Right-o, so today I have for you a wonderful little blog chain/blog hoppity thing I created with my amazing NaNoWriMo cabin mates, Kate Jane @ Ravings of a Dead Poet and Dunelleth @ One Day More, featuring Elly @ Hufflepuff Thoughts! We’re talking about character-building, and each of us is offering some advice on part of the process. So today I apparently have been given the honor of teaching you the art of character personality.
Character personality has been a source of trouble for me and for my writing for years. Yes, I knew my character’s hair color, eye color, and their height… but these things do not a character make.
The most common advice I get for building a character is filling out a character chart… but WHERE IS THE PERSONALITY HERE?!
I for one, am a proponent of the fact that personality makes a character. Yes, Harry Potter has a lightning-shaped scar and is eleven to seventeen years old (depending where in the series you are)… but this doesn’t DEFINE HIM as a character. Would a character chart tell you that Harry values bravery above everything else? Would it tell you that he likes to take risks and play the hero? No, it wouldn’t.
Apparently, you’re supposed to know everything about your character: their clothing tastes, their response to every situation, and, most importantly, their favorite flavor of pie.
In my definition, these things (especially pie preferences) all make up a small part of personality (or in pie preference’s case, a big one). BUT UM, you say, YOU HAVEN’T ACTUALLY TOLD US ANYTHING ABOUT PERSONALITY YET?? LIKE I AM STILL CONFUZZLED? And right you would be.
One trick I like to use when trying to determine my character’s personalities is the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.
When you try to bond with your characters in your brain (or out loud, if that’s your preference), you tend to ask them questions you already know the answer to… which turns out to not be helpful to anyone, because you end up right back in the same place you started at. Instead, I like to try to use the Myers-Briggs Personality Tester to figure out their personality type. It forces you to confront situations you may not have thought about; but they are basic situations and preferences that you really do need to know the answer to.
I’ve been having a bit of blog block recently, so instead of charming you with my oh-so-eloquent words, we’re going to create a character together (personality-wise). Her name is Harper Connolly.
Harper Connolly is a ESFP.
She is EXTROVERTED (45%), SENSING (16%), FEELING (28%), and PERCEIVING (38%).
- She has a moderate preference of Extraversion over Introversion (45%)
- She has a slight preference of Sensing over Intuition (16%)
- She has a moderate preference of Feeling over Thinking (28%)
- She has a moderate preference of Perceiving over Judging (38%)
Harper is quite different from most of my other characters, mostly in the fact that she is an EXTROVERT. An introvert myself, I often prefer to write, well, other introverts to obtain the greatest possible level of accuracy. As a general rule, the farther a character’s personality type is from yours, the harder it is to write them. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but it’s GENERAL. According to the same test, I am an INFJ/INFP (it changes every time I take the test, but for now I am Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging)… so I share only one quality with Harper (we’re both Feeling). Harper’s personality type is known as The Performer (extraverted sensing with introverted feeling), whereas I am known as The Protector (introverted intuition with extraverted feeling).
Since we only share one quality, it will generally be harder for me to write Harper, but that’s okay. I can still build her personality.
To help put me in the mindset of an ESFP, I like to read the ESFP profile, especially the one on interpersonal relationships. While it’s superficial and generic, the ESFP profile helps me determine what kinds of people Harper might want to be around, how she views the world, and how she might react to certain situations. Of course, I’d never hold her to the ESFP profile; if she feels like she might want to become an actress instead of one of the suggested career routes, I’ll let her take it. If I’ve only got one character in my fictional universe, the ESFP profile can suggest people Harper might get along with or not get along with, making it easier to create background characters with personalities of their own. The profile tells me that the ESFP makes friends easily but will not go well with someone who has high intuitive or thinking profiles and will be closer to those with stronger feeling profiles. In terms of girlfriends/boyfriends, Harper will prefer ISTJs or ISFJs, as they share the same secondary “sensing” function as her.
And voilà! While Harper Connolly is certainly not yet close to being fully-fleshed out, I now have a base for her personality and lifestyle. She’s fun-loving, tends to eat and drink in excess, and likes change.
By figuring out her personality type, I have created a forum for myself, so that I can understand Harper’s generic preferences more easily.
When I’m stumped, I can now read up on the psychology of people like Harper and this will hopefully allow me to understand her more, however different I am from her.
And… that’s pretty much all I have to say. I mean, I’m an introvert! NAH, I’m just kidding! I love talking to you guys. ❤