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 week, I am running a series in which we will explore some Character Types, and consider how writers can use them to create unique, compelling figures in our stories.
Naturally the Warrior character type is about fighting, their stock-in-trade. But for whom do they fight? How? And most important… why? The answer to these questions define the very nature of the Warrior… or perhaps more precisely, their nature provides the answers to the questions.
There is the lone Warrior who is called upon to fight on behalf of victims such as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Road House (1989), and Léon: The Professional (1994).
There is the retired Warrior who is forced by circumstances to take on one last job as with Shane (1953), Unforgiven (1992), and Gran Torino (2008).
There is the Warrior who emerges from surprising roots over time unleashing their power which lies latent within as in movies like Hero (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), and The Matrix (1999).
There is the Warrior hell-bent on revenge like Death Wish (1974), Gladiator (2000), and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004).
Then there are the group of Warriors like The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Avengers (2012), and Seven Samurai (1954).
Whereas an Advocate will tend to use their logic and intellect to defeat their foes, Warriors rely on their physical strength. Not to say they are unintelligent. Often they have to rely on their wits and whatever wisdom they learn along the way of their journey to defeat a Nemesis contingent that makes the Warrior a decided underdog.
But again, the keys to Warrior characters is to determine who they fight… how they fight… and why they fight.
What brainstorming can you do with a Warrior?
The Warrior character type is a natural fit for the role of Protagonist, but think about Mentor figures who have been trained in the way of fighting like Miyagi in The Karate Kid. Need a reference point for an Attractor with mad Warrior skills? How about Trinity from The Matrix. And a Trickster? There is none other than Han Solo in Star Wars.
Of course, Warriors make excellent Nemeses as well. Whereas Warriors associated with the Protagonist and his/her cause are generally going to be fighting for something other than themselves, a Nemesis Warrior ultimately represents a distortion ethics and humanist values, all in pursuit achieving their goal… and victory.
What other notable Warrior character types in movies can you suggest?
Tomorrow: Another Character type.
[Originally posted February 25, 2014]