EGWG WRITING CLASS – 2
What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character? Henry James
Developing a Character
Without characters, you have no action, and without action, you have no characters. It’s impossible to separate the two. A compelling character is the foundation of a successful novel. You might have an amazing story with adventure, action, and thrilling twists and turns, but if the reader doesn’t click with the main character (MC) they won’t finish the book and might leave a bad review.
As I mentioned in the last class, characters don’t magically appear—ready to go. You must create and craft them especially for their task in the story. After you’ve filled out the Character Development form, you’ll have the basis for building a three-dimensional character.
Make your main characters interesting. Help them drive the story forward. Create characters that the reader will care about and won’t forget. In other words, make them human.
The types of characters are:
- Protagonist; the good guy
- Antagonist or Villain; the bad guy
- Secondary or Confidante
The protagonist is the main character. He pushes the story toward the end.
What does he look like? What makes him tick? To get his spirit and personality right, you need to know his background and the culture he grew up in and how he’ll react in different situations. He must be interesting, complex, realistic with flaws, and not perfect. This is where the Character Development Form from the first class becomes useful.
The story reveals the character through his actions and reactions. As the main character, he’s highly motivated to reach his goal. The point of a story is to watch a protagonist struggling to reach that goal, and it must be urgent. The stakes must be high, think life or death—his or that of a loved one. Use emotional inner conflict on how to reach his goal.
The story will be stronger if you not only know who your character is, but what type of hero he is.
Types of Heroes—Main Characters
- This hero is willing and committed to the adventure. He believes he will be successful, and he always forges ahead. He is self-motivated. Think Tarzan, King Arthur, and Luke Skywalker.
- He’s full of doubts, hesitant, and passive. This hero needs motivation. Something or someone needs to push him into the adventure. His attitude changes at some point in the story, and he becomes committed to the venture. Think Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, Spiderman, and Hans Solo.
- Anti-Heroes. This is a specialized hero. He may be an outlaw or a rebel according to society. The reader will usually sympathize with his struggle. He might win when fighting a corrupt society, or he might not. Think Billy the Kid, and the pirate Jack Sparrow.
- He is the flawed hero; He’ll never overcome and fails because of his inner demons. The tragic hero may be charming, but his flaws will win. Think Darth Vader and Brutus.
- Group-Oriented. The group is part of society at the beginning, but their journey takes them to an unknown land far from home. Once separated from their group, they have lone adventures in the wilderness until reunited with the group. Think Nemo and Simba.
- The story begins with the loner living away from society in his natural habitat, the wilderness, and in his natural state of solitude. The journey is one of reentry into an adventure within a group and when the adventure is over, he returns to his solitude. Think Indiana Jones and the Incredible Hulk, or the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child.
- The catalyst is one central figure who acts heroically but doesn’t change much throughout the story. His main function is to cause change in others. Think the teacher from the Dead Poets, and any mentor figure in other stories.
An antagonist can be a typical villain or someone who is not a villain who is keeping the protagonist from reaching his goal. He has his own reasons. This character must be well-rounded. He’ll be strong, but will have moments of weakness, and he’ll experience passion and desire. He’ll value strength and has his own habits and quirks.
The antagonist is also a complex character. Is he smart and/or clever? He should have the same complexity as the protagonist and needs to be three-dimensional.
The villain needs a goal and the motivation to meet that goal, no matter what it takes. Add a noble element to his makeup. Perhaps he feels he is doing good, saving someone, some place, or some thing and to do that, he must thwart the protagonist.
Some characteristics of a villain could be intelligence, psychologically astute, single-minded, good looking and popular, a trauma survivor, a liar and suspicious. He may be self-centered and ambitious, and he feels superior to everyone else. On his good side, and yes, he’ll have a good side, he may love children or animals.
An antagonist must be worthy of the title and be a serious opponent to the protagonist.
Listed below are the main 10 types of villains, their characteristics, and what they fear.
- Evil Overlord. He has power, and he wants more. He’s intelligent, fast acting, and ruthless. He’s great at long-term planning and sees the “big picture”. His fear is of losing control, and he is paranoid.
- Schemer. This villain can be anybody and is often a minor bad guy. The schemer has a long-term goal, is ambitious, and is usually a pawn in someone else’s game. He’s afraid he won’t measure up, and that he’ll fail.
- Obsessed Scientist. He is out to prove his brilliance to the world. This villain is intelligent, analytic, creative, and determined. To his mind, no one takes him seriously, and he’ll do whatever it takes to reach his goal and show them how brilliant and correct his ideas are. Somewhere along the way, he loses his moral compass and becomes sadistic. His failures are: He has excessive pride, and he can be manipulated.
- Smothering Mother. She dominates whatever group she’s a part of. She’s loyal and expects loyalty from others. She needs to control those around her. Her fear is that her “subjects” will turn against her. This could be a controlling Father, as well.
- The Fanatic. This one has deeply held beliefs, probably of a religious nature. His beliefs are genuine and therefore dangerous to unbelievers. He doesn’t fear pain or death and has a martyr complex, and he may do good deeds—for show. The fanatic has a strong sense of honor. His downfall will be his narrow-mindedness. He’s over-focused and can be manipulated.
- Seductress. She’s a rival for his love or a spy. She’s charming and self-serving, and she has no clear-cut goal except a need for security and a need to bolster her self-esteem. She wants what she wants, no matter who gets hurt. The seductress fears for her security, and that the person she’s after will reject her. This character can also be a male.
- Sadist. Think of the serial killer or torturer who derives pleasure from inflicting pain. His IQ is high. He usually has a specific type of target, and he might be a sociopath. This is someone who lives a double life and acts like a good man to the world, but he’s filled with evil inside. His background may include abuse as a child. His fear is being found out, although he thinks he’s too smart for others to catch him.
- Confident Trickster. He can read people, is adaptable, confident, persuasive, and inspiring. This is the con artist; he detests violence and is greedy. His fear is poverty, his downfall is arrogance and over-confidence.
- Social Reject. He’s an outsider, unlikable, an outlaw, nerd, or misfit. His backstory might be sympathy with bullies or continuous rejections. He resents people but desires love and acceptance. He is street smart, intuitive, and can be charismatic. His fear is emotion, feeling too deeply, and his judgment is clouded by his hatred and resentment.
- Bully. He picks on the vulnerable. He may Cyber-troll for victims on forums or other social media groups. He gets a short-term power boost from bullying others. He uses opportunity, not long-range planning. The bully is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. His fear is of being bullied himself. He is probably a coward at heart, and he may come from an abusive home.
It’s okay to mix the villain types but only use two for your antagonist. People will recognize villain types, but if you mix in too many, your villain’s characteristics will be confusing. Remember, he or she needs to be a rounded character and three-dimensional. I used numbers 8 and 9 for a villain in a recent book. For my current book, I’m using 2 and 7.
An antagonist should have a presence throughout the book. Show his scenes, his plans, his search as he draws closer to his goal or to thwarting the protagonist’s goal.
The antagonist must be worthy of the title and be a serious foe of the main character.
This character is the main protagonist or antagonist’s sidekick, best friend, or confidante. It’s someone who’s trusted. A secondary character is a round character and is useful to let the reader learn more about the MC’s thoughts and personality. They can act as a foil, asking leading questions and making comments the main character will answer, revealing part of the MC.
Secondaries support the main characters and help drive the story forward. Almost all stories need a secondary character’s existence. Scenes rarely revolve around them, but they can add a second plotline.
The Dynamic Character
A dynamic character will experience an important inner change in either personality or attitude—think Ebenezer Scrooge, Hamlet, Sherlock Holmes, or Harry Potter, and how they changed as the story continued. Those changes make the character dynamic whether he’s a good guy or a bad one.
Some event might make someone who’s keeping the main character from achieving his goal, become someone who sees the light and helps the MC. Perhaps the character changes his beliefs, or he discovers aspects of his personality he didn’t know were there. Dynamic characters are often implied rather than said outright. The character might not say, “I’ve realized the truth,” but his change will become clear through his subtle actions.
A flat character stays the same throughout the book and is two-dimensional. He doesn’t grow or change—think of a villain’s henchman, a police officer, a desk clerk, or any mundane person needed for a certain scene in the story. Flat characters are incidental to the story, but not important.
Foils are secondary characters whose traits are in contrast with the MC’s. Foils highlight certain qualities of the MC or another character. The foil’s contrasting personality gives the writer a chance to reveal parts of the MC’s personality or attitude without telling or writing it out. The word ‘foil’ comes from the practice of backing gems with foil to bring out their shine, and that’s what this type of character does.
Round characters are the major players in any story. The protagonist, secondary, foil, and antagonist are round characters. They are more developed and described than flat or stock characters. The writer’s aim is to make round characters three-dimensional real people. The reader should be able to relate to them, and the protagonist may mirror the reader’s own hopes and dreams. While the antagonist may have baser characteristics that the reader will recognize as worthy of a villain.
A stock character is a stereotypical person. They’ve appeared in a multitude of movies, in fiction, and in real life. They are flat characters and are clichés. Examples of stock characters are the arrogant cheerleader, the dumb jock, the gruff grandpa, the bratty younger sibling, the sleazy apartment manager, or a high school bully. The reader will recognize and accept these characters.
The Psychology of Character Arcs
Psychologists have determined there are eight major psychological components in people. These components define who they are. The following list will be useful in deciding how your characters arc will develop. That is, how they are in the beginning and how they’ve changed at the end of the story.
The examples given can be reversed, as in a whiner becoming a tough character or the rebel becomes a team player.
- The character goes from a tough guy to a whiner.
- Life Skills. At first, he’s a team player and changes into a rebel.
- He’s an achiever who becomes a dreamer.
- He’s smart, but becomes a dummy.
- A butterfly turns into a wallflower.
- Work Ethic. Dedicated to the job, but becomes lazy.
- Good turns into bad.
- A believer becomes a doubter.
Character and World Names
What you name your character is up to you. If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi and you have names using z, x, q, or letters in unusual combinations, you will create trouble for the reader and for the success of your book.
Names that aren’t in the reader’s neurological framework, names that must be sounded out each time they appear, are hard to decipher and harder yet to remember. Don’t make the names unpronounceable, unless you’re writing for people on the island of Malta. While living in Malta, I became convinced the Maltese language used all the seldom used letters leftover from other languages, they could handle those sorts of names while others in the world can’t. Here’s a list of a few towns in Malta: Marsaxlokk, Naxxar, Mqabba, and Siggiewi. Good luck at sounding them out.
Keep it simple. Major points and people in your story need unpretentious names or names that can become shortened as in nicknames. In the book Dune, they called their most treasured item spice. Spice is a common word and easy to remember, it’s—simple. Then there is Darth Vader, who called his military might The Force. Again, easy to remember.
Use real-world terms. Make the names understandable.
How to Construct Three-dimensional, Rounded Characters.
Again, this is where the information on the Character Development sheet comes in handy. This is where you build your character’s personality and emotions.
The world sees the outside layer of the character. That layer includes surface traits, personality quirks, and habits. Avoid giving any of your characters cliché quirks and tics. Whatever your MC’s peculiarities are, don’t overdo them. It gets annoying.
The purpose of quirks and habits is to identify, define, reveal, and create the character. Habit or quirks, what’s the difference?
A habit is an acquired behavior pattern followed until it becomes an almost involuntary daily routine. Examples of habits are looking both ways before crossing a street, finishing other people’s sentences, and making sure the doors are locked at night. Your morning and evening routines and other actions routinely taken are habits.
Verbal tics can be a habit. One of my grandsons ends his sentences with, “You know what I mean?” I gave that habit to a character in one of my books. In my last book, one man, a junky and an alcoholic, started his sentences with “Yeah man.”
Again, don’t overdo it. I once read a book where one character said like just as some real people use it. Each review the book received commented on the overuse of that word. Several, me included, said they didn’t finish the book because of that overuse.
A quirk is a weakness, strength, or attribute distinct to the character. It’s a peculiarity of action, behavior, or personality. Strive to let each character have their own quirks and habits, unique characteristics, flaws, sense of humor, or lack of same.
Here are a few quirks.
Extremely tall or short
Tattoos or piercings
Survival skill pro
Ultra-neat or a slob
Dominant or submissive
Great or not so great cook
The following are quirks that, through overuse, have become cliché.
Unnatural hair color meant to be natural.
A character who considers themselves ugly when they are attractive.
Don’t overuse habits and quirks. Use two or three, four at the most. A character stuttering all the time is tedious to read; perhaps he stutters only when tired or upset. Work the habits and quirks into the story as you build your character or wait for a particular scene and surprise the reader.
HINT: Watch family, friends, or strangers and see how they act. What are their mannerisms? Create a list to use later. Some examples: I served on the jury in a trial a few years back, and the defense attorney spent most of her time pushing her long hair away from her face and over her left shoulder. Then there was my former brother-in-law, who jingled his keys in his pants pocket whenever he wasn’t the focal point of attention. Both examples quickly grew old.
This covers what’s inside the character and what his backstory is. What major event happened when he was 7 or 16 that still affects his reactions to certain stimuli? What inner conflict or unfulfilled dreams does he have? What does he fear? What are his weaknesses, resentments, and inclinations that underlie the face he shows the world? When a reader understands why the MC acts and reacts the way he does, you’ve created empathy, and that’s a good thing.
Remember, drip feed second dimension information to the reader throughout the story when the scene calls for it. Again, no info-dumps allowed. Another example: I didn’t explain that my main character had a fear of spiders until a spider showed up. He reacted, and then I explained his phobia. It came from something that happened when he was 7.
This is his deep-down private self, where his beliefs and his ethical substance that lead to his actions and behavior exist. A character isn’t defined by the first and second dimension, but by the decisions he makes when facing moral or dangerous situations. His choices decide who he is. The first and second dimensions don’t dictate the third, but the third dimension creates a complex character who, like an onion, has layers covering his core being.
The character development sheet should hold much of what you need. Look over what you’ve written. Does it have what your character requires, or do you need to add new information?
Readers want to see a character rise above the conflict or fail. Create the best character you can, and that will help you write a compelling story that readers won’t want to put down.
6 Tips for creating 3-D characters
- Let them surprise you. A shy person talks to a stranger, a businessman gets tongue-tied when facing clients, are unexpected reactions. Don’t limit your characters. Let them act out of character and then focus in on why it happened. Was it from loyalty, fear, anger, inner strength, or something else?
- Let them search for a purpose. Everyone is searching for a higher purpose in their lives. When a hard decision comes, let your character take a different path because it brings him closer to his goal or purpose. A sense of destiny could make the story interesting.
- Let their inner-feelings get physical. Does he dress differently when he feels great? Instead of telling through inner dialogue, show the new clothes, the bitten fingernails, the stutter if anxious. Let the reader decipher the emotions he’s feeling.
- Use conflicting emotions. If he goes to the gym every day and watches what he eats, tempt him with a cookie jar or a doughnut shop. Perhaps the character is conflicted by arguments against his strongest belief. They’ll be a stronger character after facing a little personal conflict.
- Use real-life emotions. Project emotions you have felt onto your characters. Grief, happiness, loss, joy, let your character enjoy or suffer through those emotions.
- Use dialogue to create deceit or power dynamics. How often does what comes out of your mouth differ from what you’re thinking? Let the reader see his thoughts and how they’re different from what he says. Is he being honest or manipulating the situation?
Character arcs map the changes in a character’s personality during his journey from a place of comfort to rapid change and back again. The character arc deals with internal and personal transformation. Inside the arc, the characters will find their strengths or weaknesses tested.
By the end of the novel, the MC will be a changed person. The changes might not be gigantic or even noticeable, but they will have affected his life and the understanding of who he is.
That impact can be positive, negative, or flat and can change those around him.
The Positive Change Arc
A positive arc is when external obstacles and internal flaws are overcome. The premise of all the arcs is the lie versus the truth. The character arcs depend on 3 points.
- The goal. Every character needs a goal regardless of what that is. Their journey toward their goal will be slowed down by…
- The Lie is a firmly held misconception about themselves and the world around them that keeps the character from reaching his full potential. To reach their goal, they need to acknowledge and overcome the lie by facing and accepting…
- The Truth. The character may have a plan, but the positive change arc has its own goal—the character’s self-improvement. They do this by rejecting The Lie and embracing The Truth.
In any story with a happy ending, the protagonist had a goal. He accepted someone’s lie and eventually recognized the truth. Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit is such a character. Bilbo just wanted to stay home, but he was persuaded to go on the adventure. By the middle of the story, Bilbo became stronger and more assured through being tested by the events he survived. In the end, he was a hero.
In the positive arc, the character changes for the better. The opposite of that good arc is the…
Negative Change Character Arc
Circumstances affect characters just as they do real people. Sometimes we struggle and so should the characters. The negative arc is a downward spiral. When written right, this moves the reader’s emotions. The character may not be changed for the worse in this kind of arc—sometimes it’s the world that becomes negative.
- The Goal will become driven by…
- The Lie, which gives him the belief that reaching his goal will bring a positive outcome. He either willingly or unknowingly grabs onto the lie, which drags him further from…
- The Truth. It doesn’t matter if bad intentions created the goal. The truth he needs to see is that his goal was self-destructive.
An example of a negative change character arc is The Great Gatsby. Nick Carraway has a misconception of the world of the rich, and he believes rich people are who they say they are. Nick’s goal is acceptance into high society’s world. On his journey, he learns who the rich are behind the façade they show the world.
The Flat Character Arc
Doubt is the key to this arc. The main character doesn’t grow or change. He ignores the lie and uses the truth to overcome the external tests that come as he makes his way to his…
- Goal. On his journey to his goal, he meets people who tell him…
- The Lie. These people create doubts in the main character’s mind. His main doubts are: Is what I believe really the truth? Is the truth worth fighting for? Even though he has doubts, he always reaffirms his belief in…
- The Truth. His belief in the truth must be strong enough to inspire the people he meets along the way. They are the ones who must reject the lie and accept the MC’s truth. The premise is still the lie versus the truth.
The main character still has flaws, and that makes him well-rounded. His grasp of the truth, and him living it, convince the people around him to change.
A flat arc character is in The Gladiator, where the warrior becomes a slave and ends up in the arena. He holds to the same truth from beginning to the end, and he changes those around him. Other movies featuring flat arc characters are Wonder Woman, Superman, and Back to the Future.
Whether positive, negative, or flat, every character arc will follow the 3 elements. The arcs can take innumerable forms depending on the story and the situations.
When planning your character’s arc, always look for the lie they trust, the truth they may or may not believe at the beginning, and the goal that drives them.
There is the character arc and the story arc. They need each other. The character arc is who your character is and how he changes during the story. The story arc tells what happens to your character to create that change and how they become stronger or how they fail.
Some authors say you must know the story’s ending before you begin. Other authors say the characters will often change the ending, so why bother? They are both correct—but—you should have some idea of your story’s destination. If you don’t know where your story is going, how can you know what changes your main character needs to make to grow (his character arc) to meet that ending? Yes, characters will often convince you to alter your plans or take the story in another direction. It is easier to adjust your ending when you have plans to alter. The character still needs to grow.
Answer these three character arc questions:
- Who is your character when the story begins?
- Who is he at the end?
- What creates the changes in his personality or to his beliefs?
16 Briggs Myer Personality Types
E – Extrovert
I – Introvert
S – Sensing
N – Intuition
T – Thinking
F – Feeling
J – Judging
P – Perception
The above letters signify or describe the personality types determined by the successful Briggs Myers test. Based on the works of Carl Jung, this test is online and is free. (Just enter Briggs and it should pop up.)
The following is a list of the good and bad sides of 16 main types. This list will be useful for fleshing out any character to make them three-dimensional.
If you have a character that needs to be an introvert, a leader, or wants to help others, for example, look for those characteristics listed below, and you’ll find other aspects of their personality that would help them become rounded and real characters.
In the first item listed below, the ISTJ would be a combination of Introvert-Sensing-Thinking- and Judging.
- ISTJ – The Inspector. At first glance, ISTJs are intimidating, serious, formal, and proper. They are traditional and have old-school values of patience, hard work, honor, social or cultural responsibility, and are reserved, quiet, and upright. This is a personality type that is often misunderstood.
Destructive ISTJ. They want to rule the world by their principles. Usually, they have been raised in a corrupt family or societal system, and they accept unethical values without question. They squash any dissenters or rebels instantly. There is only one right way to do things, and that’s their way.
- INFJ – The Counselor. A visionary who has imagination and brilliant ideas. They look at the world in a different and more profound way. They never take anything at surface value but look deeper for the substance before accepting that the way a thing looks is how it is. People may find them amusing because they differ from the norm.
Destructive INFJ. Manipulative, scheming, and self-righteous, they seek to fulfill their vision of the future and will go to any lengths. To them “the end justifies the means”. They value their own opinions above the thoughts of others, and they consider people as tools to be used. They are passive aggressive in their relationships, and don’t want to face the guilt of their wrongdoings.
- INTJ – The Mastermind. They are introverted, quiet, reserved, and most comfortable being alone. They are self-sufficient and would rather work alone than in a group. Socializing drains an introvert’s energy, and they need time alone to recharge. INTJs are interested in ideas and theories. When observing the world, they will always have questions and wonder why things work the way they do. They excel in making plans and developing strategies. They don’t like uncertainty or sudden changes.
Destructive INTJ. They are cold, arrogant, and controlling. They are contemptuous and condescending to anyone who doesn’t value their vision or sense of logic. They may enjoy putting people down with sarcasm. They stubbornly hold to their views of the future and aren’t open to other’s viewpoints. Anyone who holds a different view will suffer from their agitation and vindictive actions. INTJs may seclude themselves because they are disappointed with their fellow man. If not that, they will try to micro-manage the people in their own lives.
- ENFJ – The Giver. This is a person focused on individuals. They are extroverts, idealistic, charismatic, outspoken, and highly principled. ENFJs know how to connect with others., relying on intuition and feelings. They tend to live in their imaginations rather than in the real world. Instead of the here and now, they’ll concentrate on abstract ideas and what could happen in the future.
Destructive ENFJ. They are dramatic, overbearing, and manipulative. Their way is the best way, and if people don’t agree, ENFJs will passive-aggressively bully them. They respect rank and authority and will look down on people who they believe are less sophisticated than they are. They can keep a secret, will pick on the underdog, and kiss up to anyone who can further their plans for the future. They are two-faced.
- ISTP – The Craftsman. These are mysterious people, rational, and logical, and yet are spontaneous and enthusiastic. Their personality traits are not as easily recognizable as those of others. Even people who know them can’t always predict their reactions in different situations. Deep down, ISTPs are spontaneous, unpredictable individuals who hide their personalities from others.
Destructive ISTP. These are cold, self-destructive, and indulgent. They can be ruthlessly logical and will pursue their pleasure at the expense of anyone who gets in their way. They ignore their moral compass and have no regard for others. ISTPs keep to themselves and seek people who can help them get ahead or enjoy sensational thrills, whether or not those thrills hurt anyone. They can become selfish, easily angered, and are the perfect mercenaries, using their fighting skills for wealth or sensory experience.
- ESFJ – The Provider. These people are the stereotypical extroverts, social butterflies with a need to interact with others. They make people happy and are usually popular. They are the cheerleaders, and sports heroes in high school and college, and they continue to seek the spotlight in their adult life. ESFJs will organize events for their family, friends, and communities.
Destructive ESFJ. They are manipulative, controlling and a gossiper. They adopt the views of those around them and will bully anyone outside their value system. They’ll spread rumors if it helps them gain approval for authority. They are the teacher’s pet. If they don’t get the praise they need, they will throw a pity party. They may be passive-aggressive, two-faced, and dishonest. ESFJ will become easily angered when someone else takes the attention away from them.
- INFP – The Idealist. Introverted, quiet, reserved, and they don’t like talking about themselves. They’ll spend time alone in quiet places where they can make sense of the world around them. They love analyzing signs and symbols, considering them to be metaphors of the deeper meanings in life. INFPs get lost in their imaginations and daydreams and sink into their thoughts, fantasies, and ideas.
Destructive INFP. These are self-absorbed, self-righteous, and float between being passive or judgmental. They enjoy their fantasy and don’t care for reality. They abandon those who care for them to live in their own world. INFPs think they are morally superior to others and are idealistic to the extent that they think everyone in the real world is flawed. INFPs may flee the world mentally and silently judge everyone they see. They may become harsh and condemning over time, and they will shun anyone who tries to reach them.
- ESFP – The Performer. ESFPs are entertainers, born to be in front of a crowd, center-stage. They are thoughtful explorers who love learning and love to share what they learn with others. They are people-people, lively and fun, enjoying the spotlight. ESFPs are warm and generous, friendly, and sympathetic, and they care about people’s well-being.
Destructive ESFP. ESFPs seek attention and sensation, no matter the cost. They are impulsive, vain, and self-absorbed, and dislike anyone who might upstage them, becoming passive-aggressive. Their personal emotions rule their lives, and logical arguments or constructive criticism are shunned. They jump from one exciting thrill to another without concern for the people they affect along the way.
- ENFP – The Champion. Extroverted, feeling, intuitive and perceiving describe their personalities. They are highly individualistic and strive toward creating their own methods, looks, habits, actions, and ideas. They don’t like cookie-cutter people and hate being forced into any type of labeled box. ENFPs operate from their feelings most of the time and are perceptive and thoughtful.
Destructive ENFP. Again, these are manipulative, self-absorbed, and disloyal. The world revolves around them, their interests, and ideas. They only care for other people for how much they can get out of them and jump from one idea or relationship to another, ignoring plans made or any relationships. They will be deceitful and immoral in search of inspiration and stimulation. They are so sure of their ideas that they will lash out at anyone who disagrees with them. They may ignore their body’s needs for health and nutrition, becoming self-destructive.
- ESTP – The Doer. Governed by their need for social interactions, feelings, and emotions, ESTPs are logical processors and reasoners. They have a great need for freedom. Theory and abstracts won’t hold the ESTPs’ interest for long. They dive into things without looking, fixing their mistakes as they go rather than taking time to prepare for emergencies.
Destructive ESTP. This evil ESTP seeks thrills, opportunities, and pleasure at the expense of all who get in their way. They are excellent manipulators who will swindle, cheat, or lie to get what they want with no concern for their victims. Life is for living to the fullest and exploiting others no matter the damage they leave behind. ESTPs get a thrill out of positive and negative attention and may enjoy bullying or annoying people for the rush it gives him. They can be reckless and impulsive.
- ESTJ – The Supervisor. These people are organized, honest, dedicated. They are dignified, traditional and are great believers in doing the right thing and will gladly take their place as leaders of the pack. ESTJs are good citizens and are always happy when people look to them for guidance, counsel, and help.
Destructive ESTJ. These are the dictators and are aggressive and controlling. There is one way and it is their way. Period. They disregard the feelings or values of others but follow their rigid rules why marching on to reach their goals. There is no viewpoint except theirs and they make snap decisions. They scoff at emotions of others and trust no one as they allow themselves the have temper tantrums and emotional overreactions.
- ENTJ – The Commander. They focus on the external aspects of everything and deal with life logically and rationally. They are natural-born leaders and want to take charge. ENTJs live in a world of possibilities and often see challenges and obstacles as opportunities to push themselves. They consider options and ideas and make decisions quickly. These take-charge people don’t like to sit still.
Destructive ENTJ. They are dominating, aggressive, and quick-tempered. They have a clear vision for the future and will force people to follow that vision. ENTJs have fiery tempers and can be bullies, using their quick wit and cold logic as a weapon to belittle and silence their opponents. Although they consider themselves to be above emotions, they will become temperamental and self-pitying if their plans are thwarted. Domination is the game and they are power hungry as they become more and more unhealthy.
- INTP – The Thinker. They are the most logically minded people on this list. They love patterns, have a keen sense for picking out discrepancies, and have an ability to read people. It’s a bad idea to lie to an INTP. These people aren’t interested in the practical day-to-day activities or maintenance. When they find an environment where their creative genius and potential can shine, there is no limit on the energy and time they’ll spend in developing an insightful and unbiased solution.
Destructive INTP. Evil INTPs are haughty, careless, and so absorbed in their own world that they ignore the people in their care. They believe the people in general are unenlightened, and they float along in their own world, shunning everyone else. Moral codes are ignored because everything is cause and effect and experimentation. They may play with people to see what will happen. They don’t care what everyone else does with their lives as long as they are left alone.
- ISFJ – The Nurturer. They are philanthropists, always ready to give back with generosity. The causes they believe in will be supported with all their enthusiasm. ISFJs are kind-hearted, they value harmony and cooperation. They are sensitive to other people’s feelings. People value ISFJs for their consideration and awareness, and their ability to bring out the best in others.
Destructive ISFJ. Everyone must conform to the traditions and values they’ve accepted. They’ll seem friendly at first, but they are manipulative and passive-aggressive. If a person interrupts their routine, they are shut out of the ISFJ’s life. If that isn’t possible, they will ruin the person to get rid of them. They’ll be good when praised, but hateful when not praised. They are hard workers and have a relentless sense of duty, even if that duty is corrupted.
- ENTP – The Visionary. This is a rare personality type. Although they are extraverts, they don’t enjoy small talk and may not thrive in social situations, especially with people who are too different from them. ENTPs are intelligent and need constant mental stimulation. They can discuss theories and facts in extensive detail. They are logical, rational, and objective in their approach to information and arguments.
Destructive ENTP. This type is arrogant, dishonest, and self-centered. Their minds are hazy with ideas and they will go to any lengths to chase those ideas. Lie, trick, steal, they’ll do it all to get what they need to reach their next goal. They may enjoy toying with people just to see what happens. If a person goes along with an ENTPs plans, they are their friends, but once the person changes his mind or speaks against the plan, he is mocked and bullied.
- ISFP – The Composer. These introverts don’t seem like introverts. They warm up to people and become approachable and friendly. They are fun to be with and spontaneous, which makes them perfect to tag along in any activity, planned or unplanned. ISFPs want to live their lives to the fullest and embrace the present. They are always out to explore new things and discover new experiences.
Destructive ISFP. These people are self-serving, judgmental, and indulgent. They suffer from self-pity and bitterness over imagined slights. When slighted, imagined or not, they become passive-aggressive, cold, and self-righteously indignant. They live for the moment and can be reckless. They seem to always overeat, over-shop, drink too much, or seek pleasure not caring how it will impact them or others. They want complete approval and will shut people out if they don’t get it.
5 Character Clichés NOT to use in a Story.
- The character peers into a mirror and describes himself. This is lazy, too personal, and usually inaccurate. Use one or two of the most essential attributes and let the rest trickle out through the story. Another character might refer to a feature or two, but let the reader use their imagination to fill in the blanks. A few examples: He was 6’4” and had learned to duck when going through doors. Another: He enjoyed the view of her blond curls bouncing as she ran toward him. And a third: She stared at his blue eyes and shuddered as they darkened with desire.
- If your character has a mentor figure in it, don’t kill him off just to get the character to act in a certain way, or force him into an adventure.
- Don’t make the secondary character turn into a traitor. It’s a cheap twist and is overused.
- The love triangle has been overdone. Unless you’re going for a polyamory twist.
- Teenagers against the nation’s government in a them vs us
4 Most Important Things in Creating Characters
- Keep a list of all secondary and stock character’s names. It will save you time when trying to remember how that one character’s last name was spelled when you need it later in the book.
- Be careful of what you name your characters. Names mean something. For instance, don’t do like I almost did and name a character Hunter Jaeger, which translates to Hunter Hunter. I called a private eye Sam and had to listen to Sam Spade references until I made it a joke between the main character and his best friend.
Names can be strong or weak. If you use a full name, such a Michael, Frederick, or Henry, then use a three or four-letter nickname: Mike, Fred or Rick, and Hank. Short names have punch.
- Map out your character arc journey. It will help keep you on track.
- Pick the right secondary character for your protagonist. They need to be together often and should be in a brother from another mother relationship, or a romantic interest.
10 Signs of an underdeveloped Character
- Flat dialogue. Robotic or stilted speech patterns. We’ll address this is in the class on dialogue.
- Exaggerated gestures, speech, and emotions. You want a character, not a caricature.
- Lack of emotions. Characters must feel and react to what happens around them.
- Passive voice. Passiveness equals telling. Use active verbs instead.
- Long monologues of thoughts are how to bore a reader.
- Feelings of omniscience. Floating above the action. That’s only okay if writing in the omniscient POV.
- Repetitive description and phrasing. Watch for this. It will sneak up on you.
- Lack of human characteristics. They should act and react like regular people.
- Staccato scene changes. Unnatural flow, odd and uneven pacing. Use transitions such as hours later, while, after, and when instead of jumping into another scene.
- Lack of desire or fear. This goes along with # 3. Make them human, not robots.
Have fun creating your characters. When you finish, you’ll know them, and their background better than you know your best friend.
Our next class will be on Point of View and will be taught by Loy Holder. See you there.
If you have questions, my email is [email protected]
Remember, the only dumb question is one that isn’t asked.