Vogler’s Character Archetypes
Christopher Vogler is a Hollywood development executive. His work involves reading scripts and finding
source material which can be turned into films. He has worked for Disney, Fox 2000 and Warner Brothers but is best known for his guide to screenwriting, The Writer's Journey. In this guide Vogler describes seven
character archetypes that appear in stories.
The hero or heroine is the classic protagonist of the story with whom we associate most. They put higher duty and the welfare of others before their own, even to extreme forms of self-sacrifice. Achieving the goal of the story may only be achieved at terrible personal cost, although the hero may gain much personal learning and growth during the process. Heroes can be willing or unwilling, deliberate or accidental,
recognised as a hero or start out as an ordinary person.
The mentor helps the hero in some way, teaching them important skills and giving advice. They may appear at important moments to help the hero get over an obstacle, then disappear. Typical mentors are old and wise. Although they may also be younger, they are still likely to be older than the hero as they offer their superior knowledge and experience in support. Perhaps once they were a young hero themselves.
The Threshold Guardian provides the obstacles to the hero at key points in the story. To get past the guardian the hero must fight them, answer riddles, solve problems, give a gift, and so on. The Threshold Guardian is often neutral, neither supporting nor opposing the hero, although they also may
be allied to the antagonist or even a potential ally. Thresholds appear before the hero sets out on their
journey, before they enter the final 'lion's den' and at critical scene changes. Crossing thresholds symbolize
change and points of growth in the hero's character.
The Herald announces important events verbally, telling us what we do not realize or emphasizing the
importance of an event. In particular, the herald provides the information that triggers the hero into
original action. The herald need not even a person - a message on a scrap of paper or a radio broadcast can serve equally to trigger change.
The Shapeshifter represents uncertainty and change, reminding us that not all is as it seems. They may be a character who keeps changing sides or whose allegiance is uncertain. They act to keep the hero (and us) on
his or her toes. Other characters may also be Shapeshifters, including Mentors, Guardians and Tricksters.
The Shadow is the opposite of light and provides the tension of anxiety and fear in the story. The Shadow is
often opposes the hero and is typically the main antagonist. They may also be people who provide obstacles along the way, although not as a guardian. The hero must struggle with the Shadow, somehow overcoming the opposition they provide.
The Trickster provides entertainment in the story through wit, foolishness or other means. They may be
wise or may be criminal in their deception. They provide further uncertainty and keep us (and the hero) on our toes. The Trickster may remind us to lighten up and see the funny side of things. They also remind us not to be naive and to expect the unexpected.