Coming up with Ideas for Characters

How to come up with characters

When coming up with ideas for characters it can be useful to think about the psychology of the character based on tools such as Enneagrams personality types or Myers Briggs. These can give useful pointers to characters and the way they might behave in particular situations and what their flaws are, as follows.

What Character Type Are They (Enneagrams personality types – take the test yourself online):

Type One is the Perfectionist, the Improver, Reformer, Judges
  • These people have very high standards for themselves and for the world.
  • They know how things ought to be, and they do their best to make sure they (and the rest of the world) live up to it.
  • There’s never any question about what’s right and what’s wrong—no grey areas—and there’s never any question that they’ll constantly try to do and live for what’s right.
  • Their motto is “I work toward perfection in an imperfect world,” and their greatest desires are to avoid criticism and to be right.
  • Rarely overweight and driven by moral courage. their fatal flaw is Anger.
  • These are the perfectionists who get angry when they or anyone else doesn’t strive for perfection.
  • There can be growth as the hero realises (maybe with some help from the heroine, maybe on his own) that he has to let go of this anger and be more tolerant, more forgiving of the imperfection that’s in himself and in everyone else.
Type Two is the Nurturer, the Helper, the Giver, Care Takers
  • They love taking care of other people and feeling needed.
  • They’ll go out of their way to nurture everyone around them, always focusing on what others need more than on what they need.
  • In fact, they’ll frequently neglect their own needs and wind up feeling hurt because of perceived lack of gratitude, “With all I do for everyone else, what thanks do I get?”
  • They are constantly giving, giving, giving.
  • Their deadly sin is Pride
  • These are the nurturers who take pride in being indispensable to those people they care for.
  • They need to be shown this isn’t true.
Type Three is the Achiever, the Succeeder, the Performer, Status Seeker
  • They are very aware of the right image.
  • They’re always onstage, projecting whatever the situation requires.
  • Success, career and achievement are important to them
  • No matter what’s going on around them, they will look really, really good.
  • They go around believing (and this is their motto), “The world values a champion…I must avoid failure.”
  • There is internal conflict when this character is faced with the prospect of failure.
  • At their worst they will embody charm without substance.
  • At their best they embody excellence with a heart.
  • Their fatal flaw is Deception.
  • These are the performers who put on a front for the world and for themselves in order to look just right.
  • But they don’t need a perfect facade in front of everyone in the world.
Type Four is the Romantic, the Artist, the Individualist. Aesthetes
  • These are people who love drama and tragedy and falling in love.
  • They have BIG feelings.
  • They don’t like feeling ordinary because that’s too flat.
  • Nothing is ever quite grand enough, long enough.
  • They dream about the perfect love
  • They are the best at offering wholehearted sympathy when you’re feeling low.
  • They make good teachers, actors, counsellors, what Tom Condon called “translators of humanity.”
  • Their deadly sin is Envy.
  • These are the romantics who feel like everyone else in the world has a more rich and satisfying life.
  • They’ll have to let go of envy and appreciate that what they’ve got is pretty darned good—and this is hard for them
  • Their life is sometime about drama and tragedy and falling in love
  • But there is a conflict as they don’t want to give up all those big up-and-down sweeps, all the glory and pathos and angst and feeling.
  • But they don’t have to!
  • They can still have that larger-than-life, creative, artistic flair…as long as they let go of the self-pity
Type Five is the Observer, the Thinker, Expert, Investigator
  • They would rather be behind a book than out there involved in the world.
  • They like to keep back, keep to themselves, study like crazy but always from a distance.
  • They tend to “compartmentalise” their lives: work here, family there, one friend here, another group over there….
  • They’re proud of getting by with very little.
  • They’re very careful about guarding their time, privacy and personal space.
  • They are out there in this whole other dimension, and it’s mainly a world of the mind.
  • They need to overcome Avarice.
  • They are the observers who are greedy about their precious time and their own personal space.
  • To overcome their deadly sin, they will have to stop being greedy about their own private selves and learn to share.
Type Six is the Defender, the Trooper, Loyalist, the Hero/Rebel
  • These are the people who get the job done.
  • They’re very aware of any possible threat to their well-being or the people they love.
  • They’re either very aware of the rules and determined to always keep them
  • Or they always break the rules – this is the counter-phobic Six, the James Dean rebel type.
  • Either way, they are very loyal, steady
  • They are always on the lookout for danger
  • They are good to have on your side.
  • They are flashier
  • They are more steady
  • It they are a hero, they are more likely a beta rather than an alpha male and the heroine might think the hero didn’t love her because as a special present he gave her a set of tires for her car. But a wise observer pointed out that was PROOF he loved her – he wanted to keep her safe.
  • Their fatal flaw is Fear.
  • They are the defenders who are always aware of possible dangers and worrying about how to handle them.
  • They will have to let go of fear and realise you can’t always guarantee absolute security.
Type Seven is the Adventurer, the Enthusiast, Sensationalist
  • They want to keep having new experiences and try whatever there is.
  • They’re interested in everything and everybody, at least at first glance.
  • They love to plan things, e..g. trips, new activities – whether or not they actually carry out those plans.
  • They like to keep all their options open rather than settle for just one of anything.
  • They are charming but maybe not so good over the long haul, but they are wonderful to have dinner with.
  • When they aren’t all mentally healthy and together, it’s usually because they’ve deliberately avoided being alone with themselves.
  • When they let themselves examine their feelings, they become more realistic, more generous; and they’re almost always cheerful, curious and open to new experiences.
  • Either way, they’re fascinating to be with—fun, intriguing, delightful people.
  • Their deadly sin is Gluttony
  • These are the adventurers who want every possible new experience, one right after another.
  • They are someone who’ll have to learn that permanent freedom isn’t so great; commitment has its own rewards.
  • They are the life of the party, ready to go anywhere anytime
  • So if they are in a situation where they have to slow down and move beyond the good-time surface, and really come face to face, heart to heart, with another person, they’re gonna resist that with everything they’ve got. They will stay out later, party harder, run away to some other distraction – and yet suddenly, this freedom isn’t so attractive unless the loved one is part of their life.
  • Only when they make the commitment to love will they realise that this is what they’ve been missing and what they’ve been searching for all along.
Type Eight is the Controller, the Aggressor, the Chief, the Boss, Maverick, Challenger
  • This person is a self-confident, natural leader.
  • They’re used to taking charge, getting things done and making sure everyone gets a fair shake.
  • They go after what they want, always keeping an eye out for the people they care about.
  • They’re strong individuals who take it upon themselves to defend the weak.
  • They have a Wild West sheriff mentality.
  • Their fatal flaw is Lust.
  • These are the leaders who lust for power, to be in control, to run the show and get things done their way.
  • This person has to step back and share control and let go of that lust for power.
  • They will have spent their whole life running the show, making things happen, getting things done their way, and all of a sudden somebody’s expecting them to give up control.
  • Most types wouldn’t have much problem sharing control with someone they love, but they didn’t get to where they are by compromising on anything. So they resist. And maybe the lover walks away.
  • They then try everything they can to win back this person—they want to give the lover everything, but they want to do it their way.
  • Only after they give up this lust for being in control will they realise that here’s the key to a kind of success they’ve never known before.
Type Nine is the Peacemaker, the Mediator, Preservationist
  • They want everyone to get along and everything to be nice.
  • They don’t like conflict.
  • They don’t like having to pick sides – even picking chocolate or vanilla.
  • They tend to go along with the flow, whatever that might be.
  • Instead of exploring their own preferences, they kick back with TV or food or whatever’s comfortable.
  • There’s usually some subdued anger, but it’s completely denied.
  • They are excellent at ignoring their own feelings.
  • They’re the ones who’ll be sitting back, letting everybody else flap around them.
  • They are a Sloths who are peacemakers who want to just sit back with everything nice and comfortable.
  • They’ve spent a lifetime taking things easy, not getting worked up one way or another, refusing to take action, refusing to get involved on either side of anything.
  • Ultimately if they’re faced with having to come down on one side or another…they’re gonna have to declare themselves: this is what I want, this is what I believe, this is who I am, take it or leave it,
  • They are going to be reluctant to give up the comfort of neutrality and make some kind of a stand.
What Sub-type Are They?:

The Self-Preservation subtype person is concerned with basic survival issues – the body or the spirit or both. If they were stranded on a desert island with plenty of survival gear, they’d be fine by themselves.

The intimacy subtype person is concerned with one-on-one relationships. Not just their lover, but every individual friendship. They want to spend time alone with everyone they care about, just the two of them, talking as intimately as they can: “What’s going on? How are you feeling? Here’s what’s new with me.” If they were on that desert island, they’d want one other person with them. Just one…who’d be just as involved with the relationship as they are.

Finally, the Social subtype person is concerned with the community as a whole. They’re not so much interested in what’s going on within themselves, or what’s going on within a particular person, as they are with what’s going on in the whole group. That group might be their church, their co-workers, but whatever it is, these people love being part of the group. They want their entire gang on that desert island, and they want to do their part for the whole group…for the whole social structure.

Also think about their family situation and how this influences how they behave:

Do they have siblings and if so what is their birth order?

– The only child – confident; conscientious; responsible; perfectionist; centre of attention; mature for their age; seeks approval; sensitive; leader.
– First born with siblings – Perfectionist; achiever; leader; bossy; responsible; motivated; conscientious; controlling; cautious; reliable.
– Middle born – Adaptable; independent; go-between; people pleaser; can be rebellious; feels left out; peacemaker; sociable.
– Last born – social; charming; outgoing; uncomplicated; manipulative; seeks attention; self-centred; fun.