Storytelling in Songwriting: Archetypes

There are 12 archetypes which have been appearing in stories and myths all over the world since the beginning of time. Carl Jung defined 12 archetypes that symbolize basic human motivations, as well as drive our desires and goals. These archetypes resonate with us so much that we continue to tell stories about them.

They are featured in just about every blockbuster movie or best-selling novel. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. Individuals may be a mix of archetypes, however, one archetype tends to dominate in a person.

It can be helpful to understand our archetypes in order to gain insight into our behaviors and motivations. It can also help us create strong characters in our story telling within our songs.

Here is an outline of the 12 archetypes and their most common traits:

1. The Innocent

Those who identify with the innocent archetype are sometimes criticized for being naïve dreamers. However, their positive outlook and happy-go-lucky personalities can uplift others. The innocent always tries to see the good in the world and looks for the silver lining in every situation.

Goal: to be happy Fear: being punished for doing something wrong Weakness : being too trusting of others Talent: faith and open-mindedness

2. The Orphan

The orphan archetype represents those who are dependable, down to earth realists. Some people might describe them as a little negative at times.

The orphan is always searching for belonging to the world and may join many groups and communities to find a place where they fit in. Goal: to belong Fear: to be left out or to stand out from the crowd Weakness: can be a little too cynical Talent: honest and open, pragmatic and realistic

3. The Hero

The hero thrives on being strong and standing up for others. They may feel they have a destiny that they must accomplish. Heroes are courageous in their quest for justice and equality and will stand up to even the most powerful forces if they think they are wrong.

Goal: to help others and protect the weak Fear: being perceived as weak or frightened Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight Talent: competence and courage

4. The Caregiver

Those who identify with the caregiver archetypes are full of empathy and compassion. Unfortunately, others can exploit their good nature for their own ends. Caregivers must pay attention to looking after themselves and learning to say no to others’ demands sometimes.

Goal: to help others Fear: being considered selfish Weakness: being exploited by others and feeling put upon Talent: compassion and generosity

5. The Explorer

The explorer is never happy unless experiencing new things. They may enjoy visiting different countries or they may be happy learning about new ideas and philosophies. However, they find it hard to settle down at one job or relationship for too long, unless the job or relationship lets them retain their freedom to explore.

Goal: to experience as much of life as possible in one lifetime Fear: getting trapped or being forced to conform Weakness: aimless wandering and inability to stick at things Talent: being true to their own desires and a sense of wonder

6. The Rebel

When the rebel sees something in the world that isn’t working, they look to change it. Rebels like to do things differently. However, sometimes rebels can abandon perfectly good traditions just because they have a desire for reform. Rebels can be charismatic and easily encourage others to follow them in their pursuit of rebellion.

Goal: to overturn what isn’t working Fear: to be powerless Weakness: taking their rebellion too far and becoming obsessed by it Talent: having big, outrageous ideas and inspiring others to join them

7. The Lover

The lover seeks harmony in everything they do. They find it hard to deal with conflict and may find it difficult to stand up for their own ideas and beliefs in the face of more assertive types.

Goal: being in a relationship with the people, work, and environment they love Fear: feeling unwanted or unloved Weakness: desire to please others at risk of losing own identity Talent: passion, appreciation, and diplomacy

8. The Creator

The creator is born to bring something into being that does not yet exist. They hate to be passive consumers of anything, much preferring to make their own entertainment. Creators are often artists or musicians though they can be found in almost any area of work.

Goal: to create things of enduring value Fear: failing to create anything great Weakness: perfectionism and creative blocks caused by fear of not being exceptional Talent: creativity and imagination

9. The Jester

The jester loves to liven up a party with humor and tricks, however, they have a deep soul. They want to make others happy and can often use humor to change people’s perceptions. Sometimes, however, the jester uses humor to cover his or her own pain.

Goal: to lighten up the world and make others laugh Fear: being perceived as boring by others Weakness: frivolity, wasting time and hiding emotions beneath a humorous disguise Talent: seeing the funny side of everything and using humor for positive change

10. The Sage

The sage values ideas above all else. However, they can sometimes become frustrated at not being able to know everything about the world. Sages are good listeners and often have the ability to make complicated ideas easy for others to understand. They can often be found in teaching roles.

Goal: to use wisdom and intelligence to understand the world and teach others Fear: being ignorant, or being perceived as stupid Weakness: can be unable to make a decision as never believe they have enough information Talent: wisdom, intelligence and curiosity

11. The Magician

The magician is often very charismatic. They have a true belief in their ideas and desire to share them with others. They are often able to see things in a completely different way to other personality types and can use these perceptions to bring transformative ideas and philosophies to the world. Goal: to understand the fundamental laws of the universe Fear: unintended negative consequences Weakness: becoming manipulative or egotistical Talent: transforming people’s everyday experience of life by offering new ways of looking at things

12. The Ruler

The ruler loves to be in control. They often have a clear vision of what will work in a given situation. They believe they know what is best for a group or community and can get frustrated if others don’t share their vision. However, they usually have the interests of others at heart even if occasionally their actions are misguided.

Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community Fear: chaos, being undermined or overthrown Weakness: being authoritarian, unable to delegate Talent: responsibility, leadership

These 12 archetypes offer us guidance that can help us to understand character motivations and draw on our own strengths while working on our weaknesses. Understanding which of the 12 archetypes dominates our personality can help up to realize what is really important to us. This knowledge helps us to improve our focus and achieve better songwriting.

Understanding the archetypes of others can give us insights into why they behave in certain ways. These new perceptions can help us to understand them better and work with them in new ways to find win-win solutions. Understanding this can make you a better storyteller and songwriter.

Which of the 12 archetypes dominates your personality and how has it helped or hindered your life? Answering these questions about yourself or players in your songs can give depth to your storyline.

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