In the section “naming your bitch” of Mary Elizabeth Marlow’s book “Handbook for the Emerging Woman,” the author introduces 20 bitch archetypes. Ranging from the shrieking war goddess, to the pleasing passive, to mother superior, martyr, to saccharine sweet, to rescue me, etc…all women have at least one of these archetypes calling the shots in their subconscious according to Marlow.
Since your women characters are human, they also have a hidden bitch or possibly many. Perhaps your protagonist is a closet Queen Bee or an overt Drama Queen or perhaps she plays the role of a rescue me damsel in distress. Is she an icy mermaid seducing men and then tossing them out to sea? And while I’m focusing on women characters here, I am certain that there is a male equivalent mirroring the 20 bitch archetypes.
I’m a strong believer in a character’s journey through transformation. I prefer characters that plummet the depths of their subconscious because life circumstances lead them in that direction. All of my main characters under transformation or at least evolve within the confines of their life circumstances. For instance, my character Lucy Yakamoto (Go Lucy) represents the Armored Amazon in that she competes in a man’s world seeking the same liberation that men enjoy. Agnes Cass represents the Armored Amazon to an extent, but she also leans towards the rescue me maiden, hoping that Pablo, the flamenco guitarist will come and sweep her off her feet and whisk her to Barcelona.
Often, writers delve into their subconscious as they grapple with their characters’ obstacles. And some people would even claim that the characters we create represent hidden parts of our psyche. In that regard, crafting these characters leads to personal discoveries in the writer, that can also lead to healing with any genre. Perhaps writers who author thrillers are dealing with their personal psychology. The villains represent their inner darkness or the shadows that can no longer contain themselves and strike out to the world. I won’t let comedy writers such as me off the hook either. Comedy writers don’t just write with ink and paper, but often with sharpened swords.
Think of Monty Python Flying Circus sketches. We laugh at this humor, but we also cringe at the naughtiness of thumbing our noses at conventions and our inner morality. Woody Allen has his own version of humor, but it turns inward becoming self-effacing. It doesn’t matter which approach a writer takes, but acknowledging the archetypes in characters helps us to fully develop those characters who will some day enter the imaginations of our readers.
While I’m not going to list all 20 bitch archetypes in Marlow’s book, I will urge you to create your own list of male and female archetypes for your characters. Play therapist or spiritual coach for your characters. And delve into pop psychology and self-help books for inspiration.
I pulled this from the archives of my Bonjour Bellingham blog. I thought that the blog post fit better here.