Ten Author Archetypes You Couldn’t Avoid if You Tried


Authors are nothing if not introspective.  We poke and prod at our inner consciousnesses, digging out nuggets of truth and wisdom and adolescent angst from the craggy seams of our histories.  We spin our disappointments and secret pains and broken promises into stories that we pretend are purely fictional.  And with all the soul-searching produced by our strong inward gaze comes one terrible, unforgivable, unavoidable flaw: the desperate need to solidify our personas as tortured artists by characterizing ourselves as one type of writer or another through stupid Internet quizzes.

To help you in this noble quest for self-validation, I have compiled a list of ten of my favorite archetypes, and provided an opportunity for you to vote on which category you fall into at the end.  Ready?  Go!

The Drill Sergeant

Why aren’t you writing right now?  You should be writing.  No, don’t take a bite of that sandwich.  Don’t even think about getting a cup of coffee, because you’ll be wasting valuable minutes that could be spent putting words on the page.  You are single-minded and laser-focused, intent on banging out characters on that keyboard until you drop.  You don’t really understand why other people can’t work the same way, with a strict schedule and an iron will, and sometimes that makes you irritating to be around for people who have a different style.  Still, you bloody well get the job done, and at the end of the day, others are just a useless distraction anyway.

The Brooding Poet

The complete opposite of the Drill Sergeant, you let the words channel themselves through you as they will.  Sometimes this means a feverish marathon of inspiration that carries you through the midnight hours, and sometimes this means a drought of muse-juice that can last for weeks, months, or even years.  Your job is to be a vessel for the summer light of morn filtering gently through the trees, not to boast about your word count or force yourself into a routine that leaves you feeling listless and uncreative.

The Autumn Squirrel

Writing?  Me?  No.  No, I don’t write anything.  DON’T LOOK IN THAT DRAWER.  No, there’s nothing hidden there.  That journal is empty, okay?  It’s not like it contains the past five years of my most intimate thoughts and desires or anything.  It certainly doesn’t hold a novel (or two) that I’m just too scared to show anyone.  Just get out of my room and don’t touch anything.  There’s nothing to see here.  Move along.

The Addict

Coffee.  Coffee, coffee, cigarettes, red wine.  More coffee.  Maybe something stronger.  Is it sunrise already?  Who cares.  You can’t feel on top of your game unless you’re well-lubricated with the more-or-less legal chemical substance of your choice.  It might not be healthy, but oh man, what rainbow vistas of aching beauty open themselves before you when you get in the zone.  Hunter S. Thompson is your spirit animal, and you consider yourself a no-holds-barred beacon of the raw and unvarnished truth.

The Productive Procrastinator

I know I have to finish this chapter today, but I really think the chimney flue needs scrubbing.  Maybe I should take the car for an oil change, too.  Do I even have a chimney flue?  Doesn’t matter.  I’ll find something to clean while I think of a way to bring John and Jane together in Part Two.  There’s always the grout in the bathroom.  I think I have a clean toothbrush somewhere.

The Unproductive Procrastinator

One word: LOLcats.

The Basement Dweller

The “No Girls Allowed” sign on your bedroom door might not work as well now as it did when you were seven, but you won’t need it in order to keep your mother from visiting you any time soon.  After all, you ditched her 60th birthday party to craft a particularly good paragraph in your 250,000 word epic fantasy saga, and she hasn’t quite forgiven you yet.  Writing is a solitary affair requiring dark, quiet, a reliable internet connection, and a recycle bin where you can toss your Coke cans without having to turn around.  People are simply surplus to requirements, and the lock on your door does a pretty good job of ensuring sweet, sweet silence as you pursue your craft.

The Manic Pixie Kindle Commercial

Writing is an intellectual exercise, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look good doing it.  You might spend a little more time than strictly necessary browsing ModCloth for the perfect coffee house dress or surfing Pintrest for ideas about that cozy literary nook waiting to happen, but you’re definitely a writer.  Do glassless Ray-Bans lie?  You read some slam poetry at open mic night when you were at Sarah Lawrence and everyone said you should major in creative writing.  Maybe you got straight A’s, but you might not be entirely sure how to turn your GPA into something worth selling.

The Flash in the Pan

You’ve started NaNoWriMo every year, and gotten about six thousand words in before the well dried up.  Half-finished short stories litter your DropBox, and while you can’t stop yourself from buying hand-crafted embossed notebooks from impoverished artists in the Philippines, you usually only scribble on the first page before tucking it under the bed with the others.  You really believe you could write a novel if you try, but the trying part always seems so hard.  Maybe next year you’ll have more time to really dedicate yourself to that great big idea that’s been simmering in the back of your head for so long.

The Long-Haul Trucker

Much like the Autumn Squirrel, you have plenty of material tucked away.  One perfected manuscript, maybe two or even three, have been haunting you for years as query after query is rejected by agents and editors.  You’ve read all the articles advising you not to give up, and so you don’t.  Maybe you take a break for a while when your spirits sink low, but you can’t stop yourself from plugging away, just like you’re supposed to.  Someone will say ‘yes’ someday.  You just have to keep at it.  It’s tough to put yourself on the line for so long, but that just makes the reward all the sweeter when a manuscript request turns into an offer of representation. Congratulations!  You did it, and you can be justifiably proud.

3 Replies to “Ten Author Archetypes You Couldn’t Avoid if You Tried”

  1. This made me smile – mostly because it is so frighteningly accurate!

    I only found your blog recently but I think it’s great. I actually mentioned it in my post about the Versatile Blogger Award; a fun way to highlight the blogs we find interesting. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

  2. Glad you like it, Callum! Thanks for dropping by!

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