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A Journey into Mythic Models
on May 19, 2004
Victoria Schmidt was told in film school that scripts about female heroes didn't sell, and instead of meekly giving in she started doing research. She latched onto the woman's journey into the self: the tale of the descent of the goddess Innana. She connected this to such works as "The Wizard of Oz," "Titanic," and other stories and films, and decided a book was in order. Jack Heffron, editor of most of the writing books I've ever read & reviewed, said sure, but what about the male hero while you're at it? And thus this book was born.
Ms. Schmidt discusses the difference between a stereotype and an archetype. She talks a bit about individualizing characters using aspects of appearance, what the characters care about and fear, motivations, how others see the character, and so on. When providing examples of each archetype she deliberately provides a wide spectrum of possibilities so that you can see some of the variations that are possible.
My only problem here is that I can still see, having read through the book, how it would be easy to accidentally get trapped into creating stereotypes using these character archetypes. Why? Because many of our stereotypes are variations on (or simplified, judgmental versions of) these archetypes, and it's hard not to let all that history influence us. Perhaps if Ms. Schmidt had included an extra (small) section within each archetype reminding the reader to play with things, and including a few further suggestions and examples for how to do so, it would have allayed this fear.
The archetypes are quite detailed. Each has both a positive and a negative side. The author includes all sorts of information about the archetypes, from things they tend to care about, to which other archetypes they pair well with, and what their assets and flaws tend to be. Then Ms. Schmidt does more in the list of examples to break the stereotype worry than she does anywhere else. She includes examples from TV, film, literature, and history, so no matter what your reading or viewing pleasure, you should find something you can relate to.
Oddly, while the character archetypes are what sell the book, they turned out not to be the main attraction for me. There's a great section on supporting characters, for example. But best of all, roughly a full 95 pages of the book cover the feminine and masculine archetypal journeys. This is where things really take off and catch at the imagination. All in all, this book is interesting, useful, and well-detailed. If your characterizations could use a little help, this might be a fun place to start!