Monday, January 25, 2016

9 Ways to Improve Character Relationships

So last September I attended the annual League of Utah Writers Conference where I met Author Amy Jarecki, a romance writer who is most successful. I did some posts back then about what I learned from her, but one thing she suggested I do was read a particular book.

It's entitled Are You My Type, Am I Yours? by Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele

I've picked it up several times since then but only finally got around to reading it recently. Basically this book talks about the 9 types of personality, how they interact, what their motivations are, and what types get along vs. what types don't. So you can use them in friendships of course, but it also shows what personality type each type usually chooses in a partner, and what they value vs. what annoys them in each of the other types. So you can use this to write realistic personalities for each individual character, but then can also contrast various personalities to come up with realistic personality clashes. (How many of us could do that off the top of our heads?)

This book is incredibly useful and fun to read on many levels. Not only will you find yourself figuring out what type all the people in your life are, but you'll also start assigning types to various characters, whether they're the ones you've written or just others in your favorite books and TV shows. 

The book also has a section on the 16 MBTI personality types, and then shows an intersection between that and the 9 named in the Enneagram.

So I'll go over these briefly, but to get a truly rounded picture, I would highly recommend reading (and buying so you can refer back to it as you write various characters) the book for yourself.

*Abbrieviations: WoT = Wheel of Time, TWD = The Walking Dead, AToTC = A Tale of Two Cities, GoT = Game of Thrones, LOTR = Lord of the Rings. (Sorry if you don't know the references. I stuck to people and characters that first jumped to mind when I read the book, or were put forth by the book itself. :D)*

Personality Types:            Motivated by:                                       Examples:

1. The Perfectionist     The need to improve themselves     Nynaeve al'Meara (WoT)
                                              and live the right way.                        Javere (Les Miserables)

2. The Helper                  The need to be loved and valued      Mother Theresa
                                              and express their love for others      Beth Greene (TWD)

3. The Achiever              The need to be well-regarded,          Steve Jobs
                                               successful, productive, efficient.      Perrin Aybarra (WoT)
                                                                                                               Tyrion Lannister (GoT)

4. The Romantic             The need to understand their          MANY writers, actors, &
                                               feelings, search for what is               artists fall into this 
                                               missing, what life means, and         category.
                                               avoid being ordinary.

5. The Observer               The need to know & understand,   Daryl Dixon (TWD)
                                                be self-sufficient, and not feel         Sydney Carton (AToTC)
                                                engulfed or invaded. 

6. The Questioner           The need for security. (Asks            Anna Karenina
                                                what-if questions, often negative   Sansa Stark (GoT)
                                                ones ie. what if something goes 

7. The Adventurer          The need to be happy, contribute   Arya Stark (GoT)
                                                to the world, and avoid pain.           Matrim Cauthon (WoT)

8. The Asserter                The need to be self-reliant,              Will Smith
                                                strong, and make an impact            JD Rockefeller
                                                on the world.

9.The Peacemaker         The need to live in harmony, to       Jimmy Stewart, Abe Lincoln
                                                merge with others and avoid            Samwise Gamgee (LOTR)
                                                conflict.                                                 Loial (WoT)

So this is really just an overview. If you want to create REALLY realistic interactions between all of your characters, I highly recommend studying this book. I already have big plans for what I've learned.

How do you take on the challenge of creating realistic personalities for your characters?


  1. Thanks for passing on that book. I never knew there were so many personalities.

    1. Sure thing, Alex. This really lays them all out. :D

  2. Hi Liesel - what a great book to find out about ... and I'm certain will make life easier for authors as they create their characters. Also for us lot ... just to learn about the characteristics of people etc ... cheers Hilary

    1. Yeah, I agree, Hilary. I'm excited to start applying it to my writing. :D

  3. These are great and there are so many subtle differences in these types. Food for thought.