Character Archetypes: The Ally

Hi gang, Craig with you today. This is post number three in the character archetypes series. In the Hero’s Journey, there are some common characters that are likely to show up in all stories. This doesn’t mean each archetype shows up in every story, and aside from the hero, the rest are kind of optional. Almost every story will have an assortment of them.

This series is to introduce you to them. Once you’re aware of them, you can decide if they can benefit the story you’re writing.

Most stories will have the Ally character to one degree or another. Some of them play pivotal roles in the story, others come along for the ride.

I think everything is better with a bit of Bruce Campbell, so this instructional video is included to help us all out:

I tend to wing my posts, but I also do a bit of research, and for most of the archetypes, I’m not finding much more than a list. Nice, but not exactly the quality I want to present here at Story Empire. I always include a partial list, but I want to provide you with a bit more.

The Sidekick Ally character has to have a job to do. Every character has to have a reason to make it into your story. Sometimes it’s just someone for the hero to talk with. Sometimes they do the heavy lifting, cooking, and wood chopping, but that’s kind of minimal. Let’s go to a short list, then talk about the bigger possibilities.

• Samwise Gamgee. Possibly the most famous one.

• Han Solo.

• Iolaus and Gabrielle (If you were into that whole Hercules and Xena thing.)

An ally will look up to the hero. This isn’t just a checklist for the author. This is a situation to be manipulated, because it relays to the reader that your hero is worthy of respect.

With this in mind, your ally (Or allies, you can have more than one) ought to be a good person. Readers will buy into the personality, and when the likable person thinks your main character is a hero, you’re half way home.

Allies bring a bit of charm. Han Solo is a good example of this. He started off kind of gruff and self-centered, but came around eventually.

Heroes suffer defeats, sometimes a lot of them. The ally is there to dust them off, put ice in the boo-boo bunny, and get them back on their feet. There is a mental aspect there, too. Think of Sam talking about The Shire and asking “What are we fighting for?”

Allies are great for speeches like Sam’s. After half a million words or so, it’s good to go back and focus on the main issue before them. (I’m exaggerating, but TLOR is a lengthy read.)

The ally is a useful character, because you aren’t prohibited from giving them mad skills of their own. Maybe they are The King of Thieves. (Early Bruce Campbell role for you younguns.) Maybe they know how to hack the mainframe. If you need a distraction, who better to call upon?

The ally can usually spot a threat faster than the hero can. We’re going to get to the shapeshifter in a future post, but the ally is useful in giving your reader a sense of distrust about some new character. Think Sam vs. Gollum here.

Allies make great comic relief, but it’s usually in the form of reflecting the hero to a degree. Ron Weasley had the heart, but couldn’t cast a decent spell if he had to.

The ally is a caregiver in many ways. This makes them vulnerable to becoming hostages or victims. Think about the kindly woman who decides to help the handicapped person into his unmarked white van. You have a lot of opportunities here to play with. I think Robin and Tonto spent most of their careers tied up and needing rescue. I’d avoid that in the 21st century.

If you’re getting the sense that the ally is one of the most malleable characters on the list, you’re right. They are prime for filling more than one archetype in your story. This character could also be a herald, a mentor, or threshold guardian.

You can mix this up as much as you like. Creativity is always a bonus. Little John kicked Robin Hood’s ass. In a battle of brawn, I’ll take Little John. Robin was the brains behind the group.

I need to mention again, that I write speculative fiction. Most of my examples are going to come from that perspective, but don’t let it put you off. If you write more real-world stories, allies are important to your fiction, too. These can be dispatchers, a frenemy from high school, the bartender, your handyman, the gay best friend, etc.

Put some thought into the ally character. Make them a bio sheet, and use them to their full advantage.

The obligatory traffic sign: The previous post was about The Mentor. The next one is about The Herald.

We love to hear from you in the comments, so feel free. Did I give a bit more than just a list of famous allies? Can you see how these characters can bring a lot to your fiction if you only design them that way?

48 thoughts on “Character Archetypes: The Ally

  1. Pingback: The Three Acts: Act2, Part 1 | Story Empire

  2. Pingback: Character Archetypes: The Herald | Story Empire

  3. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    C. S. Boyack is running a series of very helpful posts on Story Empire, all about Character Archtypes. This one tells you everything you need to know about creating the perfect Ally or Sidekick. Some great tips here, along with a cool video, and all of it wrapped up in a well-written, entertaining way. Check it out, and then remember to share far and wide, thanks. And thanks to Craig for such a helpful post and series! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post, Craig! Sorry I missed it on Friday, but I’ve got it now, and love your examples of allies. I think I’ve been writing them here and there without even knowing it. A couple were lame and faded away, but several were such good allies in the first book, they became the stars (heroes) of a second one. But I’ll be referring to this post as I go forward. This is a very helpful series, especially for newer writers. And I watched and appreciated the clip, though it wasn’t easy for me to hear all of the dialogue. Still, I’m pretty sure I got the gist. A good choice! Sharing in all the usual spots, and since Sunday is an “open” day on The Write Stuff, reblogging there, too. 🙂 Well worth passing along! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Well, it happened | Entertaining Stories

  6. Pingback: Character Archetypes: The Ally | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  7. A great post about allies, Craig. I am now wracking my brain to try and work out who the allies are in my WIP – I seem to have more people causing problems than helping my poor ghosts. As for Han Solo, are you saying he wasn’t the hero? Gosh, and here I thought he was for all these years. He is so gorgeous and so much more interesting than soppy Luke Skywalker [wink].

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just found this blog site and am finding it so interesting and helpful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! The ally sounds like a flexible little guy/gal. I need to pay more attention to mine.

    Liked by 3 people

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