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  • Writer's pictureJessica Van Devanter

Using Personality Tests to Develop Realistic Characters

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Creating believable, nuanced characters is essential for compelling storytelling. One effective way to develop realistic characters is to use personality tests. These tools can offer insights into your characters' behaviors, motivations, and interactions, adding depth and realism to your narratives. Here’s how you can use personality tests to enhance your writing practice.


Understanding Different Personality Tests:

Familiarize yourself with various personality tests, each offering unique perspectives on human behavior. 4 common ones to try are:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI):

Categorizes personalities into 16 types based on preferences in four dichotomies (Introversion/Extraversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving).

The Enneagram:

Identifies nine personality types, each with distinct motivations and fears.

Big Five Personality Traits:

Measures five broad dimensions of personality (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism).

DISC Assessment:

Focuses on four primary traits (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness).


Assigning Personality Types to Characters:

Start by assigning personality types to your main characters. Use the characteristics of each type to inform their behaviors, decisions, and interactions. For instance, an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) from the MBTI might be strategic and analytical, while an ESFP (Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving) might be outgoing and spontaneous. One way to decide what personality type to give a character is to consider the story and the challenges the main characters will face and that personality characteristics would the character need to have to make the story interesting. What personality type would have to grow and change the most, and which would it be the most challenging for?


Developing Consistent and Realistic Character Behavior:

Using personality tests helps ensure consistency in your characters' behavior. A character’s responses to various situations should align with their personality type. This consistency makes characters more believable. For instance, a character high in Agreeableness (from the Big Five) will likely avoid conflict and seek harmony in their interactions. Since personality tests are all based on real human personalities trends observed by scientists, choosing to follow a personality type identified by science-backed tests makes it more likely that the behavior and choices of your character feel more real to the reader.


Creating Dynamic Interactions:

Personality tests can guide how characters interact with one another. Understanding each character’s type allows you to create dynamic and realistic interactions. An extroverted character might clash with an introverted one, or a conscientious character might struggle with a more spontaneous counterpart. These interactions add depth and conflict to your story.


Informing Character Development Arcs:

Characters often undergo significant development throughout a story. Personality tests can help map out these arcs. Consider how your character’s type influences their growth. An Enneagram Type 4 (The Individualist) might start off feeling misunderstood and evolve towards greater self-acceptance and connection with others.


Enhancing Dialogue and Voice:

Personality types influence how characters speak and express themselves. Use these insights to craft distinct voices for each character. An intuitive character might use abstract language and metaphors, while a sensing character might prefer concrete details and practical language. Tailoring dialogue to fit personality types adds authenticity to your characters' voices.


Balancing Strengths and Weaknesses:

Each personality type has its strengths and weaknesses. Highlight these traits to create well-rounded characters. A high-openness character (from the Big Five) might be highly creative but struggle with consistency. Balancing positive and negative traits makes characters more relatable and complex.


Generating Subplots and Conflicts:

Personality tests can inspire subplots and conflicts based on characters' traits. For example, a character high in Neuroticism (from the Big Five) might face internal struggles with anxiety, creating personal challenges and growth opportunities. Use these traits to develop compelling subplots that enrich the main narrative.


Applying Tests to Supporting Characters:

Don’t limit personality tests to main characters. Apply them to supporting characters to ensure they are well-developed and contribute meaningfully to the story. Understanding their personality types can help you create memorable secondary characters who enhance the overall narrative.


Using personality tests to inform your writing is a powerful way to develop rich, believable characters. By understanding different personality frameworks and applying them to your characters, you can explore their motivations, ensure consistent behavior, create dynamic interactions, and craft meaningful development arcs.


Incorporate personality tests into your writing process, and watch your characters come to life with greater complexity and realism. Happy character creation!

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