Welcome to Part One of the Getting Into Your Character’s Head blog post series! Throughout this series, we’ll be exploring the Enneagram’s nine different personality types and how we can apply them to our characters.
If you don’t know what the Enneagram is, it is “a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.”
The Enneagram is split into nine different personality types: One, The Reformer, Two, The Helper, Three, the Achiever, Four, the Individualist, Five, the Investigator, Six, the Loyalist, Seven, the Enthusiast, Eight, the Challenger, and Nine, the Peacemaker.
Today, we are starting with the first type on the Enneagram, Type One, which is also called The Reformer, or The Perfectionist.
To start, let’s have a little overview of the Type One personality type. Type Ones are the perfectionists of the group. They are well organized, orderly, ethical, and have a strong sense of right or wrong. They strive to improve, and are afraid of making mistakes. While they can be realistic, wise, discerning, and morally heroic, they can come off as perfectionistic and can slip into being critical, and can have problems with resentment and impatience.
Ones think that they are “head” types, rationalizing everything they do and thinking it over, when really, they are “instinct’ types, going more for what their gut is telling them then their logical side. “Ones are activists who are searching for an acceptable rationale for what they feel they must do.”
In short, Ones are passionate believers in their own convictions, but aren’t as “feeling” as others, and are sticklers for the rules.
However, Ones do have emotions, they just don’t know how to express them, making all of their feeling intense on the inside, but making them look cold and unfeeling on the outside. They suppress their feelings, as if they are “sitting on a cauldron of passions and desires, and they had better “keep the lid on” lest they and everyone else around them regret it.” As a result, they usually have to deal with problems of aggression, repression, and resistance.
(For more information on Enneagram Type Ones, click this link HERE.)
Let’s take Bardon from the Dragon Keeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul for example. To Kale, the main character, Bardon is a cold, unfeeling jerk who has it out for her, and sticks to the rules like religion. But really, Bardon is a kind, thoughtful young man who doesn’t know how to express his feelings, especially his feelings toward Kale. Bardon is the perfect example of a Type One. He is morally concious, likes to follow the rules, and has a strong sense of right or wrong. (You can find her books HERE.)
Now, how do we apply this to our characters? What I like to do is write up a character profile, using K. M. Weiland’s method in her ebook, Crafting Unforgettable Characters. She has a very long character questionnaire that just about covers everything. Let’s create out own character as an example.
For Ones, their basic fear is becoming corrupt, defective, or evil. Their basic desire is to be good, have integrit, and to just be balanced. This knowledge can come in handy, especially for your main character’s worst fear or greatest wish.
Let’s say our main character’s name is George Buckley. George Buckley is a company CEO, having used his perfectionistic ways to climb up the corporate ladder. In this position, he has the freedom to make more decisions than before. And his greatest fear is becoming corrupt. Then, we add in the side characters, including the Contagonist (let’s say his name is Joe), who leads George astray, by convincing him to embezzle funds from the company. But, George’s passion for right stops him before his makes a huge mistake that would possibly cost him his jobs.
Knowing about the different personality types can help open doors to how you character would act in certain situations. Like, because George is a Type One, he has a strong sense of what is right and wrong, and that, therefore, saves the day in the end. But that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of making bad decisions. Now let’s take a look at if a villain was a Type One.
When Type Ones go through stress, or “Direction of Disintegration”, they become moody and irrational, no longer rationalizing their decisions and throwing caution to the wind. This information can come in handy when writing a Type One villain.
Let’s say our villain’s name is Jodi. She’s got this big dream of how she wants the world to be. She’s a nice girl, with friends and a good job. But, despite all the hard work she puts in to everything, things just don’t seem to change. No matter how many donations she makes, or organizations she supports, it’s still not enough. So, throwing all morals aside, she decides that she’s going to fix the world, whether the people like it or not. She becomes a powerful influence, cracking down on the world and enforcing strict rules and banning all things she considers immoral. And by trying to save the world, she only causes it to plunge deeper into darkness and chaos.
Type Ones have influenced the world for generations. Take Joan of Arc and Mr. Spock for example. Using the Enneagram to help you write you’re passionate and morally conscious character (or villain!) will really help your story thrive and your characters take on a new level of realism.
Sources – The Enneagram Institute