Showing posts with label character typologies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label character typologies. Show all posts

Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters


Contributed by Margot Conor

People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into deep POV and to do that, I need to know who they are, what they care about, what they seek, and what they avoid. At the heart of those questions is… why?

I build each character with a back history, which may or may not be exposed in the body of the story. They just need to live in my mind, fully formed. I need to feel their pain and touch the private tender things they want to keep secret. I want to know what drives them to do foolish things, what makes them brave or reckless.

I give them complex personalities. To find their hang-ups, and fears, and decide what sort of baggage they’ve brought with them. I need to know what they went through before they entered my story. I have to find the trauma that tarnished them and the promises that gave them hope.

So, you might have a clue by reading the title of this article. I use personality typologies. I don’t use the same system all the time. They are all useful and they vary in complexity. It depends if I am building a profile for a main character or someone who has a brief appearance in the story. No matter how insignificant the role they play I still don’t want them to be a simple archetypical villain or hero.

I also don’t want the villains to be all bad, if there are aspects of their personalities you can sympathize with it makes them more interesting. And of course, if the protagonist doesn’t have flaws, it’s hard to relate to them. They need a journey of discovery. A way to grow with the challenges they face.

Below is a quick look at the systems I draw from:

The oldest typology I know of is Hippocrates’ Four Temperaments. (460–370 BC). A system based on the four humors. A fifth was later added when published in 1958.

Your temperament is considered innate, influenced by genetics. They are often like a parent or grandparent. External factors such as negative and positive childhood experiences also factor in. Temperament is a little different or more basic than personality. It deals with how you move through your life and engage with people and challenges.

Sanguine: quick, impulsive, and relatively short-lived reactions.
Phlegmatic: a longer response-delay, but short-lived response.
Choleric: short response time-delay, but response sustained for a relatively long time.
Melancholic: (Also called “Melancholy”) long response time-delay, a response sustained at length, if not, seemingly, permanently.
Supine: (added later) Describes a person who is a servant and feels that he or she has little or no value.

16 personality types. To use these properly you need to read the full profile for each one, but here is a brief overview: the following descriptions are copied from:

The Analysts:
Architect: Imaginative and strategic thinkers, with a plan for everything.
Logician: Innovative inventors with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Commander: Bold and imaginative, strong-willed leaders.
Debater: Smart and curious thinkers who can’t resist an intellectual challenge.

The Diplomats:
Advocate: Quiet and mystical, inspiring, and tireless idealists.
Mediator: Poetic, kind, and altruistic, always eager to help a good cause.
Protagonist: Charismatic and inspiring leaders, able to mesmerize their listeners.
Campaigner: Enthusiastic, creative, and sociable free spirits.

The Sentinels:
Logistician: Practical and fact-minded, their reliability cannot be doubted.
Defender: Very dedicated and warm protectors, always ready to defend their loved ones.
Executive: Excellent administrators, unsurpassed at managing things or people.
Consul: Extraordinarily caring, social, and popular. Always eager to help.

Virtuoso: Bold and practical experimenters, masters of tools.
Adventurer: Flexible and charming artists, always ready to explore something new.
Entrepreneur: Smart, energetic, and very perceptive. They enjoy living on the edge.
Entertainer: Spontaneous, energetic, and enthusiastic. Life is never boring around them.

To fully take advantage of this system you need to read the full bio for each type. But here is an overview (the following is copied from this site:

The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic
The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive
The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious
The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental
The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious
The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered
The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational
The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

Robert S. Hartman, an American philosopher and psychologist, developed the four-type personality system. This system categorizes people into four different types based on their natural tendencies.

A: ANALYTIC: ambitious, workaholic, organized, goal-oriented, perfectionist, impatient, competitive
B: BEHAVIORAL: Easy going, non-competitive, less prone to stress, stable, adaptable non-confrontational, work steadily toward their goals, adapt to changes in plans, flexible.
C: COMMUNICATIVE: Collaborative, calm, rational and logical, thoughtful, and caring, introverted
D: DEDUCTIVE: Sensitive, shy, prone to anxiety and depression, avoidant.

I do a deep dive into these for troubled characters and villains.
Used in modern psychoanalytic diagnosis you can read about it here for an overview:

Psychopathic: (Antisocial), Narcissistic, Schizoid, Paranoid, Depressive, Manic, Masochistic: (self-defeating), Obsessive, Compulsive, Hysterical (histrionic), Dissociative.


Sensation: perception using immediate apprehension of the visible relationship between subject and object.
Intuition: perception of processes in the background, unconscious drives, or motivations of other people
Thinking: function of intellectual cognition, the forming of logical conclusions.
Feeling: Function of subjective estimation, value-oriented thinking
Extraverts: seek greater stimulation, energized around people, think out loud, large social networks, thrive in teams, and crowds, enjoys being the center of attention, values broad experience.
Introverts: Seek less stimulation, recharges with quiet reflection, think before speaking, values one-on-one friendships, favors independence, avoids being the center of attention, values deep experience.

I hope this list helps you find characteristics to build multidimensional characters.


Margot Conor has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn't until the COVID lock-down that she had enough time to dedicate to the craft and bring something to completion. Having finished her first novel, she went through the grueling two-year process of editing. Now she has jumped into the author's world with both feet. She's preparing to debut her first novel, which means learning how to promote it. The last year has been spent attending many writing retreats, seminars, and writers' events. She also listened to presentations specifically on the topic of publishing and book marketing. She will be sharing what she learns with the reader.
Learn more about Margot at

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