I think that we all know what archetypes and character tropes are. They're mostly just a carbon-cutout for a character. Oftentimes, as authors, we use these to make our characters distinct. But at the end of the day, many of these characters turn out the same. For example, there's this trope where a character is a bully, but they secretly pet puppies or something like that and wants nobody to know. There's the typical hero on a hero's journey.

Oftentimes, they fall flat. And in my situation, I believe I'm falling flat as well. I was inspired by the unfortunate stories of children making horrible decisions that result in the accidental deaths of fellow children. For my character, the same thing happened to him. When he was about 10, he accidentally hit his sister with a baseball bat, giving her wounds that were fatal in the end. The story itself is set 9 years later. He's 19 and has to still cope with what he caused.

But he's turning into a character I don't want to reflect on: he's becoming a "I did something wrong and now I regret it" character, which is a big part of him, but I kind of want him to be more than that.

How do I make him not a "type" of character and just a human being?

2 Answers 2


Archetypes and Tropes exist for various reasons and nothing you can do can mitigate the fact that your characters will hit some of these. Many of them exist because they are common of real life people who will be listening to the stories. Or the story resonates with expectations of the hero in our society.

The "Hero's Journey" is a new name for the basic story concept that is described in the book that coined the term, The Hero with a Thousand Faces as:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

And the book highlights that the basic formula is found in stories the world over and even myths of old, citing Osiris, Prometheus, Moses, Buddah, Jesus, and Muhamed as mythic archetype heroes of the Hero's Journey... Don't worry that you're doing the Hero's Journey again... it's been done and will be done again!

There are recordings of an interview with the author of "A Hero with a Thousand Faces" that actually breaks down the original Star Wars trilogy and specifically deep dives into a New Hope as an amazing example of the Hero's Journey and points out which elements are ticked. The only thing "New" about Star Wars was it was set in space... and Han Solo was a uniquely American twist on the Hero's Journey as his character closely aligns with that of a "Cowboy" which wasn't seen in Hero's Journey's before (It should be pointed out that Much of A New Hope was inspired by the Japanese film "Hidden Fortress" directed by Akira Kurosawa who was quite popular among Hollywood directors at the time... he had three other films adapted for American Audiences... which all took Samurai period pieces and made them Westerns ("Seven Samurai" became "Magnificent Seven", "Yojimbo" became "Fist Full of Dollars" and "Django"). One of the reasons for this is that many Hollywood directors saw many parallels between the Samurai period piece films and the Westerns and started adapting the stories to fit the audience.

If you want to look at some examples of similar characters and stories in your character's redemption arch, TvTropes.org might be a decent site to look at... but it is an absolute nightmare of a time sink... if wikis are drugs, Tvtropes is crack cocain to Wikipedia's caffine addiction. The site lists tropes and archetypes (sometimes under funny names) describes them, and gives examples across a wide array of entertainment media (and occasionally delves into real life examples.). It's a good place to see what's been done and how different twists are addressed related to a trope.

  • Lore may be a better term than myth or legends, but for the purposes of my discussion, all religious figures are characters in stories about their lives and there is no claims that any did not in fact exist (in fact, the last three are historically documented people... whether they did the amazing things attributed to them or not is out of scope for my discussion).
    – hszmv
    Dec 15, 2020 at 16:25

Make sure he has something else going on in his life.

Of course, that accident will affect the way he interacts with others, but that's unlikely to be the only thing driving him. What are his interests? What's his ambition?

And though it might sound counter-intuitive, if his guilt has practical consequences for the plot, that might make it more interesting than having a "woe is me" kind of character on a permanent guilt trip. Maybe he's extremely cautious around others or getting on his female colleagues' nerves by being overprotective. Maybe he's given up on a promising career in sports because of the chance of accidentally hurting a team member or opponent. Maybe he wants to have children to make up for his mistake, or maybe he decides he doesn't because he's convinced he'd end up harming them.

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