What is the Mentor?

A while ago, I watched Night at the Museum. As I watched the movie, I realized that Teddy Roosevelt is a pretty good example of the Mentor arch-type.So, I would like to use Teddy Roosevelt to help show you what the Mentor character is.

Mentor means an experienced and trusted adviser. And that is basically what the Mentor arch-type is. If you are unfamiliar with what an arch-type is, an arch-type is basically the category the characters in your novel fall into. There is the Protagonist, the Love Interest, the Ally, the Antagonist, and the Mentor.

So, what does the Mentor do?

The Mentor, in short, helps prepare the hero for his quest. He gives him advice and helps him get ready to defeat the antagonist.

The Mentor does not do everything for the hero.

Teddy is a good example of how the Mentor prepares, but is not a save-all for the hero. During Larry’s first shift, Teddy rescues Larry and explains everything to him. He then also agrees to help Larry that night only.

While Teddy frequently appears throughout the film later on, he basically only offers advice to Larry and doesn’t always help him out of the trouble he got himself into.

Next, the Mentor is not perfect. The Mentor is a character in and of themself. They need to be real, not some perfect, all-wise character.

Theodore Roosevelt in Night at the Museum offers Larry advice all throughout the film. And then later, he admits his failings to Larry. He is not a perfect mentor. In fact, failed mentors are often the more interesting mentor to read about.

However, the Mentor must point to the protagonist’s truth, what they are growing to through their character arc. The Mentor helps guide the protagonist through their character arc as well as through the adventure of the story. The Mentor acts as a moral standard of sorts.

Lately, the Mentor is not always with the hero. The mentor gets taken away at some point, whether that means the hero has to leave, the mentor gets killed, or something else. Losing the mentor often happens at the end of the second act, since it cripples the protagonist for a while.

In Night at the Museum, Teddy is available throughout most of the film. However, he gets taken away during the third act when he gets broken in half. He isn’t there to assist Larry during the climax.

Now, that fact brings up another thing. Mentors are not a deus ex machina. Deus ex machina means “god out of the machine” and comes from back during the Greek plays. In writing, it means an easy way out, something to come along and magically fix everything. Your mentor should not fix everything for the hero.

Also another note: your mentor does not have to be someone older than the hero. The mentor is just someone who helps guide the hero. Maybe your mentor is your hero’s little sister. Or maybe it is the old knight training the hero. The possibilities for a mentor are endless as long as they guide the hero.

Tell me, fellow writers, what is your mentor character like? Readers, who is your favorite mentor character?

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