If you’ve ever spent any time in the corporate setting, you’ve probably been asked to participate in a personality typing system. Over the years, I’ve done Myers-Briggs a couple of times (I’m an introvert-intuition-thinking-judging type), the True Colors system (I’m a green introvert–the big-picture type, with a secondary anal-retentive gold); and, most recently, the StrengthsQuest system (I’m an strategic-ideator-achiever).
But until a few days ago, I’d never seen the Enneagram system, or thought about how a typing system might help me flesh out my characters. But I think the Enneagram is going to be a great tool for me–especially with my pesky heroines. (And explain to me, if you can, why I have NO problem developing fully-formed heroes but my heroines always give me fits? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?)
Basically, Enneagrams are based on the idea that all of us fall into one of nine base personality types. By knowing our (or our characters’) general type and subtype, we can better predict how they will react to a given situation, or what will give them the most conflict.
How does this help us with fictional characters?
First, if our character (my heroine, for example) is not clearly in one of the nine personality types, I probably need to do some more work on her. Second, by knowing that my hero is a Type 1, for example, I know what my heroine needs to do to push his buttons and also how he is likely to react. I can tell what his biggest issues are to overcome.
In a nutshell, the types are:
1) The Reformer. My WIP hero is a reformer. He’s a perfectionist. He wants to make things better. He takes the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s very hard on himself, and can be hard on others. When he fails, he beats himself up about it.
2) The Helper. This character wants to help and thinks by doing so he’ll be loved and accepted. She needs to be needed. She can also lay on the guilt if she’s not appreciated.
3) The Achiever. Just what you’d expect–this type wants to win, to succeed. He’s very focused on image and what people think of him.
4) The Individualist. A nonconformist who works at her nonconformity and likes the attention it gets her. Drawn to beauty and self-exploration.
5) The Investigator. A private person who likes to think, observe, try to make sense out of life.
6) The Loyalist. Questions everything, and is a worrier. Doesn’t like surprises. Likes to plan things in advance. Prefers the truth, even if it hurts, rather than false optimism. Can be either an introvert, fearful of things, or put on a facade of aggression to cover fear and worry. My WIP heroine is an aggressive 6.
7) The Enthusiast. The positive thinker, ready for risk and adventure without a lot of planning They like to be around people who are happy and spontaneous.
8) The Challenger. Likes to be in charge, and wants to control themselves and others. Can’t stand ambivalence. Likes action and directness.
9) The Peacemaker. Likes to avoid conflict. They appear easygoing but are mostly seeking out comfort, consistency. They don’t take to change well.
Of course, these are nutshell versions. Entire books have been written on the Enneagram character types–in fact, I just bought one 🙂
Have you ever used a typing system to help form your characters? Do you spot some of your characters in these descriptions? (You can find out a lot online by doing a search for enneagrams.) And me? I’m a 6. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure. Probably a little of both.
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