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on 19 October 2004
This book claims to be a comprehensive survey of basic character types. It's certainly a useful springboard to developing a character, and is especially good at describing how different character types might interact. But it's not as comprehensive as it claims, and suffers from a sexist, feminist bias.

The sexism is apparent from the beginning, as the two main sections of the book are "male characters" and "female characters", even though several character types appear in both sections. Of the ones that aren't duplicated... Apparently the author believes that a man can pursue wealth and power for their own sakes, but a woman can't. A woman can be gentle and free-spirited, but a man can't. A man, simply because he's a man, can never understand persecution or oppression.

The book ends with a description of two basic story types, which I would call plot-driven or external, and character-driven or internal. She prefers to call them "male" and "female", as though only men can have adventures and only women can experience inner change. However, the story types themselves are well thought out and nicely described.

If you are prepared to overlook this bias, and willing to search both male and female categories to find the type you're looking for, then this book can be a useful starting place for developing original characters. We all have a tendency to settle into a comfort zone, writing about the sort of people we know and like ourselves. This book can help you think about characters you might not come up with easily on your own. A very helpful feature is the hints about how different character types are likely to interact, which may well spark off ideas.
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on 24 April 2015
The book is well written and well researched. All the current stereotyped characters are laid bare and clearly explained. I was even tempted to plot a character using a snippet of one of the character descriptions. Then, I stopped. I realised it would drive me into a corner I so wanted to avoid. The reason this book has 4 stars instead of 5, is because the author focusses only on characters types that already exist, and doesn't delve into creative character sketches that are truly unique - and how to build those. I'm fed up with the bog standard script of female characters, in particular. Maybe that is a book I'll need to write myself.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 27 June 2011
This is a Jungian/archetypal look at 45 mythic characters which (the author claims) are _the_ archetypes behind all great writing. Despite the hyperbole, this is still a somewhat useful book for thinking about different types of character.

The blurb claims "it's a power-packed method for creating characters that stand the test of time!"

There are just three main problems with the book's claims.

First, it isn't any kind of a method for creating characters that stand the test of time, simply because there is no evidence given that any of the characters which have stood the test of time were produced by this method -- or, indeed, by any Jungian method.

Second, there isn't any real reason to believe that mythological characters (and all the character-types given are supposedly mythological) are useful for creating well-rounded literature characters. Characterisation is not one of the strengths of mythology. We know far more about the character of Odysseus than we ever do about the character of his enemy Poseidon. It is exactly as literature has evolved away from the retelling of myths towards the fascination with human relationships that the interest in character has grown up.

Third, the actual mythological figures linked by Victoria Lynn Schmidt to her archetypes often don't really correspond to the types she is suggesting. For example, we are told that Poseidon is the 'Artist and the Abuser'. But is he really? The artist, in Greek mythology, would be Hephaestos, or perhaps Apollo. Poseidon is not really linked with this. Schmidt claims that Dionysus is 'the woman's man and the seducer'. But the great seducer in Greek mythology is Zeus, not Dionysus. Dionysus in Greek myth is actually another character type: the happy drunkard, the archetype for Falstaff, not for Count Dracula (which is one of the examples Schmidt gives).

If you can ignore the pseudo-Jungian pseudo-mythological daftness, then there is actually quite a lot in this book which is worth reading. In the final analysis, she writes a lot of interesting things about character types (though not really about characters), and the book is a useful reference if you want to introduce someone with a particular function into a story.

Because therein lies the strength and the weakness of this book: it is about the functions played by characters, not about how you create memorable characters.

Useful, if you need it. Definitely not to be believed in, though.
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on 22 June 2012
By far the strongest part of this book are the forty-five archetypes and the elaborate detail that accompanies each. It is more than a little annoying that a forty-sixth archetype is available as a downloadable extra; I buy a book to have all my information in one place, not in a book and a second wad of printed pages! When the book discusses the masculine and feminine journeys, I found it borrowed quite heavily from Vogler's 'The Writer's Journey' without any references to that or other texts. I would recommend Vogler's book before diving in here, so you can follow the journeys more coherently. Although good, this book would benefit from some illustrations to show how the journeys compare, rather than the rather poor comparison table tacked into the appendix. In summary, worth it for the archetypes alone, but the journey information feels a bit like filler and downloadable content is just a pain.

NB I agree with the gender polarisation issues expressed in the reviews for the Kindle edition of this title. Worth a read before you purchase!
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VINE VOICEon 9 February 2007
Echoing other comments about the gender polarisation, I also struggled badly with the completeness of this book. Rather than start with a set of key roles and then take these into a male/female context, it covers ground with no justification as to choice (or much debate on what is a non-master character).

Some of the content is of some use, but the whole book is little more than a large padded out essay
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on 20 January 2013
This book was extremely useful in showing you how to create master characters. It went into easy to understand detail .
I chose the five star rating because I wanted the readers to know just what a fantastic book it is and to let them know about the fast and courteous delivery.
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on 19 January 2016
This book is excellent for a simple foundation for creating characters, but should not be followed as a bible on the subject.

I feel this book would be even better if a little more variety of archtypes was added, and a section on developing those characters into truly unique beings. Hopefully something similar will be added in a later version.

And finally, there are definitly notes of sexism sprinkled throughout this book, as I'm sure many would agree. In this day and age, it is quite irritating that sterotypes regarding women are still used as they are in this book, and I think the author should adress this as to not affend any more women and men alike.

Overall, very good but with a few issues that could do with being fixed.
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on 2 December 2011
I found the character types described very stereotypical. Perhaps her paradigm is too much 'American movie' for me as a European-African to appreciate, but I found this book a disappointment.
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on 8 January 2002
I love this book. It's sharp, snappy and informative. The author transmits an enthusiasm for her subject that's hard to miss. Although the characters seem to be 'on a plate' for the reader, my experience is that they become more real when I practise (ie. watch or read and then identify the character type). I'm not sure the use of mythological names is necessary, but they do act as labels - albeit not-completely-memorable labels if you are not familiar with them. I'm already using some of the characters 'templates' within my current work. Wish me luck?
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on 30 July 2014
it's really useful, thank you very much. It has contributed to my writing greatly and given me things to think about and the tools to think with.
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