In Gabriela Pereira’s book, DIY MFA Book, she talks about the protagonist and the supporting characters. She believes “that every story has one (and only one) protagonist. This means that the job of every other character is to support that main character’s development.” In this book, she talks about “the five main types of supporting characters—Villain, Love Interest, BFF/Sidekick, Mentor, and Fool—and the functions they serve in the story.”
She goes on in detail describing the various functions of each type in chapter eight of her book (click here if you’d like to buy it); in the DIY MFA Virtual Book Club, Gabriela asked ” what’s your favorite supporting character archetype and why?”
Gabriela is big on archetypes. She’d even developed a quiz to take to determine which protagonist archetype you most identified with just by determining your “storytelling superpower,” and I got Protector.
“Your favorite characters see their world in danger and will do whatever it takes to protect it and those they love in it.”
When I look at the word Protector, one of the first images to come to mind is of Merlin and Arthur in the BBC popular TV series, Merlin. Unbeknownst to the once and future king, Prince Arthur, Merlin is destined to be his guardian and mentor. But, he is also Arthur’s shield and protector who’s more than willing to give up his life for the prince as this picture above shows (one of the cups has poisoned wine; one must die in order to break the curse bestowed upon Camelot because Arthur accidentally killed a unicorn). Arthur felt it was his place and duty to die for his beloved Camelot, but of course, Merlin thought otherwise.
Here’s another time when a witch attempted to poison the prince, but Merlin stepped in to intervene in the nick of time.
King Uther did not believe Merlin, and instructed him to drink it to prove if the disguised witch was really trying to poison his son.
And Merlin did, and nearly died (Arthur would set out on a quest to find the antidote in time to save his servant).
Merlin is one of my favorite shows, and I tend to use it as a study on character development for my writing.
Why not books?
I learn best visually and hands-on. I like to play out story lines and scenes in my mind, or even act them out in the privacy of my, wait for it, bathroom! And because I learn best in these ways, I’ve dabbled in screenwriting (which by the way is a great tool to help one write more concise while cutting out all the unnecessary words) as well as turning my short writings and poems in to videos with images and music.
Now that we established how odd I really am…
Let’s move on 🙂
Of the five types of supporting character archetypes, I tend to bounce between the Love Interest and Mentor.
Guinevere is Merlin’s good friend whom he trusts and confides in (except for his most guarded secrets one being he’s a sorcerer but needs to conceal that for as long as magic was outlawed in the kingdom); she’s also Prince Arthur’s love interest. She’s a key person in helping Merlin mold Arthur in to the kind of king Camelot needs.
Gaius is Merlin’s mentor, father-figure, and the only one (for a long time) who knew the truth about Merlin’s magical abilities. Once a wizard himself turned physician of the king’s court under Uther (who was personally responsible for the law that forbade anyone to practice magic or face the death penalty) before serving under Arthur after King Uther’s death. From time to time, Gaius himself plays the Protector of Merlin against Uther’s desire to rid his kingdom of magic at all costs, or against powerful witches or ancient magical creatures.
Why do I prefer these two types?
Even though I haven’t really written any romance stories yet, my mind is constantly filled with various couples and their relationships to one another. Bottom line, it’s all about connection. That intimacy (and not just the physical part; true connection and intimacy run much deeper than that), the bond you share with that one person. It’s something that touches me to the core, and I just can’t get enough of it. Hence, these are why I adore the Love Interest type.
Next, the mentor. For me, a mentor tends to be a father-figure. I suppose the reason is the close relationship I had with my own father, and how he always felt the need to protect me. He’s been gone for over three years now, and I still crave his hugs. They always made me feel safe, and that somehow everything will be okay. So, in a sense, the mentor tends to also carry qualities of a Protector which then tends to rub off on the protagonist.
What about you? Of the five supporting character archetypes (villain, love interest, BFF/sidekick, mentor and fool), which one(s) do you like to include in your stories?
Still on the fence about the DIY MFA Book, or need more info on what’s in it? I wrote a book review of it here.