Of all the timeless character archetypes in literature, the “lover” archetype is one of our most intriguing. After all, what’s not to adore about a character who believes in love, not war, and is guided by their heart?
But what first comes to mind when you think of this particular archetype isn’t necessarily the whole story. These characters can be more complex and multifaceted than you might think. We’ll guide you through everything you need to know about these iconic characters in storytelling.
What is the lover archetype?
The lover archetype is a type of character in a story who’s driven by their need for human connection. These characters are outwardly positive and value traits like compassion, understanding, and beauty over conflict or ambition. While many lover archetypes pursue romantic love or sensual pleasure, their love can also focus on family, friends, or a guiding purpose like religion.
When we think of lovers in literature, we probably think of romance—tragically passionate affairs, feuding families, decade-long wars waged over a stolen queen. Typical first love stuff.
But to truly understand the lover character archetype, we need to think about love in a broader sense: close loved ones, community, even humanity as a whole. All the lover really wants in a story is for everyone to just get along.
This focus on peace, love, and connection gives the lover archetype some unique strengths in a story—and some unique weaknesses. We’ll take a closer look at these below.
Character traits of lover archetypes
Here are some of the characteristics that distinguish the lover archetype in a story.
1. They have a positive outlook
When surrounded by other characters, the lover archetype stands out because they’re usually pretty optimistic. They prefer to see good in the world and in those around them. The lover has healthy self-esteem, and they can be counted on to maintain a cheery outlook even in times of anxiety or crisis.
While any character archetype can fall in love, or care for a friend or family member, not all of them will slot into the lover archetype role. If your romantic lead is a grumpy glump with a chip on their shoulder, they’re probably not a true lover archetype—just another type of character who happens to be in love.
2. They believe in tolerance and compassion
The lover’s personal manifesto is “Make love, not war.” They believe that everyone should be accepting of each other’s flaws and do their best to reach a mutual understanding, rather than reaching for pistols at dawn.
A lover will usually be the first to offer a helping hand or a warm shoulder to cry on, and they forgive easily—after all, life is too short to carry animosity around wherever you go. This makes them popular, but easy to take advantage of.
3. They value human connection
The lover archetype passionately seeks connection with others—whether that’s through physical intimacy and sex, chasing true love, spending quality time with family, or even forging new connections with strangers they meet along their journey.
A lover character is happiest when they’re opening their heart to others and experiencing that same openness in return.
4. They appreciate beauty
Lovers live hedonically, which means they live in the moment and value the wonder and sensory pleasures of everyday life.
These character archetypes love fine architecture and craftsmanship as well as the beauty of the natural world. Good food, enticing smells, and aesthetic experiences are all part of the way a lover archetype experiences the sensuality of the world around them.
5. They fear being left alone
Because a lover thrives on human connection, they don’t handle isolation very well.
Some lover characters might suffer from mental health issues that become more challenging when they’re alone, and so they feel the need to be surrounded by people at all times. Others might simply have grown up with large, supportive families or communities; when this is taken away from them, they don’t know how to function on their own.
6. They shy away from fighting
In genre fiction such as fantasy and science fiction, you can often tell a lover archetype because they’re the ones who have no interest or inclination towards epic battles. They’d rather curl up in their hobbit hole with a cozy blanket and a cup of tea at the ready than don armor and fight for the greater good.
Sometimes, these characters are portrayed as cowardly because they don’t like violence; other times, they’re portrayed as the sole voice of reason.
7. They can be gullible
Because lovers always want to see the best in people, they can be easily misled—sometimes intentionally by others, and sometimes simply by their own idea of what the world should be. This is especially true when they have to face difficult truths about people they love.
The lover character archetype wants to believe that the world is basically a good and honest place, even when they’re continually faced with evidence to the contrary.
Lover archetype examples from literature
To see how this character type compares to other archetypes in literature, let’s look at a few lover archetype examples from beloved stories.
Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Jane, the eldest Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice, is a sweetheart and everybody’s darling. She’s a romantic at heart and falls for heartthrob boy-next-door Mr. Bingley—and she does it out of love, rather than impending poverty, like so many other women in their social circle.
Even when Jane’s sisters and mother are horrid, Jane is caring and supportive. She’s a perfect example of a classic lover archetype who finds a happy ending.
Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling
Even though Luna doesn’t focus on any romantic relationships over the course of the Harry Potter series, she displays lover archetype attributes in the way she cares for those around her and sees the world through (sometimes literally) rose-tinted glasses.
Even when her classmates are rotten to her, she maintains a sunny disposition and acknowledges the good in others.
Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
In the novel and film, Buttercup is a young woman who eventually gets engaged to a prince (she doesn’t actually become a princess at any point, but it’s right there in the title).
Her journey is a ride of intense emotions—from the great passion she initially feels for her farm boy, to the hollow grief of his loss, to the joy of their reunion. Their relationship is the driving force of her entire life, and she gives herself over to it completely, putting true love above all else.
Bring that emotional lover energy into your writing
The lover archetype is an idealist, and they see the world through a lens of affection, aestheticism, desire, and hope—all traits that tend to make us feel happier and more fulfilled. The lover represents who we could be if we opened our hearts and believed in those around us. Turn to this archetype next time you want to incorporate a little hope, optimism, and positivity into your story.