Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Return to Archetypes Part 1

The second post in my "Writing a Novel Series", which details my experience writing 151, outlines a return to the idea of using archetypes to craft a compelling story. This time, the focus will be on story archetypes from myths and legends...

Now that I had the basic concept of the dystopian world of 151, I had to develop the elements of the actual story that would take place within it. As I always have, I began by fishing for existing story archetypes and tropes that were the basis for some of the most compelling stories and myths that I knew. The following are some of the archetypes that most appealed to me.

A Child is Spirited Away
This archetype appears in almost every hero story, from the baby Moses, left in a basket and cast into the river Nile, to the infant Greek god Zeus, hidden in a cave on Mount Ida to protect him from his father, Cronus, who liked to eat his children. Since my story would revolve around an infant that had been cast out of his group of 150—which I was now calling a Colony—this archetype worked perfectly.

The Rule of the Tyrant
In order to create conflict (and a villain), things could not be going well within the Colony of 150. There had to be a bad guy who was causing trouble for all those within it, giving our hero an enemy to subdue. The archetype of a tyrant king—a ruler who terrorizes the people whom he controls—is present in many myths, and would also be one of the key themes in my story.

The Chosen One
A continuation of the Hero's Journey Archetype, often the child that is spirited away has been singled out by a prophecy or by the gods as one who is chosen to bring change once he grows into an adult. Think once again of the baby Moses, who was destined to set his people free, or the story of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), singled out as the one who would bring balance to the Force. I wanted my hero to be just as important.

The Hero Returns Home
After a long journey in the wilderness, the hero often returns home to find that things are not as he once left them. The best example of this archetype is the entire 12 books that make up the second half of the Odyssey. In it, Odysseus returns home after his long journey to find his home full of suitors, aiming to terrorize his estranged wife and son. He must disguise himself as a beggar and infiltrate his own home, before revealing himself and slaying all those within. This archetype would also be perfect for my story.

The Lost Boys
The final archetype that I would lean on heavily is that of The Lost Boys, from the classic story of Peter Pan. In it, a group of outcast misfits live alone, away from the rest of society, making their own rules and generally having fun. Although they were not with their real families, together they were a family. Since my hero was an outcast who was separated from his family, I wanted him to have his own group of Lost Boys, too!

Tune in for the next post in the series, which explores my use of character archetypes...