Well rounded characters not only have a distinctive speech pattern, but they also carry themselves certain ways and have specific mannerisms that make them unique. So what happens when, in your head, you run into a character that you know is special, yet, on paper, they seem as interesting as toast?
I recently ran across this problem in Keepers. Without giving much away, a new character is introduced that is unlike any characters we’ve seen thus far. When he started to come to life, he was child-like, but as the story developed, he became a warrior. The light was too light, the dark too dark, making his character unbelievable. On top of it all, his speech pattern is quite similar to another character, taking away any hope of originality.
And so, I’m having to rework him, molding him into an almost completely different being. The problem is, how to do it?
As always, when I get stuck, I go to my top shelf (which is chalked full of writing books :- ) After perusing for a moment or two, I ran across Gloria Kempton’s Dialogue.
This book tackles everything from “How to Write Narration into Dialogue” to “Using Dialogue to Set the Mood”, but the chapter that spoke to me was chapter 6–“In Their Own Words–Delivering the Characters and Their Motivations“.
The main focus of Kempton’s work in this area actually comes from another book entitled “The Enneagram Made Easy”, by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele.
Enneagram is a study of the nine basic types of people. Kempton contends that defining characters in this way is just as effective as making endless character charts and stressing out over who does what and why.
If you really want to delve into this subject, I strongly recommend the book, but here is Kempton’s brief overview of the nine types of people.
#1–The Reformer–Reformers are motivated by the need to live their lives the right way, including improving themselves and the world around them.
#2–The Giver–Givers are motivated by the need to be loved and valued and to express thier positive feelings toward others. Traditionally, society has encouraged #2 qualities in females more than in males.
#3–The Achiever–Achievers are motivated by the need to be productive, achieve success, and avoid failure.
#4 The Artist–Artists are motivated by the need to experience their feelings and to be understood, to search for the meaning of life and to avoid being ordinary.
#5–The Observer–Observers are motivated by the need to know and understand everything, to be self-sufficient, and to avoid looking foolish.
#6–The Questioner–Questioners are motivated by the need for security. Phobic questioners are outwardly fearful and seek approval. Counterphobic questioners confront their fears. Both of these aspect can appear in the same person.
#7–The Adventurer–Adventurers are motivated by the need to be happy and plan enjoyable activities, contribute to the world, and avoid suffering and pain.
#8–The Leader–Leaders are motivated by the need to be self-sufficient and strong and to avoid feeling weak or dependant.
#9–The Peacemaker–Peacemakers are motivated by the need to keep the peace, merge with others, and avoid conflict. Since they, especially, take on qualities of the other eight types, peacemakers have many variations in their personalities, from gentle and mild mannered to independent and forceful.
Of course, Kemper contends that the best time to consider which personality type to use when defining characters is before you begin writing. That is, if your story is plot driven or idea driven. If it’s character driven, the personality type might not emerge until after the character is on the page.
And so I’m coming at my problem child from a different perspective. Between this chapter and chapter 11 (The uhs, ands, and ers–some How-Tos of Dialogue Quirks), I think my character might just fall into line nicely :- )
I’d love to know your favorite character, and which type you think they are!