NaNoWriMo Prep #9 – Creating Conflicting Characters – Part 1

Four Temperament/Personality Types – The Analytical and the Expressive – Part 1

Firefly CrewThere are many theories of personality types. So many that covering them all would take an entire book. In today’s and tomorrow’s posts I’ll cover four temperament/personality types that I find very useful when creating characters.

You’ll find that most theories of personality type groups them into four units. This goes back to the Ancient Greeks. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460–370 BC) incorporated the four temperaments into his medical theories as part of the ancient concept of humorism, which states that four bodily fluids affect human behaviors.

To explain it I’ll use examples from some of Shakespeare’s plays.

Sanguine – A person with too much blood was considered sanguine. They are chronically cheerful, eager and passionate to a fault. They follow their heart instead of their head. They’re also courageous, hopeful and amorous.

  • Hotspur in the Henry plays
  • Nurse in Romeo and Juliet

Phlegmatic – A person with too much phlem or rheum (saliva) is phlegmatic. They are studious, seemingly non-responsive, and somewhat self-absorbed.

  • Constable Dull in Love’s Labor Lost
  • Hermione in Winter’s Tale

Melancholic – A person with too much black bile is considered melancholic. They are somber, sullen, philosophic and pensive. (Sounds a lot like Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series).

  • Hamlet

Choleric – A person with too much yellow bile is choleric. They are chronically irritable, bad-tempered, irascible, and quick to anger.

  • Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet

Of course this type of personality typology is rarely used. Except in English Lit classes. However, it’s interesting how modern personality types line up with this one.

One method of personality typing is called Social Styles, which groups people into four categories. It’s based on research by David Merrill. If you want to learn more about it there are plenty of websites where you can.

  • Driver (Choleric)
  • Expressive (Phlegmatic)
  • Analytical (Melancholic)
  • Amiable (Sanguine)

One thing you want to keep in mind while creating characters for your NaNo novel is that the more diversified your characters are personality wise the more conflict you will have and that will make writing your novel easier.

Felix and OscarA classic example of this kind of conflict is The Odd Couple, both the movie and television show. You have two mismatched roommates: the neat, uptight Felix Ungar and the slovenly, easygoing Oscar Madison,

Can you guess which of the ancient humors Felix and Oscar would be classified in?

You want to try for that same kind of tension and conflict with your characters.

In this post I’m going to highlight the Analytical and the Expressive types and I’m going to use as examples two characters from Joss Whedon’s Firefly. I think Whedon does a great job creating characters, and you can learn a lot about character creation by watching Firefly. .

250px-Simon2Simon Tan is an Analytical.

Analyticals are problem solvers. They are factual, organized, accurate, precise, cautious, scheduled, detailed, conscientious, logical, persistent and sensitive. In the series, Simon is the ship’s doctor. He sees the world from the viewpoint of logic and science. He has difficulty talking to women romantically and in expressing his feelings, which often frustrates Kaylee

KKayleeaylee Frye is an Expressive.

Expressives are fun-loving, optimistic, take risks, mix easily, energetic, enjoy change, ambitious, friendly and spontaneous.

Here’s a bit of dialogue from Firefly that shows that.

Kaylee: We’re taking on passengers at Persephone?
Mal: Yeah, that’s the notion. Could use a little respectability on the way to Boros. Not to mention the money.
Jayne: Pain in the ass.
Kaylee: No, it’s shiny! I like to meet new people, they’ve all got stories…
Jayne: Captain, can you stop her from bein’ cheerful, please?
Mal: I don’t believe there’s a power in the ‘verse can stop Kaylee from bein’ cheerful. Sometimes you just wanna duct-tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.
Kaylee: [kisses Mal’s cheek] I love my captain.

Kaylee and Simon come into conflict regarding the way they both see the world, but it’s also not surprising they are drawn to each other romantically as opposites do attract.

Now, imagine an Analytical character and an Expressive character at a restaurant ordering dinner.Dinner

The Analytical is carefully reading over the menu, tallying up the prices in her head and giving the waiter detailed instructions as to how she wants her Chateaubriand prepared.

The Expressive glanced at the menu, ordered the first thing he saw and is already engaging in a spirited conversation with the couple at the next table regarding his new start-up business.

McCoy and SpockAnother good example from popular culture is Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy from Star Trek. Those two are always at loggerheads concerning Spock’s cold-bloodedness approach to problems and McCoy’s passionate outbursts regarding them.

It’s inevitable that contrasting personality types will conflict and that’s what you want. Conflict is the lifeblood of any story.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss the Driven and the Amiable personality types.