On Sunday, Jilly talked about the class we’re taking, Inside Out: Crafting Your Character’s Emotional Conflict, with award-winning author Linnea Sinclair.*
One of the things that makes me such a slow writer is because it generally takes me 100 or more painfully typed pages to know my characters well enough to understand what they’ll do in any given situation. Up to that point (and sometimes, as with my current WIP, even longer) I head off in wrong directions and follow blind alleys and generally wander in the wilderness while I get to know them.
It’s not an efficient process.
Now Ms. Sinclair has given me a tool to (I really hope) shortcut that painful process–the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram). According to the Integrative 9 website, the Enneagram is an archetypal framework that offers in-depth insight to individuals, groups and collectives. Put more simply, it’s a psychological test that categorizes people into 9 different groups based on personality/character factors.
The nine groups are:
- Strict perfectionist
- Considerate helper
- Competitive Achiever
- Intense Creative
- Quiet Specialist
- Loyal Skeptic
- Enthusiastic Visionary
- Active Controller
- Adaptive Peacemaker
If you’re interested to know where you’d fall, you can take the test here. You can share your results in the comments, if you’d like.
What Ms. Sinclair had us do was to take the test as if we were our main character. My protagonist, Megan, is a best-selling author, so after reading through the Enneagram type descriptions, I decided she was probably a 4 (“I must be unique/different to survive.”). But when I took the test, she came out as an 8 (“I must be strong and in control to survive.”) with strong hints of 1 (“I must be orderly/planned to survive.”)
Um, I’m pretty sure that’s not Megan. I’m pretty sure that’s me.
After numerous retakes, Megan slowly turned into a 3 (“I must be impressive and attractive to survive.”) with shades of 8 (because, underneath, all my characters are me. Sigh.) and 1 and then 4.
Why bother going through this over and over? Because I want my characters to be consistent. And by knowing what answers on that test add up to what characterizations, I’m in a much better position to make them act consistently.
I plan to take the test as each of the major characters in the book. Here is where I think they’ll come out:
- James, Megan’s lawyer and ex-boyfriend is a 3 (Competitive Achiever) with some 6 (Loyal skeptic–security focused) mixed in.
- Lilith, the she-demon who signed Megan to the contract with Satan is a combo of 3, (Competitive Achiever) and 7 (Enthusiastic Visionary, known for being adventurous).
- Samael, Lilith’s ex-husband and the head of Hell’s legal department, is also a 3 (Competitive Achiever) blended with 8 (Active Controller).
- Karriel, aka Karrie, Megan’s guardian angel is a combination 9 (Adaptive Peacemaker) and 2 (Considerate Helper). You don’t get much more angelic than that.
- Gibeon, aka Gib, James’s guardian angel, is also a 2 (Considerate Helper), but his is mixed with 1 (Strict Perfectionist). He’ll help you–but only after he judges you worthy.
For the two main characters, I will weave in backstory to explain why they are the way they are.
I’m pretty psyched about my new tools.
How do you build your characterizations?
*If you’d like to take a class with Ms. Sinclair, my RWA chapter, COFW, is offering Pitches, Blurbs and Taglines, Oh My! in June. For more info or to sign up, go to http://www.cofwevents.org/classes