Anatomy of Archetypes with Nik Korpon

In this two-week class, learn fiction's classic character archetypes—then learn how to subvert those archetypes and make them your own, so you take something old and make it new again.

Your Instructor: Nik Korpon, author of Stay God, Bar Scars

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 25 students

Price: $175

Class Description

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing hardboiled crime or urban fantasy, space operas or western ballads: The most inventive plot will crack and disintegrate if there aren’t real and compelling characters supporting it. 

These characters, though, are not just arbitrary attributes housed inside a shell. From Luke Skywalker to Phineas Poe to Hamlet, the most memorable figures in literature can be aligned with a character archetype. By studying these archetypes—their characteristics and their place within a plot—we can create characters that readers are able to identify with.

But, will this make the reader follow the characters into Hell? We need to make these characters real, living, bleeding people, and by exploiting the archetypes, by subverting and humanizing them with concise, evocative details, we can create the type of characters that a reader will follow into whatever shadowed alley, extraplanetary prison or damned castle in which their dark fate lies.

This class will focus on genre fiction, which has long been ghettoized by the literati for being formulaic and poorly written. There are several reasons for choosing genre, the least of which is showing why this notion is not accurate.

First, there are as many genres as there are ways to dispose of a body. This is important because each genre has their own tropes and expectations, ones that we will learn to subvert and combine with other genres to create surprising and original tales in a variety of settings.

Second, genre fiction tends to have the most obvious character archetypes, for better or worse, and this will allow us to analyze, deconstruct and rebuild them into more fully-realized people that will work as easily in a noir melodrama as a dystopian western.

Finally, many stories in these genres are fueled by the desire for power or love, an impulse that impacts almost every action in every aspect of society. 

What This Class Covers

Week One

To start, you'll examine classic character archetypes from a wide range of genre fiction, and learn how they fit into the narrative arcs of stories. You'll peel back the exterior of characters to look at their emotional arcs and discuss what they share in common—and at the same time, what makes them so unique and enduring.

Writing assignment: Write a story of 2,500 words that utilizes classic character archetypes—but you can't directly relate the character types to the reader. You have to convey them through status and interaction.

Week Two

This is the heavy-lifting week. You'll take everything we learned the first week and blow it to hell, then pick up the scraps and reassemble them into new and exciting characters. You'll not only look at subverting the archetype expectations, but the specific, telling details that turn a normal character into a real person with real flaws.

Writing assignment: Take your assignment from week one, translate it into a different genre, and subvert two of the established archetypes. You'll also be urged to cut 500 words by using small, telling details that will be discussed in week two. 

Goals Of This Class

  • Identify character archetypes and genre tropes in fiction
  • Learn how to subvert those archetypes
  • Create interesting characters who are as unpredictable as they are human
  • Surprise the reader with unexpected narratives and characters
  • End the class with work that's ready for submission
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