Know Yourself, Know Your Characters
There’s something about taking a personality test and seeing if the results actually match up with who you are. Growing up, I would go straight to the quiz section of any magazine (remember holding and reading an actual magazine?), and even now, I can’t resist a Buzzfeed quiz (yes, I want to see if the quiz-maker can correctly identify my zodiac sign based on the way I like my coffee). Ultimately, writers are life-long learners, and part of that learning includes improving our self-awareness.
So how can personality tests and other self-awareness tools help us as writers, and help us create stronger characters? We’ll look at a few popular, accredited tests (sorry, no Buzzfeed quizzes here) and examine how they can help you be the best writer you can be.
The Enneagram is a personality test that has nine different types, labeled as numbers from 1-9. There are many tests you can take to identify your Enneagram number, but the ultimate determiner is to look at each number’s motivations, which includes core fears, desires, weaknesses, and longings. What I love about the Enneagram is that even though there are only nine types, within a particular type there is a broad spectrum of traits that you can identify with. It’s a very in-depth personality test, and I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past couple of years thanks to the Enneagram.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is also known as the 16-types personality test. They are labeled as four-letter acronyms, based on the following factors: introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. My Myers-Briggs type is INFJ: introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. Feel free to do more research about how these traits function independently and in conjunction with one another.
Shape Personality Test
While the Enneagram and the MBTI involve long tests and more complex results, there are many simple personality tests as well. Recently, I discovered the shape personality test, which is based on these four shapes: a circle, a square, a triangle, and a squiggle. This test provides insight not only to your personality traits, but how those traits apply at work and in project management settings.
How can this positively impact your writing?
All of these tests can help you understand why you behave the way you do. For example, as an Enneagram 2, my core desires are being loved, appreciated, and wanted. The Enneagram 2 and the INFJ personality types might also demonstrate people-pleasing traits. This affects my writing because I become incredibly self-conscious about how others will perceive my writing, or if others will like what I write. Because I know these are my initial thoughts when writing, I can work on being more confident in my writing not worrying about what everyone else thinks, and staying focused on what I think and what’s best for my audience.
Additionally, these personality tests can help you write stronger characters, be more aware about their growth, and understand why your character is doing what they’re doing. As you’re creating characters, you can look back at the personality descriptors for the Enneagram, the MBTI, the shape personality test, or any other self-awareness tool to ensure your characters are well-developed. The Enneagram is based on core motivations so you might decide your character is an Enneagram 7, whose core desire is being happy, fully satisfied, and content. Their core fear is boredom and missing out on something fun. As you’re writing, you can come back to these core motivations and make sure that everything your character does is connected back to being happy, fully satisfied, and content.
Personality tests and self-awareness have helped my writing tremendously. Knowing myself better helps me be my best creative self, and the knowledge of self (and others) can help us create believable, well-developed characters. Give one of these personality tests a try, and you might be surprised what you learn about yourself and your characters.