Character Stress and Motivation

I have some time to myself today for the first time in quite awhile. I also am taking time to relax for the first time in quite awhile. It’s the perfect writing weather for me: cool and misty. So I have a cup of tea, and my 00’s rock music is playing.

I’m not in the right mindset for writing, but I wanted to do something creative, so I decided to play with my characters. One of my friends has been studying personality theory for years (and has a background in psychology and brain stuff–I don’t, hence my professional terminology 🙂 ). So we’ve been looking at characters through the lens of different personality theories.

Note: I’m not a psychology person, and I think personality theories can sometimes be harmful, such as when people put themselves and others in boxes or think they understand others better than they do. But they can be useful tools. For this post, I’m going to talk about them in reference solely to characters.

I’ve found the Enneagram to be the most useful personality tool for characters, of the ones I’ve tried, because it has lots of variation as well as levels of health. Levels of health are important for characters! I could never figure out what Myers-Briggs types my villains were because nothing said what unhealthy types looked like. The Ennegram does.

Today, I was looking at one of the characters I hadn’t delved into yet. I had tentatively typed him as an Enneagram One with all of his by-the-book, follow-the-rules, I’m-better-than-everyone perfectionism. But as I read about Ones, I realized that those are more stress reactions for him. I thought about his growth as a character, where he starts from, and where he winds up. I turned to the Enneagram Three, and it fits him perfectly.

His perfectionism has more to do with his desire to be valuable than a desire to do good. Even though it doesn’t really change anything about the character, knowing this helps me understand him at a deeper level. I can articulate his motivation better now and put a finger on why he reacts the way he does.

It may not seem like a big deal, but I’m super excited. 🙂


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About Me

I have always loved writing stories, but I was surprised as an adult to learn I love teaching as well. I hold a B.A. in Digital Writing and an M.F.A in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Fantasy has always been my first love in literature. Superheroes and science fiction also hold a special place in my heart. My favorite audience is middle grade readers, but I enjoy young adult fiction as well.


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