Personality

Rounded Characters

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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.

Example:

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

Nathaniel Kapaun mindmap image

 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. 

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The Four Temperaments

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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.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Practical

Rational

Driven

Courageous

A natural leader

Independent

Quick thinker

Passionate

Not easily discouraged

Doesn’t complain

 

 

 

Bossy

Not compassionate

Proud

Impatient

Prone to anger

Makes rash choices

Reckless

Demanding

Doesn’t like to listen to others, always wants to be in charge

Can’t relax

 

 

 

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.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Team players

Encourage others

Settle arguments (as long as they are not directly involved in the conflict)

Patient

Not easily stressed

Meek

Easy to get along with

Good planners

Even-tempered

 

 

Plans, but never starts

Unenthusiastic

Overly-tolerant

Hates conflict

Indecisive

Procrastinates

Struggles with change

Holds grudges

Messy

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.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Life of the party

Motivates others

Inspires others to join in the activity

Optimistic

Generous

Wants to please

Energetic

Doesn’t hold grudges

Makes things fun

Likes volunteer work

 

Wants to be popular and fit

Talks too much and interrupts others

Disorganized

Doesn’t see the long-term effects of their actions

Impulsive

Irresponsible

Weak-willed

Naïve

Lacks follow-through

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.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Deep thinker

Likes serious discussions or debates

Loyal friends

Perfectionist

Analytical

Very disciplined

Organized

Appreciates beauty

Idealistic

Sees long-term effects of their actions

 

 

Tends towards depression and anxiety

Indecisive

Dramatic

Pessimistic

Skeptical

Dislikes change

Hard to please

Critical of others

Not open and friendly

Holds grudges

 

 

To learn more about the four temperaments, click here.   To take a personality test, click here.

Pre-outlining

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I’ve been working on my book steadily for the last few weeks.  I’m doing something called pre-outlining, now. Pre-outlining is the step before outlining your story for real.  You build your characters, choose your setting, and find symbolism and your story’s theme.

In K.M Wieland’s book, Outlining your Novel, she suggests taking an enneagram personality test for your protagonist and a few of the other significant characters.

enneagram with words

At first, I thought this was very excessive. I was thinking, “Come on, they’re not even real people!”  But, because her advice is always good, I decided to trust her and take the personality test for my protagonist.  And I’m so happy that I did it!

These are the benefits that I’ve found from taking the personality test for my characters:

  • It helps clarify your character’s complete personality and how they would act or react  in different situations.
  • Shows their biggest flaw and how it affects them and the people that they love.
  • Helps clarify for the author how to make a well-rounded and realistic character.

If I hadn’t taken this test for my characters I would have missed out on all the insight that I gained from it.  I  am learning that it is always good to follow the advice from your writing teacher or how-to write book, even when it seems dumb or unnecessary.