Making Your Characters a Character

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Monk is one of my all time favorite characters. Two more characters that rank high on my list are Columbo and Matlock. They have character—big, big character. Brilliance disguised by bungling ineptness. I enjoyed Columbo and Matlock, but poor Monk had the most to overcome. I held my breath for him, I cried for him, I cheered for him.

To develop characters similar to these three start with a visual clue. They possess something that makes them vulnerable or inept when first met. Monk can't shake hands and shows his fears; Columbo has an unkempt look and appears clueless; and Matlock has a loud, southern drawl and a back-woodsy personality. The villains easily underestimate them.

This trio has a common trait; an inner intuition and a way of putting facts together to support their suspicions. As writers, it's our responsibility to portray a uniqueness about our characters. Find a trait that will enhance your character, yet distinguish them from other protagonists.

Developing a character is not easy to do. Learn your character inside out. Learn her fears. Learn her loves. What makes him tick and what ticks him off. What was their third grade teacher's name and how did they feel about her? Most of all the characters have to become Characters and in order to do that, their personalities have to be established.

Their personalities need to be likable if they are the hero and unlikable or flawed if they are the bad guy.

I found this website, the Enneagram Institute; it has some basic information on personality types. Here's an Enneagram chart revealing the 9 basic personalities.

From the chart, these one-word descriptors can be expanded into four-word sets of traits. Keep in mind that these are merely highlights and do not represent the full spectrum of each type.
  • Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
  • Type Two is demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive.
  • Type Three is adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
  • Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
  • Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
  • Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
  • Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered.
  • Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
  • Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent.

Tip: A great resource to help you keep track of all your character traits is this Character Trait Chart and Personality Components on WOW!

Monk photo
Columbo series?view=0


Unknown said...

What an informative post, Cher'ley!

That visual info is great for me as a way to process this data. Thanks!


Cher'ley said...

Hi Patricia,
I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I really love characters, fictional and in real life. I thought the personality chart was interesting too.

Unknown said...

Great article! Very helpful info about character development (something I need to work on) I love Monk too ;)

Cher'ley said...

Thanks Jenn. I thought I had my character flushed out pretty well until I started researching for this article. LOL.

Cher'ley said...

Thanks for the WOW link on character building. I was thinking of that and forgot to post the link.

Cher'ley said...

Still nice informative blog post.

Cher'ley said...

Thank you so much. Glad you enjoyed this blog post.

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