One of my favorite things about writing fiction is that I get to create amazing worlds from scratch. That I can build worlds, and characters, and all of the other pieces that form a book, and as long as I’ve got a logical explanation for it, basically anything goes.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m not one of those authors who spends hours and hours researching. And extensive periods of plotting? Meh, not so much. Give me an outline and I’m good.
But, the one thing I dedicate a significant amount of pre-planning time to for every story I write is character building, and there is one way in particular that I LOVE.
Now I don’t know about you, but I LOVE personality tests. Ever since I did my Meyers-Briggs in junior high (yes, I remember) I was hooked. I have always found it so fascinating how answering a handful of questions, or looking at different images, or song lyrics, or WHATEVER can tell so much about a person.
So, one day, while I was lamenting over the characters in my new book and how I would possibly develop them, I thought well, let’s give them a personality test!
I sat down and took the character I was having so much trouble with and pulled up an online personality test. I completed 50 statements that rated my character based on how likely they were to do certain things, then hit the little button to calculate their score, and do you know what?
IT WAS SPOT ON.
The personality test results described my character better than I could. I didn’t even know it, but as I read the only thing I could think was ‘yes, yes, yes! That’s EXACTLY how I imagined them!’
So I tried it again. With a different character this time, but the results were the exact same. I was completely blown away by how incredibly perfect the descriptions matched my character.
I copied down the description in my character notebook along with the ‘name’ for their personality type, then completed for the rest of my cast. When I was finished, I had a thorough description for each and every one of my characters, as well as a better understanding of how they would act in different situations (thanks to the situations listed in the questions!)
IT. WAS. AMAZING.
Personality tests, who knew? Right?
I sure didn’t, but I am so glad I found it out. I will be the first to admit my writing process changes from project to project but one thing will ALWAYS stay the same. My character development will ALWAYS include the personality test session. I honestly don’t think I would know half of what I do about my characters without them.
So the next time you are stuck with a tricky character, pull out a personality test and make them answer. You might be surprised at what you find.
Personality Tests to Try
While there are many personality tests out there you can use (a simple Google search will pull up hundreds of links), these are the two that I like the most.
The Enneagram Test is my personal favorite. This is the one I described above with the questions and the rating system. It’s super straightforward. You read a statement and say if it is a lot like your character or not at all like your character. Then, once you’ve answered, it tallies your score and classifies your character as on of 9 types based off of your responses (Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, or Peacemaker).
What I really like about the Enneagram is that it says how each type reacts/interacts in specific situations, and also has variants that provide a really well rounded description for all character types. I have found that for me, this is often the most specific test and the one that provides the most insight.
You can try an enneagram test for FREE here: https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test
This is probably the personality test that you are most familiar with. It has been around for a very long time and does a pretty good job identifying personalities. It is similar to the enneagram in that you rate yourself (or your character) based off of different statements, and those ratings determine your personality type. Unlike the enneagram the Meyers-Briggs has 16 possible outcomes depending on whether you are more:
- Extroverted (E) / Introverted (I)
- Sensing (S) / INtuition (N)
- Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) / Perceiving (P)
Using the Meyers-Briggs model, my FAVORITE online resource is 16 personalities, which lists your type (ie: INFJ) and provides a detailed statistical breakdown of your answers and percentages for each factor (ie: 33% E, 67% I), the strengths and weaknesses of the type and how you are likely to act in relationships, family, and at work. It really is an amazing site and a very cool test, however, I tend to stick with the enneagram test because I feel like it is comprehensive enough without inundating me with too much information (knowing myself I would spend ENTIRELY too much time with my characters and 16 Personalities and never get any writing done!) But, if you have more willpower than me, you can find the test and take it for free HERE: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
So, there you have it. My top-secret, not really so much secret anymore , tip for character development! What do you think? Have you tried personalilty tests for your characters before? Did it work for you? Let me know! And if you have any go-to personality tests that you use, let me know! I’d love to try them!
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