I was talking with an author I'm mentoring and we were discussing characters and of course landed on Archetypes. Unlike stereotypes you don't start with a race or gender you start with a core character trait. Many don't take it much further than that but I'm a fan of taking a archetype and putting them in a situation you wouldn't normally find them and reacting in a different way than is usually portrayed in movies - usually more realistically. So I'm going to be looking at different Archetypes starting with the ingenue.
Usually a woman an ingenue is innocent and beautiful. Think of Amy Adam's character in Enchanted. This character isn't a bad character to have in a novel. The problem comes from having them too often so this character really does need a refresh from writers.
Here are ones that are done well:
Alice in Wonderland
Alice even though she is an innocent and is thrown around by the events in the book I like her character as you can play her up as the master of her own fate in that she is there because of her curiosity. The movies actually play this aspect up even more. She doesn't lose that aspect of herself. The innocent wonder of a magical world. I really think if you are thinking of a Watson character in your book that maybe having a ingenue like Alice is another option.
She doesn't blame people for her situation and in the end it is her curiosity that endears her to others.
I was thinking of this with my first book, Hero is a man, as I wanted someone curious but always sees the best in people.
Traci is an inspirational character but her view of the world is uncluttered with the dark aspects of life. She works as a character because she isn't blind to the racist and fat shaming instead she rises above it all.
The reason I love this character is that she is also has a love interest. This is a common trope that goes with an ingenue that she is beautiful and the object of someone's affection. Being plus sized myself this always tickled my fancy that her nature is what makes her desirable.
Traci also isn't the kind to stand around when things aren't right. She goes and solves the problems she perceives in her world and it is for this confidence that makes her attractive.
So an ingenue can also be confident though some call this Archetype the Maiden. There is nothing wrong with an innocent being comfortable in their skin.
Matilda herself and even Miss Honey embody the archetype of ingenue. Again curiosity is their super power like with Alice. Their friendship and bonding because they are both curious is the core strength they are able to draw on to overcome problems around them.
They are a contrast to the other archetypes in this book. So they could have been played as another archetype but I don't think it would have been as powerful if they had been more world wary and hardened by that world.
None of these characters see themselves as a victim. They don't think they have to change because of their circumstances. They are happy with their own personality and no matter who hurts them or tries to control them they will find a way to be the person they always wanted to be.
The problem comes in when an ingenue is paired with a damsel in distress and a born sexy yesterday trope. Or when a writer mistakes innocence with ignorance.