Expressing and Testing the Psychological Continuity of Characters: Intro

Character Development

Characters drive our stories. They’re the reason we pick a book up and continue to turn the pages. But what makes characters relatable? What makes them so real to us that when we close the book, we think of them as long lost friends, wondering where they are and what they’ve been up to?

A well-written character has the power to make us cry, to make us laugh. We feel anger when they get hurt, we cheer them on in their accomplishments, and sometimes we even hold our breath as we hope they’re not successful in their evil endeavors. They bring about visceral reactions that make them as real to us as the person sitting across the table in a coffee shop.

So how are powerful characters created?

We first need to figure out who they are at their core. We need to know where they came from, what their family life was like, their geographic location. We need to know about their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, their economic status, physical description, limitations. This is where the character interview can help. And while every detail of the interview won’t end up in the book, knowing these details will help determine their personality type.

Identifying their personality type is important because it informs us as to what drives them at their core and what they’re willing to do to meet their physical, emotional, and psychological needs. One tool that can be used to test a character’s personality type and ensure psychological continuity throughout the story is the Enneagram.

The Enneagram system is a tool that can be used to uncover how characters interpret their world and determine how they may react in any given situation. This is important information for a writer to have as their story develops because a character that is not psychologically consistent will not be relatable or believable. Readers will pick up on inconsistencies in personalities, even if they can’t specifically identify what the problem is.

Join me next week as I explore a case study of Jordan from Providence, showing how a character’s personality is created and tested for psychological continuity.

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