Recently, I’ve really been struggling with finding my protagonist’s motivation and core need, two vital ingredients for likable, believable characters. I think that to find this, you must look at the character’s whole personality. Today, I tried a new approach for character development that worked very well: mind mapping. I use a free software called XMind. This created a picture of my protagonist’s complete personality: strengths, weaknesses, fears. To start, I put his name in the center. Then, I made a main topic for each of his personality traits. Then, I created subtopics off of the main topics. These are examples of the personality trait or how it affects their life.
Main topic: strong
Subtopics: he likes to exercise, he’s a good leader, he’s calm under pressure.
Click to see my protagonist’s mindmap
I learned two things today. First, find your character’s motivation and core need before you figure out the rest of their personality, and second, use a mind map and a character development worksheet. This forces you to think about your character in two different ways, it uses different parts of your brain.
As I’m finding inspiration pictures for each my characters I’m thinking it would be really great to be a skilled artist. Then, I could find an inspiration picture and redraw it, changing the parts I don’t like or that don’t fit the character. Or I could start from scratch, and draw them how I envision them in my head.
I’m so jealous of Burdge-Bug. She draws the cutest fan-art for her favorite books. If I could draw like her, I would include my drawn pictures of my characters in the back of my novel (even though it’s not published yet).
But, I’m far from an artist, so I guess I’ll have to be content with modeling my characters after actors and actresses or random people I find on Pinterest.
What are your favorite ways to find inspiration pictures for your characters?
I’m in the developing characters stage in my current work in progress. This time, I decided to only work on one character sketch at a time. I chose this because I’ve found that if I try to work on all of them at once, I flit from character to character, ending up with many half-way developed characters, instead of one solid character.
Every day for about a week now, I’ve worked on building my protagonist for about 1- 1 1/2 hours. Now, I only have three more questions to answer until I can move on to the love interest! I think this will save time in the long run and create better formed characters. Sometimes, I’d want to move on to another character, but I’d force myself to think about my protagonist instead. I find the enegram types and the four temperaments can help me create believable strengths and weaknesses in my characters, especially if my character is opposite from me, like my current choleric/sanguine hero. Sticking to only one character also helped me focus and discipline myself, two skills that are writers need.
What are your favorite ways to develop characters?
I find it very helpful to keep a writing binder for each of my story ideas. This keeps all my papers and notes from getting lost or wrinkled. I divide my three ring binder into different sections ex. characters, plot, setting, research with page dividers. I always have a regular lined notebook to write down random ideas or to brainstorm with my binder.
Here are the things that are in my ‘character’ tab:
- Each of my main and supporting character’s sketches.
- Each of my main and supporting character’s inspiration picture so I can envision them more clearly.
- K.M Weiland’s blog post on character archetypes.
- Any other helpful blog posts on creating or developing characters.
Tomorrow, I’ll show you what’s in my ‘plot’ tab!
I know these are a dime a dozen, but I made a printable character development worksheet for anyone who is interested. Enjoy!
Recently, I’ve been learning about the four temperaments. I’m reading a book called The Temperament God Gave You, by Art and Laraiane Bennett. The four temperaments are choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholy. Understanding each one’s strengths and weaknesses can help you understand yourself and others better.
The four temperaments are a very old method for figuring out personality. Hippocrates (460-377 B.C) may have been the first to discover them. His theory was that each temperament was created by an imbalance of fluid in the body, which is why they each have strange names.
Choleric: yellow bile from the liver
Phlegmatic: phlegm from the lungs
Sanguine: Blood from the heart
Melancholy: black bile from the kidneys
I’ve also found that knowing the four temperaments is also helpful for figuring out characters. It’s a very concise method, since there are basically four types (there are secondary temperaments too). This method is my second favorite for characters, next to the enneagram types. I’m melancholy, and in my current novel, my protagonist is a choleric.
Here is an overview of the four temperaments.
Choleric (The Achiever)
Generally, cholerics are people who get things done. They are extraverted, confident and decisive. They react the quickest out of all the temperaments. The choleric temperament is the opposite of the phlegmatic temperament.
A natural leader
Not easily discouraged
Prone to anger
Makes rash choices
Doesn’t like to listen to others, always wants to be in charge
Phlegmatic (The Diplomat)
Generally, phlegmatics are people who like peace and quiet. They are introverted, reserved and slow to anger. The phlegmatic temperament reacts the slowest out of all the four.
Settle arguments (as long as they are not directly involved in the conflict)
Not easily stressed
Easy to get along with
Plans, but never starts
Struggles with change
Hard to motivate themselves
Sanguine (The Enthusiast)
Generally, sanguines are partyers. They like having fun and are people-oriented. They are extraverted, excitable and spontaneous. The sanguine temperament is the opposite of the melancholy.
Life of the party
Inspires others to join in the activity
Wants to please
Doesn’t hold grudges
Makes things fun
Likes volunteer work
Wants to be popular and fit
Talks too much and interrupts others
Doesn’t see the long-term effects of their actions
Struggles to be alone
Melancholy (The Idealist)
Generally, melancholies are people who are serious and focused on the ideal. They are introverted, intelligent and empathic. Melancholies are the most introspective of all of the temperaments. Many writers were melancholy.
Likes serious discussions or debates
Sees long-term effects of their actions
Tends towards depression and anxiety
Hard to please
Critical of others
Not open and friendly
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Writer's Resources and tagged Author, character, choleric, four temperaments, meloncholy, Personality, Personality test, phlegmatic, sanguine, Strengths Weaknesses, temperaments, writer.
Flashbacks can be a valuable technique in writing, if placed strategically. I’ve found that books without them typically have less depth and are less interesting. The Divergent series is an example of this. These books don’t have flashbacks and I thought the characters were not very developed as they could have been. I’m currently reading a book that has many flashbacks and the characters are more human and I am able to understand their motives better.
- Helps your readers sympathize with your character more.
- A flashback can be gripping way to show some life-changing event in your character’s life.
- Can show readers what formed your character and why he believes what he does.
- Can help the reader understand the current conflict better.
When not to add a flashback:
- If the flashback doesn’t add anything interesting to the story.
- The event in the flashback wasn’t significant or life-changing.
- If the flashback doesn’t strengthen the current conflict.
Do you like using flashbacks in your writing?