Saturday, July 25, 2020

Different Characters

How do you develop a character who is different in personality from all the other characters you have developed or from yourself? 

This is a difficult topic for separating one of my characters from me and from my author's viewpoint can be very difficult. All characters have something of me in them. They are part of my mind. Another aspect of a character is how they develop or change through a story, which is again based on my perceptions but which I think are often shared by the reader. I have also found in re-reading my stories there are repeated snippets of character behaviors, thoughts, and similar dialogue. Bothersome, but a fact.

We are all individuals and all have different personality types. What makes that happen? Certainly, genetics plays a part. How we are raised, where we live, our work, and our personal history, and our interactions, all differ. What interests us and how we behave despite social behavior dictums differs. I think readers also realize we all share human qualities, but we are all different.

However, to balance out my perceptions, I use the character's purpose in the story and try to determine their personality type. I do this through questions like what is their perception of the world? This means I have to know what type of personality a character has and what mix of traits go with each character. Are they adventurous or more leisurely? Does their anger translate into in-your-face threats or do they internalize their rage? To help me I long ago found a book that has proven invaluable, Personality Self-Portrait by John M. Holdham, M.D., and Lois B. Morris. It was meant to tell their reader what type of personality traits they had. However, for an author, it divides personalities into types such as adventurous, aggressive, conscientious, or vigilant, and more. It gives traits of each type of personality, their work styles, their emotions, along with how they handle relationships and self-control. This gives me the opportunity to develop very different characters, yet those characters are still distilled through my viewpoint.

Please visit the following blogs to see these authors' opinions on this topic.

Diane Bator 
Anne Stenhouse 
Skye Taylor 
Connie Vines  
Dr. Bob Rich 
Helena Fairfax 
Beverley Bateman 
Fiona McGier  


  1. Personality self-portrait sounds like a really useful book to have, Rhobin. I know what you mean about the author's VP impinging. It takes enormous care to excise it - and I don't think we ever do entirely. Anne

  2. Interesting, Rhobin. Although psychology is one of the professions I have retired from, I never do this kind of explicit personality analysis of characters, either when reading or writing. I just accept them as people, and find out about them what their behavior reveals.

  3. Interesting post, Rhobin. I like you start with the character's purpose in the story and then try to determine their personality type.

  4. I have a few interview lists I've collected at conference workshops and like you asking your characters specific questions the interview often reveals information even I didn't know.

  5. I usually wait for the story to unfold in my head, and that shows me what kind of person each character is. Sometimes they grow and change a lot--sometimes they're more static. Interesting how we all have our own approaches.

  6. Hi Rhobin, I agree it's very hard to separate our own viewpoint from that of our characters. I like how you use the character's purpose in the story to help determine their character. Thanks for setting this topic. I've enjoyed this month's Round Robin!