This is a summary of the Hero archetypes from The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes (see the footnote on that page). The list of Heroine archetypes is here.
Also listed are the villainous versions of the Hero archetypes; these come from the website of one of the authors (again, see the footnote).
The eight Hero archetypes presented are as follows:
- The Chief
- The goal-oriented leader, decisive to the point of inflexibility.
- The Bad Boy (All Girls Want Bad Boys, Jerk with a Heart of Gold)
- The rebel whose idealism was beaten out of him by the cruelty of life.
- The Best Friend
- The dependable ally, a peacemaker who hates confrontation.
- The Charmer
- The irresistible rogue who teaches you the meaning of fun but doesn't hang around for the aftermath.
- The Lost Soul
- The sensitive, secretive loner with a troubled past and an uncertain future.
- The Professor
- The introvert who understands data but shies from dates.
- The Swashbuckler
- The physically-oriented action hero, who may not let common sense get in the way of a good adventure, who gives his name to an entire genre of romantic adventure stories.
- The Warrior
- The tenacious protector who has noble goals but can easily become a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
Their villainous versions are as follows:
- The Tyrant
- Evil version of The Chief.
- The Bastard
- Self-centered version of The Bad Boy who lashes out at others and tries to provoke them.
- The Traitor
- The Best Friend on the outside, but inside he's plotting the destruction of his True Companions.
- The Devil
- Evil version of The Charmer who reads people to exploit their "moral weaknesses."
- The Outcast
- Self-centered version of The Lost Soul who fails to connect with other people.
- The Evil Genius (Mad Scientist)
- Evil or insane version of The Professor whose high intellect lacks a working moral compass.
- The Sadist
- If you squint a lot, you can see a version of The Swashbuckler who gets his kicks from torturing others.
- The Terrorist
- Deluded version of The Warrior whose "warped code of honor" sets him on the far edge of Well-Intentioned Extremist.
Comparing the Gender Roles
You can find this section on the Heroine list.
A romantic hero, particularly a Romance Novel hero, usually has certain characteristics:
- While heroes come in various shapes and sizes, a romantic hero is always physically fit. Specifically, he is fit as a result of leading an active life, not as a result of attending a gym. He is always at least toned and nicely muscled.
- A romantic hero never has a boss. That is, although there may be person whom he answers to, he is never supervised on a day-to-day basis. He is always more or less a free agent. (See also: Conveniently an Orphan.)
- A romantic hero has useful female relatives. He always has in-laws, sisters, a mother, etc. whom it is useful for the heroine to know. When the heroine becomes emotionally involved with the hero, she is hooking into an entire social network. Although the hero might seem to be a loner, in fact he never is.
- A romantic hero's subordinates have women. When the heroine becomes romantic with the hero, she becomes boss of the women whose men the hero is boss of. More generally - to a woman, a man (even a romantic hero) is a non-entity. The real focus is on other women and the relationships between the heroine and them.
- A romantic hero has shiny shoes. Particularly in historical romances. He might be stranded on a desert island or in a remote windswept Scottish castle, but his shoes are always immaculately buffed (God knows by whom). More generally, a romantic hero is a snappy dresser—subject to the whims of fashion. Eddie Vedder was a snappy dresser in his own way.
- Before romance, the clothes. Before the characters establish any level of physical intimacy—whether a kiss and a hand-hold or a marathon sex session, we are always told exactly what the hero and heroine are wearing. It can be instructive to get a cheap romance novel and highlight all passages that concern themselves with descriptions of clothing. The completeness and economy with which these authors can describe an outfit is amazing.
- A romantic hero has a Lost Lenore, whose place the heroine can now occupy. The heroine almost never has to carve out a place of her own, because a romantic hero always has an emotional vacancy. He may be a widower, he may have been hurt in some way by a woman who is no longer around, he may have cared for a female relative who slowly died of tuberculosis. The heroine always has to battle this woman—sometimes literally—and become his Second Love. The climax of a romantic novel is when the hero somehow - in some manner - says "I love you more than I ever loved her."
- John Bender is an obvious example.
- Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop is a combination of this and The Swashbuckler (Were he not such The Bad Boy he would qualify for The Lost Soul.)
- An example of how these archetypes can be combined to create
Captain Planetcomplex characters.
- Note well that this can be a positive character despite the character flaws.
- Book gives (of course) Indiana Jones - and Zorro.
- Miles Vorkosigan is a combination of this and Professor.
- General Woundwort from Watership Down, although he's not trying to expand his empire.
- Fire Lord Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- Osamu Tezuka's seminal work Manga/Phoenix is rife with examples of this type. Many of the characters start out heroic, and are actually close friends of the people they later cut down in cold blood. But they usually have a thread of power-lust running through them even from the start.
- Gunnm's Desty Nova fits, although he's more tragic and doesn't have the elitism that characterizes most (yeah, he uses people for inhuman experiments, but he doesn't look down on people of lower intellect).
- Prince Humperdinck from The Princess Bride.
- Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer!! — if you're being uncharitable. Also, he has shades of the Mad Scientist (but then for Girl Genius, that's a bit of a given...).
- Saïd from Three Kings
- The Operative from Firefly.
- Amon from The Legend of Korra, a literal terrorist, fits the description to a T.
Examples of stories
- Simona Ahrnstedt follows a lot of these stereotypes, of course. But she also has a few interesting variations.
- Överenskommelser: Seth Hammerstaal is a blend of a cynical Bad Boy, a chivalrous but still womanizing Charmer and a heroic Swashbuckler. Johan Stierneskanz, one of his two best friends, is a much calmer and well-respected person, who of course is The Best Friend.
- De skandalösa: Gabriel Gripklo is a blend of a rebellious Bad Boy, a chivalrous but still womanizing Charmer and a heroic Swashbuckler. Magdalena Swärd, with her cynical demeanor and troubled past, is really a female example of The Lost Soul. Ossian Bergman, a nerdy scholar, is a Professor.