Archetypes are recurrent themes found in works of literature and film. Recently I attended a talk by a nautical archaeologist (http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/nautical-archaeology-for-writers/). While this professional is concerned with preserving underwater shipwrecks and their associated artifacts, treasure hunters seek to plunder these watery grave sites. Now pit two of these opposing people together as hero and heroine, and you have instant conflict.
Or take the Star Lord and the green-skinned girl in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s a cocky womanizer. She’s a feminist warrior. Don’t you love the sparks that fly between them until they realize how much they care for each other? Here’s a list of other familiar archetypes.
AMNESIA: Is he/she married, a parent, a missing bride/groom, presumed dead? Did he kill someone? Did someone try to kill him? Is she a witness to a violent crime? Is he an undercover agent who got hurt by the bad guys? American Dreamer, The Bourne Identity
BRIDES: Marriage of convenience, fake fiancés, mail order bride, runaway bride/groom, green‑card, royal, shot-gun wedding, jilted, terms of the will, Vegas spur-of-the-moment wedding. Runaway Bride, Father of the Bride, Wedding Crashers, Sleepless in Seattle, What Happens in Vegas
CHILDREN: Abandoned, lost, adopted, biological, inherited, stolen, secret baby, true identity unknown, switched‑at‑birth, kids playing matchmaker for single parents. Home Alone
DISGUISE: Hidden or unknown identity, switching places: True Lies, The Prince and the Pauper, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Freaky Friday, The Princess Diaries, Arrow
FISH OUT OF WATER: Enchanted, City Slickers, Kate and Leopold, Outlander
MAKEOVER: The Princess Diaries, My Fair Lady
MISMATCHED COUPLES: Bad boy/Good girl, Cowboy/Lady, Pirate/Princess, Real Estate Developer/Preservationist, Wanderer/Homemaker, May/December, Womanizer/Feminist, Duke/Governess, Mentor/Protegé, Boss/Employee. Romeo & Juliet, Beauty and the Beast, Six Days Seven Nights, Guardians of the Galaxy
RAGS TO RICHES: Cinderella, Pretty Woman, Ever After
REUNION: Former lovers, estranged spouses, lost love, thwarted romance, divorced but still in love. Sweet Home Alabama
SECRET POWER: Harry Potter series, Superheroes like Superman and Spiderman
SINGLE PARENTS: Struggling unwed mothers, clueless divorced dads, inexperienced surrogate. Three Men and a Baby, Baby Boom
TWINS: Switched identities, mistaken identities, trading places to fool people and having the tables turned on them instead. Parent Trap, New York Minute
Now wouldn’t it be interesting to pick one of these for your suspense/thriller novel? That’s what I did for Warrior Lord, my latest action-packed romance with scifi/fantasy elements. Drift Lord warrior Magnor of the Tsuran must recover the fabled Book of Odin. Hidden in its text is information on a weapon to defeat his enemy. Magnor has received a tip that a clue to the whereabouts of this book can be found at the Viking Vegas Resort.
As soon as he steps inside the casino, he’s drawn to a woman playing blackjack. When he hears her mutter how she can use the cash from a contest for engaged couples as announced over the loudspeaker, he suggests they enter the competition even though they’ve just met. Before you can blink, they win and are married on live TV. Marriage of Convenience meets Lord of the Rings plus Star Wars. It was fun tossing this trope into my paranormal universe.
Think about the books on your shelves at home. Do you repeatedly buy the same types of stories? Does this tell you something about the plot devices that appeal to you? What other movies can you fit into the categories above?