Different cultures may have different perspectives, values, and expressions related to archetypal themes and symbols. A dragon, for example, may be a symbol of the Shadow in the West — destructive and greedy. In the East, though, it is often a symbol of the Mentor — wise and helpful. Examining such variations can enrich the narrative, offering a more inclusive, diverse, and nuanced exploration of universal human experiences.

Create Timeless Narratives

By reflecting on the collective unconscious, writers can create narratives that are timeless and universal. These narratives transcend the boundaries of time, culture, and context, speaking to the eternal human experience. They offer insights, reflections, and questions that are relevant to every human being, regardless of their background or circumstances, making the narrative enduringly relevant and resonant.

8. Revise and Refine

robot reading | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Even robots must revise their work

Writing, as we all know, is but the first step, followed by editing. The process of revising and refining ensures that the integration of archetypal elements is seamless, coherent, and effective in conveying the intended themes and emotions. Revising and refining with a focus on archetypal elements is about honing the universal resonance of your narrative while maintaining its unique voice, depth, and nuance. It’s a meticulous process of fine-tuning, balancing, and enriching. The goal is to create a narrative that is both timeless and timely, universally resonant, and individually impactful. By doing so, writers can offer readers a narrative that is layered, meaningful, and reflective of the shared human experience.

Here’s how to approach this stage with a focus on archetypal elements:

Review Archetypal Elements

Go through your work meticulously to ensure that the archetypal elements are integrated effectively. Assess whether the archetypes are serving their intended purpose in enriching the narrative, characters, and themes. Ensure that the archetypal symbols, situations, and journeys are coherent and resonate with the overall narrative structure and thematic framework.

Refine Characters and Themes

Evaluate your characters and themes in light of the archetypal elements. Ensure that the characters are multidimensional and that the archetypes do not overshadow their uniqueness and complexity. Refine the themes to ensure they are not clichéd but are nuanced, resonant, and explored in depth, allowing for multiple layers of interpretation and reflection.

Ensure Consistency

Check for consistency in the portrayal of archetypal elements throughout the narrative. The characters, symbols, and themes should remain coherent and true to their established archetypal foundations while allowing room for growth, transformation, and development. Any deviation or subversion of archetypal elements should be intentional and meaningful.

Balance Universality and Specificity

While archetypes are universal, your narrative should also reflect the specificity of the characters, setting, and context. Balance the universal resonance of archetypes with the individual nuances of your story. Ensure that the archetypal elements do not make the narrative overly generalized or detached from its specific circumstances, characters, and themes.

Seek Feedback

Obtain feedback from peers, mentors, or writing groups to gain different perspectives on the integration of archetypal elements. Feedback can provide insights into whether the archetypal elements are resonating with readers and whether they are enhancing or detracting from the overall narrative experience. Use this feedback to make informed revisions and refinements.

Fine-Tune Symbolism

Review the symbolic elements in your narrative to ensure they are clear, relevant, and impactful. Refine the symbolism to make it more nuanced and layered, allowing for multiple levels of interpretation. Ensure that the symbols are seamlessly woven into the narrative and that they enrich the thematic and emotional depth of the story.

Clarify Archetypal Journeys

Revisit the archetypal journeys of your characters to ensure clarity and coherence. Refine the journeys to make them more compelling, meaningful, and transformative. Ensure that the journeys align with their growth, the narrative progression, and the overall themes of the story, thus offering a satisfying and resonant arc.

Reassess Overall Impact

Finally, assess the overall impact of the archetypal elements on your narrative. Consider whether they enhance the emotional resonance, thematic depth, and universal appeal of your story. Refine the elements to maximize their impact, ensuring that they contribute to a richer, more profound narrative experience.

9. Practical Example

Let’s consider a practical example where a writer is creating a novel and integrating various archetypal elements throughout the writing process.


The writer is developing a fantasy novel centered around a young protagonist, Aliénor, who embarks on a journey to retrieve a mystical artifact that has the power to heal her ailing land. The overarching theme of the novel is the balance between light and darkness, order and chaos.

This is a story told many, many times. To make it different, the writer should meticulously integrate and refine the archetypal elements throughout the writing process to create a narrative that is rich in symbolism, thematic depth, and universal resonance. The characters are developed with complexity, the situations are crafted to reflect universal patterns, and the themes are explored with nuance, allowing the narrative to connect with readers on multiple levels, offering a profound exploration of human experience and universal truths.

1. Understand the Archetypes:

  • Aliénor (The Hero): Embarks on a journey, faces trials, and grows along the way.
  • Malaur (The Shadow): Represents the darker aspects and challenges Aliénor must overcome.
  • The Wise Old Man (The Mentor): Provides guidance and wisdom to Aliénor on her journey.

2. Identify the Archetypal Journey:

  • Aliénor undergoes The Hero’s Journey, facing numerous trials, discovering her inner strength, and eventually defeating Malaur to retrieve the artifact.

3. Incorporate Archetypes into Characters:

  • Aliénor is developed as a relatable, evolving character, with her Hero archetype explored through her courage, growth, and the challenges she overcomes.
  • Malaur, while representing The Shadow, has his motivations and backstory explored, adding depth to his character.
  • The Mentor identifies Aliénor as a potential hero, helps her discover her path, and offers help at crucial moments.

4. Use Archetypal Symbols and Themes:

  • Symbols: The mystical artifact represents hope and healing; the ailing land symbolizes imbalance and decay. The artifact can be anything from a crystal or a piece of jewelry to a sword or a piece of wood.
  • Themes: The balance between light and darkness is explored throughout Aliénor’s journey, reflecting the universal theme of order and chaos.

5. Create Archetypal Situations:

  • The Quest: Aliénor’s journey to retrieve the artifact.
  • The Transformation: Aliénor’s growth and the land’s healing.
  • The Battle between Good and Evil: The confrontation between Aliénor and Malaur.

6. Blend Archetypes:

  • Aliénor also embodies elements of The Explorer, driven by her curiosity and desire to discover the unknown, and this blend is reflected in her interactions and the choices she makes.

7. Reflect on the Collective Unconscious:

  • The writer delves into universal experiences of growth, confrontation with one’s shadow, and the eternal battle between light and darkness, allowing readers to connect with the story on a deeper, subconscious level.

8. Revise and Refine:

  • The writer revisits each element, ensuring the cohesiveness of archetypal elements, refining characters, and fine-tuning the symbolism and thematic exploration to enhance the overall impact and resonance of the narrative.

Create Archetypal Stories that Resonate Deeply with Readers

Archetypes, as timeless embodiments of universal patterns and experiences, offer writers a rich tapestry of elements to weave into their narratives. By understanding and integrating these archetypal elements—characters, journeys, symbols, themes, and situations—writers can create stories that resonate deeply with readers, tapping into the collective unconscious and exploring the multifaceted nature of human existence.

The process of integrating archetypes is both meticulous and creative, requiring a thoughtful balance between universality and individuality, tradition and innovation. It’s about delving into the shared human experience while also exploring the unique nuances, conflicts, and complexities of characters and narratives. It’s about creating stories that are not only entertaining but also enlightening, offering readers insights into themselves, the world, and the human condition.

In the dance between the archetypal and the individual, between the eternal and the transient, writers have the opportunity to craft narratives that are timeless and timely, universal and unique. It’s a journey of exploration and discovery, of reflection and expression, allowing writers to connect with readers on a profound level and contribute to the ongoing dialogue about what it means to be human.

May your exploration of archetypes enrich your writing journey, allowing you to create narratives that are layered, resonant, and deeply human, and may your stories become a beacon of light, illuminating the shared paths of human experience. Happy writing!

All images generated by me on Fotor