Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Giving Personality to Your Characters

Many years ago I learned color analysis and how to determine what colors looked best against a person’s skin. The company that trained me used four separate tests in their analysis: make-up, eye pattern, color draping, and personality. The company’s personality test fascinated me, for although the test possessed flaws, it revealed how people fall into four basic personality categories. I later discovered the Greeks, specifically Socrates, expounded on these four personality types thousands of years ago.

Imagine my surprise when a college English professor asked me to answer a questionnaire to determine my learning style, and I discovered the survey centered on the four personality groups. I have since used the information to better understand my children, the people I work with, and especially the characters I use in my fiction.

This scientific approach to find an individual's learning style is quite a complicated process. The several published theories on the topic are difficult to understand and would take too much space to explain here. To keep this article simple, I’ll only share what I learned about the four personality groups. They are made up of people who are driven, people who analyze, people who express themselves, and people who are amiable. Let me clarify:

People who express themselves love everybody. They enjoy using their imaginations and tend to be emotional creatures with extreme mood swings. They are either happy, energetic individuals or in the depths of despair. They blush at the smallest embarrassment and have difficulty making choices. Don’t ask them to choose an ice cream flavor; they love them all. Many who fall into this category are natural sales people or storytellers. They like to gather information, analyze it, and talk about it from several different perspectives, though they might not want to do the work of solving problems after they gather the facts. They are good at brainstorming and appreciate feedback.

People who analyze use logic to solve problems and require explanation rather than practical application. They take time to think through their ideas, and they are great organizers and lovers of lists. In fact, ideas and concepts are easier for them to understand than dealing with people. They lean toward the dramatic and can appear aloof or cool at times. They can be highly critical people and pessimistic. They make great scientists, engineers, or doctors.

People who are driven are get-it-done, people movers. They know what they want and how to get it. They are good at leading a crowd, although they can be rather severe when dealing with others; they are sometimes tactless and curt. They prefer technical tasks and can solve problems and make decisions without difficulty. They like to experiment with new ideas and can’t understand when other people are closed minded or unwilling to try something new.

People who are amiable are sensitive, kind-hearted individuals who avoid conflict. They are often quiet and soft-spoken, the shyest of any of the groups discussed here, though they can possess a stubborn streak. They blend in well since they avoid making spectacles of themselves, and they love to use their hands. Their common sense approach and drive to complete any task before them often lands them positions as teachers, secretaries, or executive assistants.

Thus are the basics of personality analysis.

While I worked in the color industry, I witnessed the veracity of these four personality types, and they resurfaced continually among my clients. I also found I could determine the specific skin undertone, eye pattern and eye color, and sometimes even the hair shade of each personality type (I’ll explain these concepts in part two, coming up in the next post).

The knowledge I have gleaned from participating in this color analysis company has helped me more than I can say over the years. Although some of you may be skeptical about pegging people into specific categories, I find whether you believe it or not depends on your personality type. Don’t pooh-pooh the idea until you know more about it. An in-depth study of personality analysis just might help you create the most realistic fictional characters you have dreamed up so far.

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