Using Personality Types to Create Characters in Your Written Stories - dummies

Using Personality Types to Create Characters in Your Written Stories

By Maggie Hamand

Employers, psychologists and others today use personality tests to assess a person’s aptitude for tasks and to help resolve personal problems and conflicts. These tests can help creative writers find and develop their characters.

The idea of personality types goes right back in time. The ancient Greeks, for example, thought that four humours give people four distinct temperaments: black bile (melancholic, analytical); yellow bile (choleric, ambitious); phlegm (phlegmatic, relaxed); and blood (sanguine, sociable). They knew that people tend to fall into distinct, recognisable personality types. No doubt you’re familiar with the absent-minded academic, the theatrical drama queen, the arrogant businessman.

Here are the most common personality tests in use today:

  • The Enneagram: This contains nine personality types:

    1. The reformer

    2. The helper

    3. The achiever

    4. The individualist

    5. The investigator

    6. The loyalist

    7. The enthusiast

    8. The challenger

    9. The peacemaker

    In practice, everyone shares the characteristics of the two adjacent types (or wings) – sometimes one of which is dominant. Sometimes one wing is more dominant than the others, and so an 8 with a strong 9 seems quite different from an 8 with a strong 7.

  • Myers-Briggs: This is based on Carl Jung’s approach to personality. It divides people into 16 basic personality types based on four preferences, according to whether you

    • Prefer to be alone with your thoughts, or to interact with others and the outside world

    • Prefer to deal with facts and things you can see and touch, or to look into the unknown

    • Prefer to think through problems or feel your way

    • Prefer life to be planned and organised, or to go with the flow and respond to things as they arise

    By combining these four preferences in different ways you get the different personality types, one of which is usually dominant and its opposite repressed.

  • DISC (dominance, inducement, submission and compliance): This behaviour-assessment tool is based on a theory of psychologist William Marston about these four different personality traits. They show how people perceive themselves in relation to the external environment: whether they’re in control of it or not, and whether they perceive it as favourable or not.

In your fiction writing, always challenge characters by placing them in uncomfortable situations to see how they react. Use personality type theory to work out the most challenging scenario for your characters – and predict how they may react.

All people also contain the opposite of the aspects of their personality that they show, and these tend to rise to the fore when a character is under pressure. So the normally calm person may explode with extreme fury when something goes wrong, while the highly strung and angry person may

Find some free personality type tests using these systems by searching for them on the Internet. Fill in the questionnaires you find as one of your characters and see how the person turns out!