• Jeff Thomakos

The Archetype of Thinking

Last time, we talked about how to recognize whether the character you are playing falls primarily within one of the three psychological forces, Thinking, Feeling, or Willing. This week, we’re going to deep dive into the Thinking force to try to identify the archetypal Thinking Character.

I think it’s important to consider the archetype of Thinking for a few reasons. First, we are identifying the primary psychological force of the character and using it as a spine upon which we build a nuanced and truthful interpretation. Think of this in the same way as an artist pencils out a basic shape at the beginning of a portrait. It is a rough guide to the work of art you are trying to create, the end product containing the essence of that shape while consisting of subtle detail and refinement. The more clearly you are able to understand an archetype, the more it will spark your imagination and inspire your characterization.

Now, we are imagining a Thinking Character that is largely unconnected from a Feeling or Willing Force. Not that they don’t have emotions, but these characters are so under the influence of their Thinking Force that they rarely come out and if they are able to peak through, they would have to be very strong in order to do so. Willing or Doing is also not a primary force in these character’s lives. They may be successful or unsuccessful, but it is largely due to their wits and value of their mind that they succeed or fail.

Let’s try to group together some thinking characters a to see what makes them similar. These characters do not necessarily have high IQ’s, but they should share similar traits which we will be able to use to form a complete picture. So, let’s look at these three archetypal thinking characters to begin with:

Spock from Star Trek

Temperence “Bones” Brennan from Bones

Lillith from Cheers

The first thing we notice is that all of these characters’ centers are all located within the head. We can notice this right away as it seems to be leading the rest of their body through the space physically. At many points, their head is the only thing that moves, the rest of their bodies becoming mostly static or disconnected. This makes sense as we already know that Thinking Characters are Head Centered as a general rule. Some other places that an archetypal thinker may also be extra aware of or simply use more are the joints and shoulders.

Second, listen to the general tone of these five archetypal Thinker’s voices.

Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory

Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller

Patrick from Spongebob

All of these characters voices have a monotone quality to them. This is fairly consistent across the archetype. Sheldon Cooper talks in a monotone and seems quite intelligent. Wheras Patrick is also a Thinking Character but the polarity of high intelligence (in other words still thinking but no intelligence) still uses monotone to in his archetype.

Also, Thinking characters tend to hit plosive consonants with more force and clarity than non-thinking characters. “F”, “T”, “P”, “K”, and “B” are particularly clear when a Thinking Character speaks. Also, “V” while not a plosive, tends to be accentuated in Thinking Characters more so than in other types.

Next let’s look at how Thinking Characters generally carry themselves.

Sherlock Holmes

Data from Star Trek

Severus Snape

You may notice that Thinking Characters tend to be quite linear both in the way they carry themselves and the general directionality that they move in. So, when considering the Thinking Character archetype, it is important to think of them as generally erect in their posture and fairly rigid in their gestures and movement. Imagine them also moving in straight lines with their head leading any change of direction they may make.

Thinking Characters archetypally have a quality of Flying about them. The thoughts flying out of their head. A feeling of lightness and buoyancy as if their feet barely touch the ground. Their thoughts flying out of them, often uncontrollably or insensitively.

Again, Thinking Characters need not be particularly successful. Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, while a successful Theoretical Physicist at CalTech has little desire to move out of his apartment and for most of the run, has little interest in forming meaningful emotional relationships. Patrick Starr, is an example of a very unintelligent Thinking Character, but exhibits many of the traits of Thinking. His head makes up the vast majority of his body, he talks in a monotone, over-emphasizes his plosives, is quite stiff, and though he lives under a rock, he has no feet to ground him so he sort of flits about.

Let’s look at how actor, Hugh Laurie, portrays a non-thinking character versus a thinking one. In Black Adder 3, Laurie plays Prince George. Laurie’s Prince George is hilariously dense and superficial. He seems to me to be a Willing character. Laurie leads from the groin, hands, or feet at any given time. The prince is obsessed with food and sex and the trappings of power and nobility. It’s a wonderful comic performance.

Now, let’s look at his Gregory House from House MD. Suddenly, his character speaks in a monotone, hits his consonants with more crispness, leads from the head and is much more rigid than his Prince character. He may not have been aware of what he was doing, but he was drawing from the Archetype of Thinking in order to create a well-developed character. And that is how archetypes work. We don’t necessarily need to be aware of them in order to draw on them and use them. They live in the world of objective imagination and are therefore accessed by everyone whether they know it or not. But by understanding, identifying, and classifying archetypes we can consciously use them in our work to instantly create a foundation on which we build the rest of our character.

Laurie was nominated for an Emmy for House and won two Golden Globes and two Screen Actors Guilds awards for it as well. No one can accuse Laurie of creating a one-dimensional character here or a character without depth and imagination. Gregory House is definitely NOT Hugh Laurie. He’s not simply playing himself on screen. He created a character in a show that ran successfully for 8 seasons. But the foundation of this character still lies well within the archetype of thinking that we have been talking about.

And that’s how we should be using the Archetype of thinking, as a foundation towards an end in itself. You should not be a slave to it. Your job is to find the exceptions to the rule. And in each and every one of the Archetypes we talked about today, there are many exceptions either generally or in individual moments where the exceptions stand out and the character becomes surprising and unique in and of itself.

Finally, let’s look at some examples, I haven’t mentioned yet:

Jeff Goldblum


Jeremy Irons

Fox Mulder

Milton from Office Space

Are you starting to see how they are connected? Monotone, consonants, posture, flying movement or way of talking, linear, and rigid. All the same generally, but very different specifically.

I hope you found this helpful. If you did, please share this with your friends and colleagues. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask in the comments. I love to answer them if and when I can.

Until next time, I’ll see you guys later.

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