Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Using Personality Tests to develop characters

Raise your hand if you've ever taken a personality test.

Oh, good, we found the one thing everyone has in common.

There are many different personality tests out there; explaining our different quirks and tendencies is rather a popular thing. Most tests claim that knowing your individual type is key for anticipating how you will deal with stress, how you might best achieve success, or even what path to take to happiness.

I've certainly taken a few myself; I suppose it's due to my narcissistic streak: I like knowing things about myself.

Narcissism aside, though, a lot of people advocate using personality tests to help writers learn more about their characters. I've never done so myself, because I couldn't really see the point. So what if my character is an INFJ or an ESTJ?

As I was reading Crafting Unforgettable Characters, by K. M. Weiland, I stumbled (with my brain, not my feet) on the word enneagram. Weiland mentions it in passing as she describes techniques for fleshing out characters. But I'd never heard of it before, and she included a handy link, so I checked it out.

The link did not take me to the official enneagram website (you can find it here), but instead to a page on Laurie Campbell's website that covered creating fatal flaws in characters. She explained the enneagram types, and then went on even further to explain how knowing their types could create conflict between characters. It was absolutely fascinating. I always think of using personality tests to learn about positive traits, but this opened my eyes even further--knowing the flaws inherent in personality types helps generate conflict, which is crucial to a story.

Maybe this is all obvious to you guys, but it was revolutionary to me. I will definitely use it in the future when I work out character details.

What are your favorite character personality tools?

3 comments:

  1. I was just about to look into this today! Thanks for the links! :)

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  2. This was fascinating! I had never thought about this, I spent so much time digging through the websites you linked to. Even without actually taking a personality test I can see how just understanding personalities can help a ton with character development. Thanks!!

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