That’s right, this little jewel just may be your new best friend!
When it comes to strong characterization, what we really need to know as authors is core motivation. What does our hero really, truly want? What is her greatest fear, her motivating force, her deepest need? We need to know the same things about our antagonists and our secondary characters, too.
If it feels like you’re torturing these sorts of confessions out of your characters, try asking them to stretch out on your couch while you analyze them Enneagram-style. However, it will be most useful if you take it for yourself first and look over the various type descriptions. Don’t worry, it’s fun (and admittedly addictive!)
You can visit the Enneagram Instiute’s web site for in-depth information on each type, a few free mini-tests, and information on how it all works.
You can click to see a detailed type overview, too. I selected Type 4 because, well, that’s my type. (I have a 2-wing, though, which makes me slightly less crazy….I think!) One of the things I’ve found most helpful in these descriptions is each type’s basic fear and basic desire.
Some other non-official web sites have free Enneagram tests, too. I tried this one, and found it to be really fun and helpful. (I didn’t get into some of the more unusual healing/chakra stuff on the site, though….so I can’t vouch for that!) Click here for a free test on the Eclectic Energies site. They have even more in-depth info on the types, and you don’t have to sign in or enter an e-mail address for any of it. Simply googling an Enneagram type brings up tons of info, discussion boards, and fun food for thought.
Admittedly, type is not enough! So many factors go into how a person behaves, thinks, and functions at any given time. To really delve into your character’s motivation, you will want some more info on the types and what people at different levels of health/developmentlook like within a specific type. This is where it gets really good! Unlike other personality assessments, this test really showcases how different people within a single type can be.
As you understand how the Enneagram works, with its 9 distinct types, “wing” variations, and instinctual variations, combined with varying levels of emotional health/development, you’ll find a wealth of information and an invaluable resource for your writing (and your life!). For example, a healthy type 2 can be extraordinarily loving, giving, and generous, while a very unhealthy type 2 can be manipulative and intensely jealous and prone to narcissistic personality disorders. There are nine gradations of health within each type, complete with which disorders and mental/emotional problems can be linked to each’s type’s decline.
There is also information on how well each type pairs up with other types, and what they can bring out for one another.
This sort of information is extraordinary when considering character arcs! What do they look like at their worst, when life has beaten them down? If they’re going to become neurotic, what might that look like? What’s their best-case scenario for personal growth? How might they get there?
Disclaimer: I’m not responsible if your laundry sits unfolded, you forget to feed the cat, and you end up ordering Chinese while continuing to analyze your friends and family into the wee hours.
I want to hear from you! What’s your type? Did you discover something about yourself or one of your characters that you didn’t know before? Was this helpful for your character development?