Tradition. Ordinary. The Way Things Are. Enter… The Rebel.

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time or taken courses with me through Screenwriting Master Class know how fascinated I am with character archetypes, specifically how there are five — Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster — which recur in movies over and over and over.

Some might see archetypes as a sort of reductionist approach to writing when in my experience, it is precisely the opposite.

By working with these five Primary Character Archetypes, we can identify the core narrative function of every key character, then use that knowledge as a guide as we build them out in a limitless number of ways.

One approach is to use an extensive array of Character Types available to us. So this month, I am running a series in which we will explore 20 Character Types, and consider how writers can use them to create unique, compelling figures in our stories.

Today: Rebel.

There are conventional thinkers. However, those types don’t make the most compelling, let alone entertaining characters in a story. Instead, give us someone who has an unconventional world view. A different way of doing things. Someone who shakes this up, defies authority, and dares to take on The Powers That Be.

In other words, a Rebel.

There are Rebels in political movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Bulworth (1998), and the unforgettable mayhem created by Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup (1932) when he is named leader of Fredonia.

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When a Rebel becomes the spokesperson for a movement, they can take on iconic status in leading a rebellion as in movies like Gandhi (1982), Braveheart (1995), and Joan of Arc (1948).

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Then there are Rebels who defy cultural or aesthetic norms like Amadeus (1984), Pollock (2000), and Frida (2002).

Then there are characters we may not associate with the concept of a Rebel, but consider these three: Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) in Gone With the Wind (1939), R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in The Shawshank Redemption (1994).

Rebels can be charismatic figures which works on multiple levels: Within in the context of the story universe enabling them to rally people to their side, actors who enjoy playing these type of roles, and audiences who live vicariously through Rebel figures.

What brainstorming can you do with a Rebel?

It’s easy to think of a Rebel as a Protagonist, but Mentors often have a wisdom that cuts against the grain like John Keating (Robin Williams) in Dead Poets Society (1989).

Of course, the Shadow dynamic of a Rebel is conformity, so if you’re attracted to this character type, why not explore a society, culture or world where through peer pressure or governmental control, the masses think one way, but need someone to shake them up, even if what that entails is dancing as in Footloose (1984).

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What are your favorite movie Rebels?

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For more Character Type articles, go here.

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