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45 Master Characters
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45 Master Characters

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  696 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Create unforgettable characters your readers will love! "45 Master Characters" will make your characters and their stories more compelling, complex and original than ever before.

You'll explore the most common male and female archetypes--the mythic, cross-cultural models from which all characters originate--and learn how to use them as foundations for your own unique charac
ebook, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2007 by Writers Digest Books (first published September 10th 2001)
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Darusha Wehm
Oct 25, 2012 Darusha Wehm rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers who want to work with the hero's journey archetypal characters and story arc
I've never cared for the eurocentric "hero's journey" and this book relies entirely on those archetypal characters and story arcs. It claims to be a feminist update, with separate female characters and both feminine and masculine journeys. The author does state briefly in the introduction that those journeys could be undertaken by either men or women, and there is a single "gender-bending" example of each. I just found the reliance on stereotypical (not archetypal) gender traits entirely unappea ...more
Great books are what they are, largely due to strong character archetypes. This book is a phenomenal classroom in your lap for learning all about archetypes and what kinds of character archetypes they need to be put with in order for the main character to grow.
A lot of good stuff, but it could have been much better done. I anticipated a plug-and-crank formulaic writing cookbook, and this book is better than that; the author does give extensive and concrete advice about structure and character development, but in ways that encourage the reader to be original in applying that advice rather than settle for easy cliches. I also appreciated her extensive use of examples from well-known myths, books, films, and TV shows, and her having provided some workshe ...more
In 2008 or earlier, I learned that character arcs were troublesome for me. In 2009, I requested titles of craft books that might help me, and Victoria Lynn Schmidt's 45 Master Characters is a gem. It explains the difference between stereotypes (cardboard cut-outs) and archetypes (realistic characters), going into detail about the traits and flaws of each of the 45 archetypes, as well as examples. However, I don't read classics, I watch only a few movies a year (if that), and my TV tastes are mos ...more
J.R. Newell

If you want a good book on archetypes to help you with your writing, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book (see instead The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines by Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders). For me, the descriptions of the archetypes were the weakest aspect of this book, which is why I had to knock off a couple of stars on my rating. Where this book really shines is in its descriptions of the Feminine and Masculine Journeys. The author's breakdown of the differe
Jun 23, 2013 Hesper rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one in the history of ever
Useful for tween fanfic writers, I suppose, or people who like silly formulas, but that's insulting to the intelligence of both of those groups.

Look: she only marginally grasps the mythological figures she uses as archetypes, has obviously not read all the books from which her character examples are drawn, and operates on a gender-binary, heteronormative definition of humanity that will only hinder character authenticity.

Just avoid it. No half-baked taxonomy will make anyone a better writer.
I picked this book up in the hope that it would help me to gain some clarity and guidance with writing a main character. Initially I was worried that the 45 characters might be stale, immovable stereotypes that would block my creativity but I was relieved to find the exact opposite.

Schmidt takes character structures (archetypes) from major literary examples, works of fiction, classic tales and folk lore and sorts them into 45 character archetypes for the reader to explore. Each archetype provide
Eben Mishkin
The character archetypes are pretty good. Certainly as good as any other character archetype book and better than plenty that I've seen. Her particular strength is seeing them as starting points to evolve, and so suggests directions for the characters to hook into stories.

But the real gold in this book is the second part on the "feminine" journey as a counterpoint to the "masculine" hero's journey. While I disagree with the gendered attribution (Schmidt herself provides genderbending examples) t
Writers reference, psychology

Thank you Victoria, for a concise character/personality handbook for writers. No matter the "name" that you've assigned the character traits I found it very helpful that you gave the villainous/negative aspects and the FEARS of each character type as well. Very important. Also helpful, you indicated possible "helper" types who might be able to assist the protagonist in working through his/her issues. I hope other readers are flexible enough to consider that their nov
Katy Wilmotte
Those who read this book expecting to find an exhaustive list of every archetype that will perfectly fit their characters/stories will be disappointed. What is required to appreciate this book is creativity, finding ways to think about your characters inside the broad realm of an archetype. Don't be limited by Schmidt's examples, which don't encompass every genre and certainly won't fit your characters exactly. Think instead about who your characters are and which pieces of their personalities f ...more
D.A. Cairns
I've read many 'how to' books on writing, most of them a long time ago when I was just starting out as a writer. Although I understand that there are certain underlying principles which contribute to 'good' writing, I feel that generally, the formulas offered in such books interfere with the art. I still take tips but I am picky, and I also know that quality does not necessarily guarantee exposure for a writer, or sales.

Having said that, I enjoyed 45 Master Characters, and found it very interest
Lena Loneson
This book was more than I expected after buying it on a lark one day because I enjoy mythological interpretations of modern characters. I didn't expect it to actually help me with my writing -- but it did.

45 Master Characters is a great book for beefing up characters that aren't quite there yet. It takes cues from mythological archetypes (especially ancient Greek/Roman mythology, since that's what we're most familliar with) to expand character traits and journeys.

This is a fascinating resource
Tori Crescent
Love the list of questions at the beginning of the book. Some of them are a bit cooky, like: "If your character was stranded on a desert island, what are the three things he would want to have?" I can never answer that for myself, let alone my characters (probably because I enter panic mode when I even THINK about having to choose one book... because you're in big trouble if you bring an electronic device and can't recharge it. How would that work, anyway? Plug it into a cactus?). For the most p ...more
M L Swift
As of this writing, I'm at page 230 of 261, but I will undoubtedly finish after this constructive procrastination break. I'm about to dive into Chapter 25, "Plotting the Masculine Journey." I can't wait.

As a matter of fact, that's been my attitude for most of this book. I can't wait. "I can't wait until I get to the next archetype. I can't wait to develop this character that's been bouncing around in my head." It really spurs the ideas.

Coming complete with insights for developing a cast of suppo
Jul 06, 2008 Kathrynn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathrynn by: K.S.R. Kingworth
Great ideas to help create well rounded, 3-dimensional characters. The author begins by telling the story of the writer who starts out gung-ho on a story, until page 30, when the plot seems to go astray. She explains, with examples, how it may not be the plot, per se, but the character(s). I enjoyed reading examples of how to first DRAW a character, then color them in. Nice ideas.

The book talks a lot about "archetype" which (to paraphrase the author) is the blueprint for building a well-defined
Thomas Guettler
I like this book. I am sure there are more in depth character development books out there, but it was a relatively quick and easy approach to building some characters. It reminds me of the Myers Briggs personality tests, where people can be quickly categorized. Can an author pick an archetype as depicted in the book? Yes. Should an author use one straight out of the box to their characters? Probably not. Personalities are inherently complex, and building one without any modifications of the arch ...more
Jul 17, 2012 Kayla rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring novelists who want more colourful characters
Without a doubt, Victoria Schmidt's revised edition of "45 Master Characters" is the best character reference guide I own. Not only does the book go into depth about the different archetypes like it promises, the book also gives you access to an additional 46th character you can download off of the Writer's Digest website, and it also has a chapter on creating plots. The book is divided as follows:

Part I: Getting Started
Part II: Creating Female Heroes and Villains
Part III: Creating Male Heroes a
I've been making all sorts of notes from this book before I return it. So it's rather overdue at the library it came from. Whoops. I'm thinking I maybe should buy a copy for myself.

It lists a bunch of archetypes, male and female, that characters can fall into. I think it may prove helpful in thinking about characters. Do my characters fall into these archetypes? Sometimes. Usually not completely. Do I fall into one of the archetypes? No. Thankfully not. I see myself in several of them.

In descri
Tries a bit too hard to fit existing character archetypes into 'mythic models' based around the Greek pantheon. And while the male models are helpful, the female models -- despite equalling the males in number -- are nowhere near as distinctive and universal. There is far too much emphasis in the female models on their thoughts on sex and relationships with the men around them and whether or not rape is the worst thing that can happen to them. (Hint: rape is one of the worst things that can happ ...more
Liz Cee
Completely fascinating, this book gives common personality traits of 45 fictional characters, examples of each from the media and popular culture and pairings with other personality types listed therein.

Not only interesting for the writer, you will be entertained as a reader. I found myself assigning those roles to my favorite fictional characters.

For readers and writers alike. Enjoy!
How well you receive this book depends largely on how much you are in to three act structure and Jungian archetypes. But even if you are a fan of such things, you still might find--as I did--that while the overall idea of this book is solid, the execution leaves something to be desired. Or at least it did for me. There were too many sections where I thought that example that is reached for or the way something crucial is phrased rang, well, not so much false, as meh or huh or eh. Because I'm in ...more
Joslyn Carter
This is my favorite writer's reference books. I purchased a copy when I was in school to help me in a creative writing course and it has paid off. It is definitely a must have for any writer who writes character driven stories. I love how it outlines each archetype (I broke the rules a little) and I also love that examples of each type of character were given at the end of each section, which provided me with a more clear picture of what each type of character should be like. It helped me to wri ...more
Dawn Turner
An outstanding reference book for writers. The author gives a LOT of examples of each character type from both literature and movies, along with great descriptions.
Hanje Richards
This book was excellent for me at the point I am in my writing education. I picked it up to learn about characters, and it was very helpful in that area, but it was also very helpful in explaining the Female Hero's Journey and the Male Hero's Journey. I think that I have figured out a whole new way to organize the memoir I am currently working on. I took a ton of notes. This would be a good reference book. I am really excited to look at other books by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.

Would give it 4.5 sta
This book was worth reading for the Feminine and Masculine journeys near the end. In fact, I scribbled down quite a lot of notes upon discovering I had a male character in a feminine journey. I enjoyed the different archetypes as well, but did not find that they were fleshed out enough to actually use them. The examples were also unfamiliar and outdated. You would get a lot better information and examples from a site like

However, for a quick overview of character and structure, if
Nolan Ridley
I took a lot of classes on mythology when I was in high school and college. I always enjoyed the insights of Jung and Joseph Campbell and the archetypes of Greek Mythology. Ms. Schmidt has taken these sources and distilled them into an entirely effective reference for writers. She has done several in this vein, and I recommend every one of them. Going forward, I'm sure I will always pull them out and use the worksheets when I'm conducting character development. The format of the books makes them ...more
Some definite editing problems, but since the idea of crafting stories based on mythology/archetypes has been my obsession lately, I found this book really interesting and useful. I imagine you'd have to take these structure and character suggestions with a grain of salt--after all, each story has its own needs, so you can't just plug into any old formula and magically come up with a novel--but the guidance here is definitely intriguing. The weirdest thing was realizing that I use a lot of these ...more
Therese Ptak
A great starter reference book for writers about creating consistent persona's for their character. My one complaint would be that they take a kind of archetype approach which in and of itself isn't a bad thing I just think that it has the potential to generate predictable characters which is something that a writer doesn't want to do. But to really get the juices flowing on CREATING a character from scratch it's a great reference! If you need to flesh already strong characters out some more I w ...more
Idea Smith
Really good book for aspiring fiction writers - each archetype is systematically broken down in core motivation, the darker manifestation and the purer one. The description includes a question bank that helps you develop the character arc better. It also maps key relationships with other archetypes and lists depictions of the archetype in popular culture (everything from mainstream cinema to classic books). Finally, two major character journeys are also laid out. I can't think of a more systemat ...more
Ruth Charchian
Great book. Lots of research on character types to offer in various modes.
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Any suggestions for making my villain believable? 5 10 Mar 31, 2013 05:13PM  
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