On Stephanie Plum

Ranger as...Hairy Godmother?

A Tongue-in-Cheek Look at Ranger’s Role in the Stephanie Plum Books

By Karen Kendall

I. Flexible Archetypes in the Stephanie Plum Series

In beginning a project, every author of fiction creates her characters from the basis of an archetype, whether consciously or unconsciously. An archetype is (in general terms) a prototype or sketch of a character, which the writer then builds upon to make that character original. Think of it as fleshing out a stick figure. According to Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders, authors of The Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines, these archetypes can be categorized as either “core,” “evolving,” or “layered,” depending on each character’s individual personality, journey, and function.

A core archetype “fits wholly within the frame of a single archetypal description, and remains consistent in nature throughout the course of the story.” An evolving archetype “begins the story as a member of one archetypal family, but is so changed during the course of the story that she…[shifts] into another.” And “a layered archetype combines attributes of two archetypal descriptions” (98—99).

It’s up to the author to determine which kind of archetype to employ, whereupon she will continue to shape her character and breathe life into him.

Janet Evanovich uses layered archetypes in her Plum series to fascinating effect. While Stephanie is undoubtedly the hero of Evanovich’s Plum series, she also embodies anti-hero and underdog qualities. We don’t take her entirely seriously, as we would a traditional hero. First, she’s doing her job for the money, not social justice or world peace. Her biggest ambition seems to be ownership of a sweet car,  …

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