Character & POV
3 min read

The everyman character archetype

An illustrated image of an everyman character archetype

In storytelling, character archetypes offer a foundational framework for building compelling characters. One such archetype is the everyman, an ordinary character that audiences can identify with. This article delves into the everyman archetype, tracing its characteristics, roles, and significance in literature and film.

Characteristics of the everyman archetype

The everyman is defined by their relatability and ordinariness. Unlike the hero or the magician, the everyman lacks exceptional qualities or skills. They lead an ordinary lifestyle and face everyday struggles, serving as a mirror for the audience.

Prominent examples include Arthur Dent from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, who is abruptly yanked from his regular life into extraordinary circumstances, and Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, a hobbit living a comfortable life before embarking on an unexpected journey.

The role of the everyman in storytelling

The everyman often serves as the protagonist but can also be an audience surrogate or a catalyst for change. Through their eyes, the audience experiences the story, their relatable struggles and emotions, bridging the gap between fiction and reality.

The everyman archetype has been a cornerstone of literature and folklore, embodying societal norms and expectations. Their universal appeal lies in the shared human experience they encapsulate.

Developing everyman characters in your writing

To create a believable everyman character, explore their desires, fears, and values. How do they react when thrust into extraordinary circumstances? Consider the personal growth they might experience in these situations.

Take, for example, John Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. As an everyman, Watson provides a contrasting perspective to the exceptional Holmes, grounding the story in reality.

Avoiding clichés and stereotypes

One pitfall to avoid while crafting an everyman character is making them too passive or uninteresting. They might not possess extraordinary skills but they can still have compelling personalities and unique perspectives.

Evaluate your use of the everyman archetype critically. Ensure that the character serves a purpose in your narrative and aligns with its broader themes.

Crafting complex characters with archetypes

The everyman archetype is a tool for creating relatable characters that resonate with the audience. Yet, it's essential to remember that archetypes are a starting point, not the destination. The goal is to create well-rounded, complex characters that engage readers on multiple levels. Experiment with different archetypes, always considering how they fit into and shape your narrative.

💡 Read more: Understanding character archetypes