My dear readers who do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter may not know that I have started teaching at the North Seattle College Continuing Education department.

The first class I am offering is a two-session class in Archetypes in Writing, though I hope to add a few others to my list such as Mythic Fiction and, perhaps, Playwriting.

Alchemical Imagery: Mercurious as a Three-Headed Dragon

Alchemical Imagery: Mercurious as a Three-Headed Dragon

The wonderful Cole Hornaday interviewed me about the class, what will be covered, and archetypes. I have posted partial answers here, and if you wish to read further you can visit the NSC blog.


What is an archetype?

Archetypes are patterns, but there is so much more to it, and to fully utilize archetypes we need to understand where they come from and why they are important. They come from what psychiatrist Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious and are the building blocks of any story that is told—be it a creation myth, an epic fantasy novel, a Nobel-winning literary fiction, or a memoir.

An archetype can be a type of character, such as a mentor, trickster, or hero, but it can also be an experience, such as coming of age or transformation through tragedy. Emotional states such as fear or joy can be archetypes. Anything that is a universal pattern of human experience, and not informed by the cultural or sociopolitical environment, is an archetype.

Why are archetypes important in storytelling?

An archetype is something deeply ingrained in the human psyche. They are a universal truth and a universal language. Using a powerful archetype in your writing is a way of speaking directly to a wide audience on a very personal level. This connects them to your story and to the message you are trying to get across.

Are archetypes only beneficial to fiction writers?

No, archetypes can be used to engage with the audience no matter your medium. Essentially, it’s all about storytelling. In that light, even journalistic work like documentaries or the news rely on archetypes. It isn’t enough to report the facts, one must engage their audience through a storytelling process. The building blocks of those stories are archetypes because they connect with the audience on a deeply psychological and instinctual level.


…Other questions answered include:
How are modern novels and films archetypal?
Can you give us some examples of archetypes in contemporary literature or popular culture?
What is the difference between an archetype and a stereotype?
Are you looking for students to come to class with a story in mind or possibly a draft?

Read the rest of the interview here