Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Character Personality Systems

I like a lot of structure when I write, so perhaps it's not surprising that I latched onto the idea of using personality systems to develop characters. Like story structure, using personality systems can be a starting point to developing a story, or a place to seek inspiration if you're stuck. Also like story structure, there is danger in getting stuck in a rut, making story elements feel rigid and unoriginal if you stick religiously to the system. However, if used well, personality systems can be a powerful tool in creating dynamic characters.

Personality systems predict patterns of behavior, and how certain people might react in any given scenario. They divide the complexity of people into groups for easier consideration. Whether or not they hold true in real life is beyond the scope of this post. 

I'd like to discuss seven reasons for using personality systems in your writing, and then I'll go into examples of the most popular systems and how they might be useful. Keep in mind that this is a very basic overview of information that can quickly become complex. If you want to study these further, excellent! Go ahead. If you're not looking to invest that time right now, be ware of falling into rabbit holes.

Seven Reasons to Use Personality Systems
1. Create Consistent Characters
Personalities tend to remain constant even when people change. Using a personality system can help you determine if this character is acting consistent or "in character". I find it especially useful when writing about a character at different times and ages.

2. Discover Conflict
Which characters are least likely to get along? How might they clash? Personality systems may help you find an answer.

3. Brainstorming Motivation
Each personality type has a different motivation, which can help you to get ideas for what really drives each character. This is especially useful for villains, in making sure that they are dynamic and relatable.

4. Ease and Speed
Creating a story is hard. There are a lot of facets to discover, in any genre, from characters to setting to plot to theme. Starting with a personality system can free up brainpower for other parts of the process. 

5. Include a variety of characters
Using a system can help you to make sure that not all of your characters are mirrors of you, for instance. If you write a lot of stories, you may need help making sure that you have a wide variety. 

6. Keep Track of A Large Number of Characters
Especially if you're writing a series or a large work, you may struggle to keep track of everyone, and if you struggle, so will your readers. 

7. Comparisons
With personality systems, you can compare your own characters to ones from popular works. I especially like The Personality Database for this.

Now that we have an idea of why and how we might want to use these systems, here are a few of the more popular ones and how they might be useful:


Have you ever heard someone introduce themselves as an INFJ or ESTP? Those letters come from the Myers-Brigg personality system, which deals with how you perceive and interact with the world around you. Myers and Briss were a mother-daughter team who adapted the philosophies of Carl Jung into a more readable form. Interestingly enough, the daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, was a mystery writer.

According to the Myers-Brigg website,“Seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.”

Myers Brigg takes four different traits, and assigns people one of two possible options, as follows:

I vs. E: Introvert v. Extrovert (social interactions)

N vs. S: Introspective vs. Sensing: (information and observation)

F vs. T: Feeling vs. Thinking. (decision-making) 

P vs. J: Perceiving vs. Judging: (structure)

Bonus: A vs T: Assertive vs. Turbulent (handling stress)

An introvert who absorbs information as they receive it, who bases their decisions more on feelings than thoughts, and who is open to change, would use the letters INFP.

From what I've seen from informal surveys on social media, around 75% of writers are Introverted, while maybe 90% are Introspective over Sensing.

When I was developing my character Perrin Andres, the main character of The Seventh Clan, I used the Myers Brigg personality system. I knew that he needed to be introverted, because he would need to be comfortable spending long times alone. He'd be Sensing instead of Introspective, because I wanted the story to have a survival-type feel. He had to be Feeling, because he is motivated by his empathy for others. I also wanted him to be open to change, so that led to Perceiving over Judging. That makes him ISFP. I ran that type through the Personality Database, and found that Perrin shares a personality type with Zuko from Avatar: the Last Airbender, Harry Potter, Eragon, and Tyson the cyclops. It looks like, as a young man protagonist of a YA fantasy novel, Perrin is in good company.


The Myers & Briggs Foundation - MBTI® Basics  

Free personality test, type descriptions, relationship and career advice | 16Personalities 

5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for Characters - Helping Writers Become Authors

Myers–Briggs / Useful Notes - TV Tropes


The enneagram system breaks people into nine different types, and establishes how they relate to one another. This is the system that I use most often.

"Unlike Myers-Briggs, which is a “neutral” system focused primarily on the differing ways people take in and use information, the Enneagram is often called an “ego-transcendence tool.” Sounds all lofty and new-agey, but it’s really just code for “this-is-gonna-hit-you-where-it-hurts.”
--KM Weiland, 5 Ways to Use the Enneagram to Write Better Characters - Helping Writers Become Authors

“It is unique amongst personality tests in that it doesn't try to pigeonhole you based on who you happen to be at this very second; it accounts for personal evolution, both in the past and in the future, and gives suggestions for how to improve… Your greatest weakness is your greatest strength pushed too far.  

The Enneagram / Useful Notes - TV Tropes

Here are the nine types, represented by Disney princesses:
Type 1 is the reformer, desiring to be good and afraid of being wrong. Type 1s tend to see the world in black and white and can be perfectionistic. In Frozen 1, Elsa is afraid of being a monster.

Type 2 is the helper, desiring to be loved and afraid of being unwanted. Type 2s tend to put others before themselves, and can be influenced by others' opinions. Anna from Frozen and Snow White are examples.

Type 3 is the Achiever, desiring to be valuable and afraid of being worthless. Type 3s are ambitious and goal-oriented. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog is an excellent example, as she works hard to reach her goal of opening a restaurant.

Type 4 is the Individualist, desiring to be themselves and afraid of being insignificant. They are often artists, eager to define who they are and represent it to others. Moana wins by first understanding who she is, and then teaching her antagonist to do so as well. Belle feels insignificant in her village and needs to find an adventurous life that fits her better.

Type 5 is the Investigator, desiring to be competent and afraid of being helpless. They tend to be intellectual, while they study and research every question. Jane from Tarzan is a Disney example.

Type 6 is the Loyalist, desiring to be secure and afraid of being without guidance. Type 6 can be anxious and is slow to trust, especially themselves. They tend to find something bigger than themselves that they can trust, and then they will hold to it above all. Though Mulan breaks conventions, she believes in honor and her family.

Type 7 is the Enthusiast, desiring to be content and afraid of being deprived. Type 7s love to try everything. They want to experience the world. The term FOMO was pretty much invented for type 7s. Ariel is an example, as she desires to leave the ocean and explore the human world.

Type 8 is the Challenger, desiring to be in control and afraid of being controlled. Type 8s are independent and driven. Merida and Jasmine are examples of Disney princesses with this type.

Type 9 is the Peacemaker, desiring to be at peace (especially at peace with themselves) and afraid of being in conflict. Type 9s are dreamers who see the world in a different way. Pocahontas and Aurora are type 9s.

When I was developing my character Norma Filaura from DreamRovers, I took an enneagram test, answering as though I were her. Her results came back as type 4, which makes sense because she is a teenager with a coming-of-age plot, as she tries to discover who she really is and how she fits into the world around her. The type descriptions from the Enneagram Institue gave me ideas for her desires and fears, healthy and unhealthy behaviors, and how she might relate to other types, including her family members and the antagonists.

DnD Alignments

This system depicts how a character relates to laws and morality. Their alignment with laws ranges from lawful to chaotic, while their morality ranges from good to evil. I particularly liked this chart which uses characters from the Harry Potter series to depict each type:

Love Languages
How do characters show and receive love? This can affect how they get along (or don't) with one another. When I was working on the relationship between Keita and Brian in Keita's Wings, they used every love language at one point so that their relationship would appeal to every reader.

As a side note, I've heard the love languages also referred to as love tanks, with the idea being that everyone needs everything on the list, but they have different "minimum quotas", if you will, that need to be met.

The Love Languages are:
Words of Affirmation
Giving Service
Quality Time (aka receiving attention)
Receiving Gifts (including Presence--any physical representation of an intangible idea)
Physical Touch


Many different systems exist. You can try one, or make your own. Want to sort your characters into their Hogwarts House? Have you chosen a birthday so that you can refer to their zodiac? Possibilities abound!

Do you use any of these systems? Do you have a favorite that I didn't cover? Do you want to compare personality types? (for me: INFP-A, type 9, Capricorn, Chinese year of the tiger, Ravenclaw, neutral good, receiving gifts.) Feel free to leave a comment!

Imposter Syndrome and the Enneagram

This weekend, I listened to a talk about overcoming imposter syndrome. The speaker listed five different types of people and how they might experience imposter syndrome. I noticed that their five types lined up with five of the nine enneagram types, so naturally I had to fill out the other four.

Imposter syndrome is when "people doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as frauds" (thanks, wikipedia!). Artists often talk about it, but this can apply to people in all different walks of life. Neil Gaiman summed it up in an awesome anecdote best told in his own words.

The enneagram is a personality system that divides people into nine different types. I find it useful in character creation, because each type includes a core motivation, as well as a scale for how emotionally healthy people might act. 

I've taken the nine types of the enneagram and broken down how each one might react to imposter syndrome. Each has a Lie that the personality type might believe. You might relate to one type more than others, or you might relate to all of them. I've used "my work" to describe how it applies to imposter syndrome, but your life can also be considered your work, a work in progress.


Thursday, October 12, 2023

Why my hometown makes the best setting

 One of the authors I follow asked in her newsletter: "If I were to ask you what is something unique or really iconic about your hometown or where you live now, what would you say? Would your area make for a fun setting for a book? Maybe one of you will talk me into using a location for my next project!"

(It's Esther Hatch. I read her historical romantic comedy, "Manor for Sale, Baron Included", and laughed so much my husband thought I was having a coughing fit.)

Challenge accepted!

I don't write contemporary, but if any of you do, here are some highlights about my home and why it would be an awesome setting for a book:

I live near Yuma, Arizona, the sunniest city on earth! Hotels used to offer free stays on days that the sun doesn't shine, because it happens so rarely. Being on the border with Mexico and further south than all of California, we have the best street tacos. 

The population doubles in winter with all of the snowbirds--which is annoying if you want to eat out somewhere cute, like Kneaders (we're one of the only non-Utah cities to have Kneaders, because the original owners retired here), but the crowds of senior citizens means that we have more opportunities such as orchestra, theater, and art. We also have a huge military presence, with a marine airstrip and an army proving ground, and a branch of the Arizona Western College. So, all together, we have a lot of residents coming and going, as well as some old families here for generations.

We have an awesome (historic) Territorial Prison Museum that spent a few years as a high school, which kept its mascot as "the criminals" to this day. It's supposed to be haunted. We also have the "castle park" (Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative playground, but no one calls it that), which is a community park so awesome that I was astounded it's free when I first saw it. It was burned down a few years ago and the arsonist was never caught, but insurance covered the rebuild and donations went toward making it even more awesome. A couple could indulge their "inner child" on a tire swing (which was replaced recently by a wheelchair accessible swing) or sliding down the dragon slide. It's near a memorial for the Mormon Battalion, who crossed the Colorado River here. Our young men have an awesome historical reenactment. 

 The county fair in April is so huge that school districts arrange their schedules around it. It's called Fair, not "the fair". We're a big agricultural area, supplying most of the nation's winter vegetables, so a drive around the area will reveal fields in all directions. We grow a lot of citrus and dates too. Summer is the off season, from May to September, with temperatures up to 120. We make up for it with our beautiful, mild winters (no snow, ever). As everyone says, "You don't have to shovel sunshine". Unlike the Phoenix area, we cool off at night (comparatively), and we're a little more humid because of all of the agriculture and the nearby rivers.

Have I convinced you yet? Does anyone else want to join in and answer Esther's question? Why would your home make an awesome book setting?

Friday, September 1, 2023

Welcome, The Cousin Pact! Book 14 of The Spectra Books

 Today is the day!

The Cousin Pact is now officially published!

At one point, The Cousin Pact was going to be the first Spectra Crown Tale because it introduces you to so many of the other characters. The original idea of the Spectra Crown Tales was that different fairytale characters would interact with one another, often as siblings or cousins. Each book focuses on one or two, but they all interact and move in and out of each others' story. The Cousin Pact ended up being third in the series, but you'll have fun meeting the twelve (dancing) princesses, including:

Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, the main characters of the previous two books

Sleeping Beauty's sisters: Snow White, The Six Swans' sister (or cousin, in this case), The Tinderbox's princess, and Puss in Boots.

As for the others... well, I won't spoil all of them, but Little Red Riding Hood gets her red cloak in The Cousin Pact, and the princess from The Boy Who Kept a Secret meets her love interest.

Bonus points if you can spot all of them on this cover!

The Cousin Pact, book 3 in this series, focuses on a new character, a soldier who hates violence. One of the twelve dancing princesses stole the royal scepter and is kidnapping the others, and our soldier must discover who it is... but his heart keeps getting in the way. This story was inspired by my sister-in-law, who challenged our family to write a mystery!

All formats (paperback, ebook, and kindle vella) are now published!

Monday, May 1, 2023

Introducing The Tournament of Princes


Hello, everyone. I'm having an interesting year as I learn to balance my writing schedule with caring for a baby. I've been releasing one chapter each week of The Spectra Crown Tales in kindle vella, which means one full book every six months or so. In quieter moments (I love naptime!), I build up episodes for a second project. Since The Captain's Dowry is now out in the world, it's time to start a new second project.
So, I would like to introduce you to...

The Tournament of Princes 
Impersonate a prince. Win a crown. Stop an Empire. If Collis can enter the emperor's tournament to become his heir, he could create his own legend and stop the war for good. But the legends he loves never mentioned dust or blood, and the heroes had useful companions, not a child without fire abilities, an escaped slave, or his mother. Yet Collis will need them to cross the desert, survive the tournament, and beyond.

The Tournament of Princes started, as most of my stories do, as a daydream--or rather, a series of daydreams. The Vliek Empire is harsh, inside a harsh desert world, and I've set many of my own private stories there. When I first began planning to write it down, I knew that my favorite main character, Trissali, would be the mother of the YA hero of this story, and that she would play a major role (forget damsels in distress, mothers have it even worse, narratively speaking). It may be a bit grittier than my fairytale retellings, but I'm still aiming for a PG-13 rating, if it were a movie.

Inspirations for this story include everything from Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors to Avatar: The Last Airbender (more for plot and pacing than worldbuilding). In the Spectra world, this story takes place between Mira's Griffin and DreamRovers. Some of the six kingdoms have been fully established, but people are still learning and defining their abilities, so some of the politics and magic terminology are different than later books. The Tournament of Princes could be seen as a origin story for the Cole Kingdom.

You can read the first chapter completely free here (though you do have to sign in to your amazon account), and I'll also include the beginning below. The Tournament of Princes is currently exclusive to kindle vella, though I will probably publish it as a full book at some point. I'll be uploading one short episode every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I hope to see you there!
Sneak Peek:
As promised, here is the opening of The Tournament of Princes:

Dust rose over the desert. From the hills, Trissali saw it coming, and knew what it meant. At long last, the Vlieks had come for her tiny village.  

She could have stayed where she was, hidden in the rocky hills in the desert, but Trissali could not abandon her people.  

She raced down cliffs so quickly she seemed to fly. The cloud of dust spread across the entire sky behind her. The first stone houses came into view. Trissali rushed straight to the village center and rang their warning bell, again and again, until the whole village had gathered. 

Her father was the first to come running, holding two spears. He handed her one of them. “The innocents can escape into the hills,” he said, “but they need time.” 

Trissali accepted the spear, and she and her father alone charged the oncoming horde. 

*   *  * 

Collis let the dramatic pause linger. His audience, all children, waited eagerly. He’d loved these stories at their age too, but now they were the ones who needed protected, and he was old enough to help—as long as they were sufficiently distracted. He lifted a toy wooden spear and, for good measure, summoned a ball of fire. The tip of the spear burst into flames.  

Twelve-year-old Tuya bounced where she stood. The girl’s pale hair, so different than the black and brown of the others, flipped into her eyes. “Awesome!” 

“I can’t wait ‘til I learn fire-shaping,” a little boy said. 

Collis grinned and swung the spear. The fire danced, creating glowing orange light on the drab stone walls of the schoolhouse, a major improvement. The kids laughed and cheered. 

The next oldest after Collis, a fourteen-year-old baker's daughter, glared at the spear, and the fire went out.  “Really, Collis? You’d tell them a story like that at a time like this?” 

He hesitated. “They’re having fun.” 

She pointed to the back wall. Some of the children gathered there, pressed close together. “Our parents are going to fight a real battle.” 

“Some of us don’t have any,” Tuya said. She swallowed her sadness and looked desperately up at Collis. “What happened next?” 

The distraction clearly helped some of the kids. Collis edged further from the ones cowering in the back while the baker’s daughter hurried to them. She was only a year younger, but a lot better than he was at minding the younger ones. 

Collis pulled out the box he’d brought with him and opened the lid. Eleven carved weapons, with details outlined in black, charred wood. “I made you something.” He chose a sword and handed it to Tuya. “Why don’t you act it out and see who won?” 

With whoops and cheers, the small horde descended on the box. 

His collection might not survive, but Collis had bigger priorities. The baker’s daughter had everything in hand. There was no reason he couldn’t slip out. 

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Shall I compare thee to a Shakespeare play?


How do you feel about Shakespeare? I was always indifferent when I had to puzzle out the meanings in high school. Then in college I took a class that focused on the comedies, and I fell in love, so to speak. Funny story: when one of my sons was little, my husband gifted me an omnibus of the works of Shakespeare with a big picture of him on the cover. My toddler would cry "Achey Bear!" when he saw it. Once or twice, he said it about a picture of Jesus at church.

My favorite play is As You Like It. The main character, Rosalind, is courageous and witty and powerful, taking charge and driving her own story. While she falls in love at first sight, she stops and gets to know him before making any major life (or death) choices.

My new book, The Captain's Dowry, started as a daydream about a girl disguised as a boy, a marriage of convenience, and an attractive sea captain. A few chapters in, I noticed the similarities to As You Like It and incorporated the retelling into the story (I was almost done with the rough draft when I realized that some of the subplots could fit beautifully if influenced more by King Lear.)

The Captain's Dowry just came out today in ebook and Kindle Unlimited (it was already in paperback and kindle vella).

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Book Recommendations March 2023


Here are a few books I've enjoyed this month that you might find interesting:
My brother-in-law gifted The Wild Robot to our family, and we loved it so much that we read the sequel as well. They're middle grade, with short chapters that made them perfect to read to our kids each night (although I enjoyed them myself as well). The animals in the first book especially appealed to me, as I studied wildlife in college.
This is my new favorite kindle vella story. It's super cute so far, about a human girl who has to marry a fae prince. The author also wrote another favorite vella of mine, The Assassin Bride, and the two stories take place in the same world.
Here's another kindle vella I've been enjoying lately: Suerhero Saga 1: Trials, Tribulations, and Trust Issues. The teen protagonist has a great sassy voice as she analyzes different superpowers for a corrupt government entity. 

Character Personality Systems

I like a lot of structure when I write, so perhaps it's not surprising that I latched onto the idea of using personality systems to deve...