Personality Tests for Character Development

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.

Personality Tests.

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!

Did you like this article? Would you like more great tips for your writer’s toolbox? Follow the blog hop hosted by the FABULOUS Raimey Gallant to read more from other amazing authors!

JM Sullivan

Teacher by day, award-winning author by night, J.M. Sullivan is a fairy tale fanatic who loves taking classic stories and turning them on their head. She has a passion for the writing community and loves empowering and encouraging other authors on social media with #AuthorConfession. When she’s not buried in her laptop, you can find her watching scary movies with her husband, playing with her kids, or serving homage to her cats. Although known to dabble in adulting, J.M. is a big kid at heart who still believes in true love, magic, and most of all, the power of coffee. If you would like to connect with J.M., you can find her on her website www.jmsullivanbooks.com, on social media at @jmsullivanbooks, or by joining the fun at #AuthorConfession--she’d love to hear from you.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Great post! I didn’t do a questionnaire, but for my first book, I printed all the Meyers-Briggs personalities and matched them up to my characters. It took forever, but it was a great exercise. Can you check the authortoolbox page, and make sure it’s being directed at the page you want? I tried linking it directly to your blog at first, but this post didn’t show up at the top of your blogroll. I’ve currently linked it to the authortoolbox tag, but let me know if you want it changed. Loving your website design!

  2. Wow! I have never tried a personality test for my characters. I will have to! Thank you for the top. Happy Hop Day 🙂

  3. This is great advice, I’ve matched my characters up with their Jungian types (I work in marketing so it felt natural), but I’ve never taken a personality test for them – I’m definitely going to now! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  4. That’s a great idea! When the test matches up with how you created them–you know you did it right!

  5. I love this idea! I want to try it for some of my characters now and see what happens. Thank you for the two tests!

  6. Fun! I think this would be a great way to work on the characters whose personalities are opposite/different from my own. it would definitely help me keep my characters different!

  7. I adore personality tests. I once created a new account on Pottermore just so I could sort my MC into a house! (He’s Ravenclaw, which suits him pretty well 🙂 )
    I’ve never seen the Enneagram test before so I’ll definitely try it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Great idea! I’m going to try it on my two protagonists in my WIP. In my mind, I know their personalities. It will be interesting to see if they match on the tests.

  9. I love vehicles that take the burden of creating character traits from me. Myers-Briggs is my favorite. but I’ve also used archetypes and tarot cards.

  10. This is such a great idea! I’ve tried out the Meyers-Briggs test before, but not the other one. I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

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