Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Monday, January 21, 2013

It all goes to character

For me, character trumps plot 90% of the time. If I like a character, I'll follow them a lot of places I wouldn't otherwise and one way to make me love a character is to make them real and believable. Today I'm going to offer something can help all of us craft better characters, and then I'll be taking some submissions so we can play a little game called guess that personality.

These are the four personality types: 


The sanguine character is basically impulsive and pleasure-seeking; sanguine people are sociable and charismatic. They like social situations, enjoy making new friends and they tend to be boisterous.  However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean sensitive, compassionate and romantic. They can also be creative and have been know to daydream. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when they pursue a new hobby, they lose interest as soon as it ceases to be engaging or fun. Above all, they are people persons. They are talkative and not shy. Sanguines generally have an almost shameless nature, certain that what they are doing is right. They have no lack of confidence.


The choleric character is aggressive, energetic, and passionate, and will try to instill these traits in those around them. They are also ambitious and leader-like, and can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were choleric. They like to be in charge. However, cholerics also tend to be either highly disorganized or highly organized. No in-between setups, only one extreme to another. As well as being leader-like and assertive, cholerics also fall into deep and sudden depression. Essentially, they are very much prone to mood swings.


The melancholic character is an introvert [hmm, let's see if these traits look familiar to anyone...] and basically thoughtful. Sometimes they are seen as overly pondering and considerate, worrying when they don't need to. They are often highly creative in activities such as poetry and art and can become so preoccupied with what they're doing that they forget to think of others. They also tend to think too much about the tragedy and cruelty of the world. They are also perfectionists, self-reliant and independent.


The phlegmatic character is fundamentally relaxed and quiet, ranging from warmly attentive to lazily sluggish. These people tend to be content with themselves and are kind. They are accepting and affectionate. They may be receptive and shy and usually prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are consistent, relaxed, calm, rational, curious, and observant, qualities that make them good administrators. They can also be passive-aggressive. 

Now, knowing this, I want you to go to your character and find a scene where you are trying to show the reader about him or her. Ask yourself which personality does your character most inhabit? Does the scene show that? Can you revise to do so? 

Now, send that scene to us/me (unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com) and I'll post it and let's see if we can guess which personality type your character is. Keep submissions to around 300 words. Ready? Go!


Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've seen someone else write about this for characterization. Thanks for the reminder. I need to figure out where my characters fall. :)

DL Hammons said...

Although I feel I'm mostly Melancholic, there are also parts of the Phlegmatic personality in me as well. I definitely don't think too much about the tragedy and cruelty of the world. and I'm a perfectionists only when it comes to certain things. I am fundamentally relaxed and quiet, and shy, usually prefering stability to uncertainty and change.

Excellent post! :)

Chippy said...

DL Hammons - same here - I found myself agreeing with the melancholic description but also some parts of the phlegmatic one as well.
Introvert - check
Independent - check
Highly creative - I like to think so
Self-reliant - check
Quiet, shy and observant - check, check and check

mshatch said...

It's an interesting way to categorize people, and thus figure how they'll tick.

mshatch said...

I'm definitely pretty melancholic - altho I will admit to a lazy side :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I've never seen characters characterized this way. Very interesting.

Lauren said...

Yellow (motivated by fun), Red (motivated by power), Blue (I can't remember what this group is motivated by), White (motivated by peace).


mshatch said...

Oh, this is old stuff:


Laura Stephenson said...

I'm phlegmatic all the way. And my husband is choleric. Makes for pretty one-sided fights...

I'll be back to guess the personality types! Sounds like fun.

Liza said...

This looks like a fun(and helpful)exercise!

L.G. Smith said...

Never read about these before, at least not in these terms. I imagine most people and characters are a combination of types. Cool to keep in mind when developing a character, though.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I must be an indecisive sort, because I possess characteristics from all four types. Guess that makes me a Smorgasbord.

Alicia C. said...

Very interesting stuff! I too am much more driven by characters. To me, if you have good characters...the plot will follow. I wonder if I can find a scene in my meager stash to send you...

Pk Hrezo said...

What a great idea!

I think most of mine would be a combination of these, but this is great stuff to base future characters off of. Thanks for the tips!