Character is destiny, part 3: Character store, cont.

This is part of a six-part series on characters that I'm doing. You can find the other parts here:
~Character is destiny, part 1: The Edward/Bella dilemma.
~Character is destiny, part 2: The Character Store
~Character is destiny, part 4: Who gets to be the catalyst?
~Character is destiny, part 5: Building a villain
~Character is destiny, part 6: Never underestimate the Everyman  

As I've mentioned before, I asked my blog readers to tell me their favorite kinds of characters, and this is part two of the list that they came up with.

It's not all the list though, because several people listed certain types of villains as their favorites, and villains are another post entirely.  

Ready to meet more characters! Here we go!

The Adventurer/Survivalist: This is one of the most popular characters in action/adventure, and horror fiction. The Adventurer is generally clever, athletic and inventive and good with weapons and/or fists.  They're often running off to exotic locations, fighting evil villains, or locating hidden treasure. 

Adventurers may not have the most intricate character development or the best conversational abilities, but they're famous for their knack for getting out of impossible situations and overcoming any odds to save the day.  (The Survivalist may or may not be any of these things, but they are almost always inventive, which is how they survive the apocalypse/horror movie in the first place.)

Movies with Adventurer/Survivalists:  Indiana Jones, The Mummy, G.I. Joe, I am Legend

The Super-Competent:  At first glace, the Super-Competent character is very much like the Adventurer, but there are several distinct differences. To begin with, while the Adventurer can  be a bumbling character in real life (i.e. Indiana Jones), the Super-Competent character is almost always in total control of his/her situation. They possess a high level of skill in their chosen field, like the fast-draw heroes of early cowboy movies. 

The other main difference is that the Super-Competent character's skill in work is almost always matched by a corresponding lack of skill in personal relationships. Modern-day Super-Competents are often divorced, or permanently unattached because of some personal loss, like a beloved husband or wife. They don't show emotion easily and have a hard time getting close to people. 

Examples:  With the exception of the James Bond francise, the Super-Competent has fallen out of favor in movies since the golden age of the cowboy film. But some excellent TV examples are Cal Lightman on Lie to Me and Jethro Gibbs on NCIS.

The Intellectual:  Intellectuals are the "bookish characters" of the fiction world. They are, of course, very intelligent, and are thinkers rather than doers. These are the computer geniuses, the science experts, the artists, the dreamers, and sometimes even the masterminds. Intellectuals can have a wide range of character traits, but almost all of them are more comfortable with ideas than with people.

Movies and TV with Intellectuals: Anne of Green Gables, Evelyn in The Mummy, Die Hard 4, Bones, Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Ruler-Of-All-They-Survey: This character is the king or queen of their domain. They are the star athlete in their high school, the famous actor, the millionaire businessman.  They're confident, charismatic, and often ruthless (though not always)  When the Ruler character is a primary character, their development arc usually involves becoming a better person, often through the love of someone else. Ruler characters make excellent antagonists, and they can also be used as catalysts for the plot, because these are characters who make things happen.

Movies with Ruler characters: Sabrina, She's All That, Mean Girls, Notting Hill, Chicago

While all of these character types can be fun, the real fun comes when you combine them. For example, Temperance Brennen in the TV show Bones is both an Intellectual and a Super-Competent character, while the FBI agent she works with is an Adventurer type with a bit of Trickster in him. 

What do you think? Which character types do you like? Do you think any others go well together?


  1. Hope I'm not too late joining the discussion here. I've really enjoyed the Character Store posts! One thing I realized is that no character is really strictly one type - they're almost always a blend, unless they are a flat one-dimensional character! I think it's good to take a look at your characters and classify them as types once in a while, so you can see if there's a way you need to diversify them and make them more interesting.

    The Super-Competent intrigues thing I'd add is that, paradoxically, in spite of their own problems you often find them acting as a mentor/counselor to other people. I think the MC of my current short story series (Westerns, incidentally) is something of a cross between the Super-Competent and the Adventurer. But rather than being 'troubled,' so to speak, he's very likable but a bit naive in some ways, and that leads to some personal troubles on occasion.

    A good example of the Super-Competent I just though of is Dr. Kildare...I don't know what they did with him through the many adaptations over the years, but I recently read the original Kildare short story, 'Internes Can't Take Money,' and that's very much the way he came across.

  2. Elizabeth- Excellent point about the combining of character traits. And I do love a good Super-Competent myself. You're right, they do often serve as mentors. They're the kind of teachers with high standards, the kind you either love or hate. :)


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