5 More Archetypes of an Incredibly NON-Award-Winning Story

Surprise, surprise! Today’s article is another episode on BAD storytelling! You may have heard of the 5 Archetypes of an Award-Winning Story, but now prepare for the 5 archetypes that make for a crappy story! As is my wont, I am once again using Star Wars as a prime example of this. Go figure.

Just as the old saying goes, “For every hero there’s a hokum.” (I’m fairly certain that’s the quote) And, for every good archetype there is out there, there’s always a crummy, opposite archetype. The worst thing is that the bad ones far outnumber the good ones in frequency in popular culture nowadays. However, this is a warning. If you recognize the following archetypes in your stories, it’s a good thing you did, because they’ve GOT TO GO!

The first one is the weak, whiny, teenagerish hero that literally never grows up. Now, it’s not necessarily BAD in of itself to have a character like this, so long as he/she matures, becomes stronger (emotionally or physically), and turns into a real man or woman. If this thing is the center of the story for the entirety thereof and does not change, we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. Now, if you’ve set out to make a comedy, that’s different. But assuming you’re not, this may be the most annoying bit of a story. It may not be an easy fix, but it must go.

Character development is key here; making the story unrelatable in the beginning and then relatable later is an element that can be used to your advantage. Using key events to toughen up your main character to make him/her into the classic paragon that everyone wants to read about is important. Put some development in there and help your character out. Don’t leave them stunted and annoying like they were when you found them.

The second one is the political narrative. I know, this affair can be a bit touchy, but it still needs to be talked about. Let me make one thing abundantly clear: NEVER, EVER inject your story with anything political. This goes for both of you right- and left-wingers. I know I’m taking the bull by the horns here, but otherwise good stories have been ruined by this, I don’t care what your political standing is.

You, the writer, are a human being, and the reader is also a human being. He comes not to read your story as a democrat or republican, but as a human being. So please, ignore politicizing when writing. It’s preachy and annoying, whether or not you agree with it.

The third element is what I like to call the Useless Councilor. It’s like an evil parody of the Wise Councilor. This is someone who’s supposed to be helping the hero(ine) or his/her buddies, but ends up being little more than a backdrop, or a figure.

Think: what if Gandalf never did anything worthwhile? What if he wasn’t behind the scenes of the daring escapes he incited? He’d be useless. This one’s easier to fix, but if you have a character who should have more standing in the story, make sure he/she gets it. Don’t have “dead weight” characters who serve no purpose, or even very little.

The fourth element is a poorly handled love situation. This is the opposite of the romantic interest from the good 5. More than a few stories manage to pull a romance the way a magician pulls a rabbit from a hat. Let me set this straight: as you know, relationships do not appear out of thin air. As much as you may like them to, this is the same case in stories: the main girl character and the main boy character don’t just magically fall in love.

Also, a love story is way more than hugging and the occasional kiss. WAY more. A good romance is crafted by two human beings going through the valley of the shadow of death and coming out victorious. Sending two characters through a hell of your choice strengthens their bonds. With warriors, this takes the form of comradeship and the ultimate act of love: self-sacrifice. With a couple, this makes them far more likely to form a romantic attachment. So please, don’t chalk romance down to sensuality.

Anyway, the fifth and final type (Which, if you’re a loyal reader of mine, you should be able to guess) is the Good Villain. Unquestionably, this is the WORST way in which popular culture has wandered from the fine art of storytelling. They have pseudo-bad-guys who are confusing because the oppose the hero, but they’re not all “that bad”. They do some good things. Please, please, I beg of you: Do NOT make a watered down good villain! This is boring! Who wants to read the story about “the villain who really wasn’t”? This undermines his/her role in the story.

Make clear, moral distinctions: your protagonist MUST be good (As in do moral choices to the best of ability; he/she may falter from time to time but it must be made clear that they messed up), and your antagonist MUST be evil! Make him/her to clearly morally evil things, so the reader can look at that villain and say, “I know FOR SURE that that man is evil. Look at that town that he just destroyed.”

Creation Challenge: Point out an example of one of the five typically used clichés above in popular culture. Then point out a reasonable way to fix it. Feel free to poke fun at the Star Wars sequels.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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