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Archetypes in World Building

January 31, 2011

Todays post is more a kind of brainstorming, because recently I though a lot about archetypes and was wondering if there are any archetypes/basic types that could be used for world building. With archetypes I mean types that are pretty general, just like the 7 plot archetypes defined by Aristotle or the character archetypes from the Heroes Journey.

One thing that stood out to me while thinking about this topic was, that most of the time when we create a new world we will mix the different types. But in general even then we tend to have always one dominant type which is just enriched by blending in some elements from other types. Always the worlds we built need at least some potential for conflict, because otherwise it will be impossible to tell interesting and enthralling stories within these worlds.

Here are the archetypes I could come up with so far:

War-torn World

This describes a world that is formed by an almost constant conflict between two or more factions, who are formed by creatures of this particular world.

Besieged World

This describes a world that is attacked by an outside force or beings from another world, dimension and so on.

Fallen (Dystopia) World

This describes a world, where all hope is lost. Everything has turned out to its worst. Suffering and war are more or less usual in such worlds.

Perfect (Utopia) World

This is the opposite of the fallen world and in a perfect world everything has turned out to its best. Everyone is happy and everything is perfect. For good storytelling something in these perfect worlds must create a conflict, cause otherwise there won’t be any story.

Awakening (New Born) World

This is a world, which has just seen its creation. It is young and has almost no history. It still has to show what kind of world it will become. Everything is possible.

Changing World

This is a world awaiting a major change. Forces within or from outside the world had created a conflict so strong that the world will never be the same again. Right in this moment where it is decided which way it’ll go we enter the scene.

Ending (Dying) World

This may sound similar to the fallen world, but it isn’t. A dying world is simply a world which is very old, has a lot of history and will cease to exist in the near future. No matter what a hero is doing, he may not be able to delay the end or to even rescue the world, but maybe its inhabitants.

To be continued…

Please let me know what you think and if you found more types, that could be considered as archetypes for world building.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick P permalink
    May 26, 2011 10:00 pm

    New World: A world being discovered for the first time. One or more races have discovered a world, conflicts involving the unknown begin to arise. Discovering a new world allows a story to ask a lot of philosophic questions about how to treat a planet.

    Destroyed World: A world which has been destroyed beyond recognition or completely eliminated. Putting the pieces back together or learning how to move on are the basis of this world’s story.

    What do you think of these two?

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