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So Who is Mr. Darcy?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog called “Using Archetypes to Find Your Story” in which I talked about an archetype system developed by Caroline Myss, and a cool set of cards that I use for character development.

MyssCardsI was a little stunned at how popular this particular blog became, not only among our diverse readership, but within the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood itself.  Our Yahoo email loop kind of exploded for a day or two, especially when Darynda Jones emailed me (publicly) and asked me if I could use the Caroline Myss archetypes to describe Mr. Darcy, the original romance hero from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Have I mentioned that P&P is one of my all-time favorite books?  So naturally this was a challenge I couldn’t resist.  I immediately fired off an email, which sparked more discussion on our Yahoo group.  Eventually the Sisters insisted that I turn my email into a blog post. 

So, here it is, a slightly edited version of the email I sent to Darynda in answer to her question about Mr. Darcy’s archetype.

Dear Darynda,

I just flipped through my deck of archetype cards and I think Darcy would be some amalgamation of a Judge or Mediator.  A Judge balances justice and compassion.  But on the negative side a judge offers destructive criticism.  A judge also mediates between people, and Darcy certainly did a lot of that. 

photo3The Mediator archetype is similar to the judge.  A mediator negotiates fairness in personal and professional life, and has respect for both sides of an argument.  The shadow side of a Mediator negotiates with an ulterior motive. 

When you consider the way Darcy convinced Bingley to leave Netherfield because Jane was an unworthy match, you can clearly see how Darcy was both a judge and a mediator.  And, of course the title of the book gives you a clue, since we’re talking about pride and prejudice.  Darcy spends a lot of time judging people. 

photo1 This points out something I didn’t say in my blog post — you don’t have to give your character just one archetype.  Characters can have more than one. You can blend them.  The archetypes are there to help you brainstorm at the beginning, and analyze at the end so you are sure you’ve got a memorable character with lots of layers.  I always give each of my main characters one archetype and then one of the “child” archetypes.  There are several:  wounded child, nature child, magical child, eternal child, orphan child, divine child.  I think Darcy is probably a Magical Child. The shadow traits for a magical child are pessimism and a disbelief in miracles.  By the end of Pride and Prejudice Darcy is closer to believing that anything is possible.  So he moves through an arc that takes him from the negative traits of his archetype to the positive traits of it.

Also, by giving each character a “child” archetype you can brainstorm a backstory for them that explains why they have these positive and negative traits. 

photo2

By the way, since we’re talking Pride and Prejudice,  I would probably say that Elizabeth Bennet is a Rebel.  She challenges authority and rejects spiritual systems that do not serve her inner needs.  Just think about Lizzy’s verbal zingers and her determination to marry for love and not for money.  And think about how the social system reaches out to grab her at the black moment and potentially destroy her future.  Her willingness to tell Lady Catherine off at the end of the book underscores the fact that Lizzy is most definitely a Rebel.  She’s also probably a wounded child, which means she had to deal with a seriously dysfunctional family.

So, there you have it, a perfectly useless (but really fun) exercise in analyzing the archetypes used by another author. 

So here’s a challenge just for fun.  Follow this link to the Caroline Myss archetypes and try to analyze your favorite book boyfriend.  Post the results below. 

I’ll sweeten the pot, by giving away an autographed copy of Last Chance Book Club, a book seriously influenced by Pride and Prejudice, to one random poster.

20 responses to “So Who is Mr. Darcy?”

  1. I love this, Hope! I bought my deck and started looking through it last night. I’m part way into a project and the cards are really helping me understand what’s missing still as I round out my hero. Thanks for explaining the child cards. Very helpful.

    I’ll need to get back to you on the analysis. Crazy day today!

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  2. June Love says:

    Hope, I’ve enjoyed all the discussions brought on by your last blog. I find it interesting to read what different authors use to create their characters. I’ve always used Tami Cowden’s Heroes and Archetypes book, but I like the idea of having a child card. I love all things when it comes to creating characters, so I’m going to order Caroline Myss’ cards.

    As for my favorite book boyfriend, I’ll have to think about it. Only because my mind went blank when I tried to come up with a fav book boyfriend.

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  3. Hope,

    I ordered my Archetype card minutes after reading your last blog. I LOVE THEM! I’ve used them several times to plot my WIP. I like to give each character 2 cards too. Like you, 1 card is always a child card. I love that the cards show the good and bad qualities of that archetype because people and/or characters always run back to their childhood go-to emotions when under stress.

    Thanks for doing Darcy and Lizzie. This was very helpful.

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  4. Amanda Brice says:

    LOVED this, Hope! So glad you decided to blog our email list discussion!!!!

    I’m going to get back to you on an analysis. My problem is the same as above — since you’ve already picked Mr. Darcy, I having trouble picking a second choice book boyfriend!

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  5. I ordered the cards, too, but I had trouble finding one to suit my newest hero! I have this exact image of who he is — Warrior-Poet is his final “essence” — and I was hoping to learn more about that type via the Myss cards.

    Any advice for finding subs for this type? Perhaps I need to start with his “identity,” the confining way in which he sees himself at the start of the novel?

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    • Hope Ramsay says:

      Jamie, I’m glad you used the Michael Hague terms of identity and essence, because that’s precisely the way I use these archetypes.

      Since I’m a linear thinker, I usually start by my character creation with his or her “identity” first and not his/her “essence.” And, if I can, I like to make the character’s identity have qualities that match up with the shadow traits of the archetype.

      The Warrior’s shadow qualities are: 1) “trading ethical principles for victory at any cost,” and 2) Indifference to suffering.

      A poet’s shadow quality is using lyrics to a destructive effect.

      So knowing nothing about your story, I will blithely suggest that your character may start out with the identity of a Warrior who is fighting for the wrong side because of some wound in his backstory, and he may be using his gift with words for some bad purpose.

      Alternatively, his identity might be that he’s a warrior who has refused to fight or doesn’t yet know his strength, because of some wound in his backstory.

      Or, his identity is that of a warrior whose gift with words and lyrics is blocked because of some wound in his backstory.

      This may not fit what you have in mind. Caroline Myss has something like 70 archetypes on the webpage (more than the cards), and even more details about these archetypes including examples from books and film. But the box of cards also comes with a few blank ones, so if none of the cards fit this character or yours, you may need to dream up an archetype of your own.

      Also, I find that the archetypes are very helpful at the beginning of a book, or when a character is just not working out some how. But if you have a fully developed character you may not need to apply archetypes to him. Also, sometimes characters grow and change in the writing.

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        This is so smart and useful!!!

        I’m a very holistic thinker, so I’m not sure if this method will actually work for me (though I did order the cards after your last post, partly because they’re just so danged PRETTY).

        The Michael Hague essence/identity dichotomy is definitely a rich idea, and the archetypes and the idea of “shadow traits” add a really interesting twist to that.

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      • YES, that helps immensely!

        Please forgive the short response, but I’m off to integrate this into my work, and I don’t have a ton of time left to do it today! Want to strike while the iron is hot…

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  6. Great post, Hope! I followed the discussion on the Ruby loop and found the cards fascinating, too. I love anything that puts the sparks of fun back into a process that can sometimes seem daunting. 🙂

    I don’t have a fave book boyfriend, but I’m almost certain he’d be an alpha-warrior type with a protective streak and a soft, gooey middle. LOL

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  7. Elisa Beatty says:

    I’m really hoping you do a follow-up post on Jane Eyre and Rochester!!!!!!!!!!

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  8. Elisa Beatty says:

    Also…given that several people here have hinted that Darcy is already their secret book boyfriend (and I know many, many readers consider themselves in love with him), I’m wondering why the judge / mediator archetype is so appealing to women?????

    Thoughts, folks?

    What is it about Darcy that makes him such a reader love magnet?

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    • Hope Ramsay says:

      I think it’s all about that aloof manner of his. A judge isn’t an archetype that screams emotion. Darcy is cool and contained, until that moment when the heroine moves him into a new and uncomfortable place.

      And I think woman have a deep fantasy about being able to turn a self-contained judge or mediator into a blithering idiot. One of my favorite parts of Pride and Prejudice is when Darcy first proposes to Jane and makes an absolute hash of it because he’s so overwhelmed by his emotions.

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      • Hope Ramsay says:

        That would be Lizzy, not Jane. (Getting my heroines mixed up…)

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      • Amanda Brice says:

        Hmmm…well, I do happen to be married to a judge and Mr. Darcy is my book boyfriend. Interesting!

        Anyway, I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a contemporary romance P&P revamp, and perhaps not surprisingly Will and Lizz would be attorneys on opposite sides of a contentious litigation. But maybe I need to make him the judge instead?

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  9. Louise B says:

    I love learning about archetypes and try to use them in my own writing. Thank you for letting me know about this set.

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  10. Kristi W. says:

    I use those, too!

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