Review: The Mythic Guide to Characters

The Mythic Guide to Characters: Writing Characters Who Enchant and Inspire, by Antonio del Grago

This is a book review of a writing craft book, designed to help writers use various personality model types in developing characters via a layered approach.

What’s in the Book?

I started this book more interested in the first few sections dealing with the psychology of the character mind, but finished with some new knowledge and thoughts on creating my own characters in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Split into three layers, the book first details Layer One: the subconscious mind, and Layer Two: how characters interact with each other and the world. Both fascinating information on the subconscious and memory.

Once into the ‘mythic’ portions of the book, the task of character development begins with the Enneagram. The author provides assessments of some well-known characters (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Godfather for instance) as examples for each personality type covered, beginning with the enneagrams and moving on into Bartle types – roles that characters take in interaction.

The four Bartle types were originally based on playing styles in video games. Five Relationships originated with Confucius. All of these have fictional character assessments orchestrated by the book’s author, to highlight the character usages.

In Layer Three, the book looks at developing characters into the roles they play within our stories – the archetypes that many writers are aware of. For further on these, the book lists resources at the end. Moving from eight typical archetypes, the book details the Soul Triptych – body/mind/spirit; and then one further way to ascertain your character – proactive or reactive.

There is a large section at the back on the physical characteristics, and which minimal physical attributes are needed in description, followed lastly by a chapter on dialogue and speech patterns, and a summary chapter. The book is completed with some worksheets (available via a link) with questions to lead the writer through the character building process via the three layers.

Review

With the author of this book being the founder of Mythic Scribes – an online fantasy writing community; readers will find many worked examples detailing famous fantasy characters. But, as a crime and thriller writer myself, I found enough examples from other genres to allow me to recognise the help in creating characters this book and worksheets provide.

I’m currently struggling with one particular protagonist – I had the archetype (kind of) but the character seemed shallow. Using some of the new possibilities I hadn’t learnt of before reading this book (the Bartle types, soul triptych and five relationships, in particular) I am closer to truly knowing – and liking – the character I am creating.

I sit between being a die-hard plotter or pantser when it comes to writing. I don’t like filling out all those character profile sheets and questions to create my characters. But this book allowed me more of a fundamental understanding of why many of these questions are asked, and an easier route into the creation of a character.

Fundamentals, written well, and with a lot for the modern writer despite the ‘mythic’ label. Definitely one for my writer’s toolbox. 5 stars.

I had a review copy graciously supplied by the author of this book. My review portion of this post has been loaded onto Amazon and Goodreads. You can purchase a copy of this book in paperback or ebook form from Amazon (non-affiliate link below).

Antonio del Grago, The Mythic Guide to Characters: Writing Characters Who Enchant and Inspire

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