Week 02: Archetypes

Our goal this week is to understand the most archetypical story structures and character types; and recognize them in our every day lives.  

Also, we will brainstorm your first digital story project.

And finally, the class has voted on animal-kingdom for our theme, so you will be breaking into the following teams - Baloo, Pumba, Thumper, & Timon.  

ar·che·type: (1) a very typical example of a certain person or thing; (2) an original that has been imitated; (3) a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology.

Instructor's Notes

Archetypes are patterns that may apply to a story, a character, a course, or anything.  These are the patterns that we all know and recognize easily in traditional storytelling, for example:

  • Overcoming the Monster
    Here the hero must destroy the monster to restore balance to the world. In the real world this could be overcoming an addiction, working through an abusive relationship, beating an illness or any thing else that requires something to be defeated.
  • Rags to Riches
    Here a modest and downtrodden character achieves a happy ending when their natural talents are displayed to the world at large. In the real world this applies to anyone with an undeniably incredible talent who wants to break through and be successful.
  • The Quest
    A mission from point A to point B. A story about transformation through travel and homecoming.
  • The Course
    Packaged content and required activities presented to students over the arc of 8 to 16 weeks, designed to elicit understanding and/or  mastery.  Often packaged in a template format (PowerPoint, Canvas, Worksheets, etc.) with high-stakes testing at the end, requiring students to prove their growth.  

Yes, I threw that last one in to make a point.

These story recipes are common and familiar to most of us.  Whatever the recipe or genre may be, traditional stories tend to follow a circular pattern where the protagonist goes, faces conflict, and returns a changed person.  Full circle.  

As avid storytellers and sophisticated story consumers, we know the circle so well that we frequently complete it before the storyteller has finished.  We watch the movie preview, read the book jacket, or skim the headline and fully anticipate what's going to happen.  

And although we have consumed these recipes thousands of times over, we still crave them!  That is because stories sustain us, like food.  We crave them.  We make them.  We consume and share them.  Every day.

The Recipe

There are universal patterns that you will recognize in stories.  The same patterns exist in keynote presentations, lectures, church sermons, and news.  There is nuance and some difference, of course, but the baseline recipe is consistent.

  1. set the context - entice interest with humor, intrigue or drama - hook them;
  2. tell the story - engage & entertain with details and a nuance of ingredients - persuade them;
  3. provide closure - prompt reflection - make it stick.

This is the circular pattern of teaching, marketing, politics, culture, history...   all of it.  This is the story circle.

I challenge you to name a story that does not fall into this pattern. (

If the formula is truly ubiquitous and that simple, then what differentiates one story from the next?   Content, yes.  But content alone is just data -  raw information that may not achieve the hook, persuade, and stick formula outlined above.  Of course, this is where storytelling comes in!   Content combined with story, completes the formula.

Like any good recipe, there is a lot of room to customize and personalize stories. Content remixed with style, media, tone, cadence and context is where the real storytelling occurs.  These elements are variable and where the flavor comes about - achieving the hook, persuade, and stick formula.  These elements engage the affective element of the human psyche where things stick.  It is the social-emotional key to how and what the audience will remember.

af·fec·tive: (1) relating to moods, feelings, and attitudes; (2) expressing emotion.

The TED Archetype

Watch the TED presentation below and consider the TED archetype.  Before you click the play button you are anticipating what this will be like, how long this will take, and how the story will go -  are you not?  

I like to share this example as it exemplifies the recipe.  It is loaded with social emotional affect, i.e. style, media, tone, cadence, and context.   But what has he taught us?


This is where we start.   Storytelling is everywhere and baked-in to about every aspect of humanity.  Understanding the storytelling affects, circles, and recipes is an important media literacy, especially in the digital age.  These recipes  hold steady across centuries of anthropology, history, and literature. These are important to recognize before we move into the modern era of storytelling, where digital and social media rewrite the formula a bit.  

This Week's Tasks


  1. Join your team. We will be breaking into teams this week. Each team has it's own Slack channel and it's own group. Go to Slack, find your team and follow the next-steps posted there, before moving to the next task.

  2. Read & annotate the following article(s) in your newly created team. Note, be sure and complete the step above before annotating - you need to be in your group.

  3. Gretter, S., Yadav, A., & Gleason, B. W. (2017). Walking the Line between Reality and Fiction in Online Spaces: Understanding the Effects of Narrative Transportation. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 9(1), 1.


  1. Brainstorm and pitch ideas for your first digital story. Let's spend this week brainstorming what you'd like to make for your Individual Project (see syllabus). This week we hash out the idea, next week you start making it.
    • Pick something from the Kickstarter page, and consider any details of what you might create. Topic. Media. Method. Theme. etc.
    • Get feedback from your classmates - pitch one or two story ideas to the class in the #week-02 Slack channel.
    • Give feedback to your classmates - review the story ideas and offer suggestions, questions, and etc.

  2. Smile and complete the StoryThing, posted to Slack on Tuesday.

Author image

About Brad Hinson

Teller of stories; drinker of coffee; father of kids; tinkerer of tools; geek. I am an SEHD Assistant Dean, an LDT Instructor, and a ThinqStudio Director @ CU Denver.
  • Denver
You've successfully subscribed to INTE5340 - Summer
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to INTE5340 - Summer
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.