Characterisation via the Zodiac

March 16, 2019

I don't believe in astrology - but I do believe in its use in creating characters for your stories. I once used this idea as an English & Drama teacher, to give students a way in to defining a character and it always worked well. As a writer I now use the idea myself. So here's a zodiac of archetypes - potential characters that I hope you find helpful as you search for the major and minor protagonists and antagonists in your story. I've suggested some ways they might work too.


ARIES. Keywords: Passionate, independent, fiery, competitive, non-conformist, forthright.


The ram connection is accurate. This person doesn't hold back, they run at things head-first and expect to break through whatever is in the way. They rush headlong into danger to achieve their goals and likewise conflict with others. They act first, think later (if at all). They are easy to provoke to anger, especially when frustrated. They are loyal - so long as others accept them for what they are OR if those people help them to achieve their goals. There's a danger other folk are deemed irrelevant, wimpy and weak.

If you want a character who'll stir up trouble - this is the one for you!

In your narrative: they are ideal main protagonists because of their impulsive action, readiness for conflict and fiery ferocity.


TAURUS. Keywords: Honest, trustworthy, determined, pleasure-seeking, inflexible.


Think bull and you think stubborn, don't you? And you're not far wrong here. But it's more about determination tinged with an ability to be adaptable. They will change their minds but they need a LOT of persuasion! This consistent approach to issues makes them trustworthy if they're on your side though, honest too. 

They also possess an internal narrative that is about seeking satisfaction - whether it be sexual or goal-driven. These are people that like a good massage or a drink in the pub with their mates. On any quest, they will want to stay in the tavern longer, have a decent bed to sleep in and not react well if a different route is suggested to the one that was planned.

In your narrative: they will loyalty will support the leader but they'll be a thorn in their side, causing trouble out of their stubborn selfishness.


GEMINI. Keywords: Chameleon-like, great communicators, quick-witted, romantic, energetic.


They are two different people, prone to swift mood changes that can make them difficult to understand. Yet they are good at reading others, they operate on an instinctive level where people are concerned. This can lead them to judge people unfairly too quickly, form irrational judgements and then pass them on to others - they're gossips. They are also funny, witty, acid-tongued. Snarky. 

In your narrative: there are several options - the psychic, intuitive heart who provokes our sympathy OR the traitorous, devious type we hate because of their snarky deceit OR the chameleon whose true identity provides a twist at the end.


CANCER: Keywords: Psychic/Intuitive, prickly, loyal, creative, caring, emotional.


You're never in any doubt what's going on in the head of this character. They show it readily, there's no holding back either so whatever the emotion, you get it - full-throttle. But they are good at reading others too. This character may be an artist of some kind, creative and clever - a bard perhaps? However, their emotional outbursts make them a liability, a young Cancerian is an explosive device that offers ways to generate danger for the protagonists.

In your narrative: their creativity and heart-on-their-sleeve approach makes them handy as artists, prima donnas. Secondary characters with a grudge perhaps?


LEO. Keywords: Leader, charismatic, confident, self-orientated, highly social.


Bold and courageous, these are folk who see themselves as natural leaders, there's no false modesty here. They may fight injustice but it will be done their way! Are they arrogant? Yeah, probably. But they get results and will let everyone know that too. But they are friendly, social, warm. Prone to grand gestures. They can be impulsive so these gestures might not always work, but their hearts were in the right place!

In your narrative: a Leo can be a major protagonist - the knight, the adventurer leading a quest. But their arrogance and bold actions can turn them into deluded antagonists as well. Villains who may have a heart but who are misguided.


VIRGO. Keywords: Practical-minded, passionate, organised, perfectionists, curious


Seeking perfection is a way in which they feel they retain control of events and that is important here. They will search for improvements, work hard at it, letting go is a real challenge for them. They are highly intelligent, quick-witted and also value responsibility. They don't tolerate people who aren't like this though, they strive to improve others (even if they might not want to improve!) They are fashionable. Their social life is about enjoying the company of close friends.

In your narrative: they make great detectives, able to solve mysteries with their natural curiosity but their intolerances make them cantankerous. They are intriguing eccentrics and experts who are needed to solve mysteries.


LIBRA. Keywords: Compassionate, harmonious, pragmatic, altruistic

Like the scales that symbolises this category, these people need balance and will search for it. They see both sides of an argument (which can annoy some!) so they may not engage in it, rather try to find solutions and compromise. They can be highly imaginative. They are like mirrors, reflecting how others are so they can get along with them, we may not always see who they truly are.

In your narrative: they may best be used as authority figures who seek resolution to conflict, or in a group the peace-maker (perhaps as a result of prior tragic loss that drives this need). Their willingness to compromise might be cowardice too!


SCORPIO: Keywords: Intimidating, independent, controversial, brusque


These people can be scary! They thrive on debate and want to win the argument no matter what the cost. They have strong views on most things and won't be distracted from them. Like the scorpion they have a sting in their tail but this is a hard shell, underneath they can be kind, loyal and sensitive - but they will hide this from most people. It get covered up by a direct, no-nonsense style and they will tell you (to your face) why you've annoyed them. But their empathy is amazing!

In your narrative: these may be secondary characters like tribal leaders who are fearsome at first but later prove to be useful. Or in a team where they expect everyone to comply and get angry when individuals don't cooperate.


SAGITTARIUS. Keywords: Independent, strong-willed, self-belief, adventurer

They are natural leaders, they readily implement their plans and do so with total belief that they are right. They'll tell you too, without beating about the bush! They can offend people easily for that reason. They love adventure, the road less travelled is where you'll find them, because no one else has been there!

But, they also make a major antagonist because this bold, individual path might not be the right one but their strong will won't listen to criticism or reason. They can become real ego maniacs who believe what they're doing is for the best.In your narrative: this character will lead a quest, they will have been chosen by some powerful figure to go somewhere dangerous to find a valuable item. And they will go because they know (deep down) they're the one who can do it.


CAPRICORN. Keywords: stubborn, rule-followers, loves order, traditional


In any society these people maintain the status quo. They thrive on maintaining law and order because without it, they know chaos ensues - and they hate that! They believe in traditional virtues, the past has proven answers for them. They are a tenacious type but will prefer to do things their way, they will have a narrow focus on what needs doing. This can prove exasperating for others.

In your narrative: they are likely to be an antagonist who will irk the protagonist because they thwart everything they do (Aries and Leo folk will hate them!). This narrow, traditional view can make them a villain whose stubbornness against the prevailing knowledge causes unnecessary hardship and tragedy.


AQUARIUS. Keywords: problem solver, imaginative, uncompromising, intuitive

These are people who appear in two forms; the shy retiring type who is thoughtful or the energetic type who are creative. They use both sides of their character to solve problems, often being attuned to situations that others overlook. They can be seen as aloof and temperamental but this is down to them distancing themselves so they can find solutions. 

In your narrative: this two-sidedness makes for an interesting, eccentric character who is enigmatic. A protagonist who brings specific expertise which may be mysterious, unpredictable. Because they're aloof, we can't be certain whose side they're on even. The Aquarius character makes for an excellent unreliable narrator!


PISCES. Keywords: easy-going, affectionate, gentle, empathetic, spiritual


As a people person, they are ready to help others but can get hurt in the process. Their intuitive nature makes them creative and artistic, even spiritual. They may find peace in quiet places and value such experiences. They may search for answers in this way too. Their gentle nature makes them vulnerable and easily victimised. They can be an obvious target for a bully.
In your narrative: They make for ideal characters whose spirituality or "other-wordliness" is important. They may be druids or shamans or possess certain "powers" that give them useful insight. We may sympathise with them for this reason and care about their safety. Useful secondary protagonists.


Zodiac qualities aren't intended to be accurate representations of people, so if your star sign doesn't define you, that's not surprising. These are archetypes after all. Building on these basic 'character skeletons' - with their motivations, backgrounds and relationships can turn them into people who prove useful in populating your story. Good luck!

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