Are You a Misfit? What’s Your Archetype, Baby?

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Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Are You a Misfit? What's Your Archetype, Baby?

The Misfits and the Mavericks

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,

“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.” 

Northrop Frye

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. 

The maverick is a character archtype. 

Here’s the definition of an archetype from

“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.

It asks: 

“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.” again.

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. 

I (Carrie) am not a fan of Gone With The Wind because I couldn’t stand Scarlett and the racial tones that happen throughout, but the characters are iconic and are a good reference point for us writers when we think about maverick characters. 

Are you a maverick? Do you write them?  What’s your archetype? We’ll be looking at different ones the next few months. It’s fun.

Writing Tip of the Pod: 

Don’t make all your characters mavericks, but don’t avoid them either. Have you mixed up the archetypes in your story? 

Dog Tip For Life: 

It’s okay to cultivate your own inner maverick. 

Dog Tweets of Love
Dog Tweets of Love: Gabby and Sparty. Sparty is food focused. We’re sure you can’t tell.


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The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

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Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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