A lot of writers use archetypes in their stories. Sometimes we don't even realize that we're doing it, actually.
There’s something really compelling about the heroes that don’t quite fit in especially the mavericks. The Huck Finns and Han Solos of the world and/or universe.
For whatever reason, the mavericks have turned away from civilization. Maybe it’s to find out what happened to their missing mom. Maybe it’s because their own elite family oppressed them and their quirks. Maybe it’s because they are doing a Thoreau and they wanted to see what it was like to be Spartan and nonconformist in a society that stresses conformity above all else.
Literary critic, Northrop Frye wrote about mavericks as heroes in novels in the U.S. and said,
Northrop Frye“Placed outside the structure of civilization and therefore represents the force of physical nature, amoral or ruthless, yet with a sense of power, and often leadership, that society has impoverished itself by rejecting.”
To conform or to not conform has often been the question. Apologies to Shakespeare. And it’s been a question both in American society and in its books, right?
How the main character fits into mainstream society is often the subject of some really good and compelling books like Gone With the Wind or To Kill a Mockingbird. They reject conforming. They strike out on their own.
Here’s the definition of an archetype from studiobinder.com
studiobinder.com“An archetype is a consistent and typical version of a particular thing. It can be human, an object, or a particular set of behaviors, but the point is that it fits into a time-tested mold that embodies a pure form.”
Anyways, though that site is about scriptwriting, I think it has a lot of great information about writing characters.
studiobinder.com again.“Why do character archetypes exist?
“Human beings tend to find their place within a group dynamic based around their strongest personality traits.
“You may have a group of friends with similar interests...
“But often one will be the “social butterfly” while another will be the "homebody."
“Your friends will begin to identify each other by these consistent traits.
“You’ve now defined yourself by a character archetype.”
The maverick archetype is obviously one of many, but what of their key motivations is the act of self-preservation. They break the rules to get their goals. Brave. Competent. Sometimes a bit snippy. Their temper is a bit fiery.
That pull between convention and autonomy has the possibility of making a story truly stick out as something extraordinarily special. Don’t be afraid to lean into it.
Don’t make all your characters mavericks, but don’t avoid them either. Have you mixed up the archetypes in your story?
It’s okay to cultivate your own inner maverick.
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