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Personality Maps: Building Character Motivations


I have studied almost every personality map out there. Some people believe in personality, some think we are too complex for personality. However, characters in books are not as complex as real people, they can't be. Characters are shorthand notation pointing to a cutout into which you fill in the blanks. When the cutout resembles reality, it works, when it does not, it jars the reader out of the story. Play it safe and stick in the hero in a hero's story, but for more interest, you can try to get creative at this level. There is a range of heroic types from reluctant hero to paladin and some overlap in skill sets and personality with other story types. You will find heroic personalties in trickster stories (The Maltese Falcon) or in bride stories (Underworld). Sometimes, as in the portrayal of Captain Kirk above, the change of personality by the actor and the writer, change the kind of story that can be told. Most teachers of writing go with popular personality types and just focus on how they are broken. I find this insanely irritating, but it works.

Personality maps are all over the place. Astrology is a good map, but doesn't apply to people too well. The Enneagram is a good map, but again, the topology doesn't seem to work very well. When you were born or where you are on the chart may not be logical according to the map. The Myers-Briggs Personality Test and the Big Five were based on observations of people and try to fit types, but don't work well for story characters. There are god and goddess maps, cartoon maps, maps based on actual psychiatric problems and really frustrated maps like the current declaration that there are only three types of people: self-involved, middle, and role models! Here I will go through the maps that you might enjoy exploring in more detail and tell you why they work and don't work, before I settle on one I find that works really well for characters in stories, the Enneagram. It is a map based on spiritual flaws. Because it is a stress map, and characters are under stress, it seems to work well for character portrayals.

A Summary of Useful Maps


Here in this illustration, I have tried to summarize and lump the basic traits into the twelve categories. This is a useful shorthand, but is not enough for more than a side character. A deeper study of each type may give you some insights into main character development, but don't mention when the person was born or under what sign, for that will blow your credibility.


The gods and goddesses map is similar to the astrological map with the addition of Vulcan a creative type with negative social ability and Hestia, a home-loving introverted type. The books are worth reading. Goddesses in Everywoman and the Goddesses in Everyman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. The books alone are enough to give you ideas for character motivations and interactions, but they are not in a format that works well for constructing fiction. It's a fun map to explore yourself unlike the astrology map which seems to be forced onto a person. These works offer insight and dimension into what may make main characters "tick." The complexity of the maps is up to you.


These maps are different. Both are based on observations and interviews with thousands of people. There are two extremes of preferences (traits) and people lie somewhere on the line. Discoveries are that most people are Extraverted and Sensing. The other traits are about half and half. Energy levels have to do with social energy or interactive energy. Most introverts need a lot of alone time or down time. Extraverts tend to be energized being with people, introverts by being alone. This seems to be innate, with preferences showing in babies. Studies show that introverts process many of their responses through the frontal cortex for a "best fit" answer rather than a "first fit" answer blurted out by the extravert. Epistemology is merely learning and knowlege structures. Sensing people tend to be "bottom up" learning methodically. They tend to follow instructions and finish one step before proceeding to the next. The iNtuiting people are creative, re-invent the wheel types, who make mental maps and fit data in as it comes up. They tend to be "top down" people. Sherlock Holmes is an intelligent Sensing type, Albert Einstein an intelligent iNtuiting type. Communication problems occur here with literal people versus "gesturers." The Berkeley Five splits the third category into two. The Myers-Briggs tests for people-oriented verus problem-oriented people for Feeling and Thinking extremes. As you may guess, there is a tendency in this country for women to be Feeling and men to be Thinking. Splitting this category, take aways the "female versus male" brain, but the self-sacrificing versus self-preserving is misleading and is still "people oriented" versus "problem oriented." The fourth category is the organization part of the mind, both in time and in space. Judgers tend to be organized and scheduled, Perceivers tend to be better at improvising but have trouble with finishing and deadlines. This category is what causes roommates to want to kill each other over squeezing the toothpaste tube. People tend not to be one extreme or the other, but spotty in this category such as having organized socks but unable to do homework on time.

These kinds of maps are interesting, but most useful in work situations, not character creation. However, it can be useful to know if your character is extraverted or not.


There are a class of personality tests that are "stress" tests with extremes being "sins" or pathological conditions such as schizoid paranoia. These maps are the most useful for creating main characters in stories because the characters are in conflict or under stress. Although many argue these maps, there is a tendency for trait clumping with stress points. Originally, this map was a guide to spiritual growth through all the weak points of man namely the "seven deadly sins." It was brought into the Jesuit via Gurdjieff's teachings by Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. There the topology was fixed and subtypes (wings) were added by Don Riso and Russ Hudson. Most people have problems with the topology and the directions of healing and disintegration. It is a "loaded" map that is more useful for people's tendencies and character's reactions. A better map was constructed with three further sub-types for each type and wing, by Katherine Chernick Fauve as she taught classes and constructed interviews. These sub-types are self-preserving, intimate or sexual, and social. The map of 108 types is a great map for using for people or characters. It seems rich enough for it all. However, for most stories and books, just the 9-point map will usually suffice although adding a wing is a richer character.


The failure of this test, according to most people is in the topology. As a type 6 you can only have a 7 or a 5 wing and so on. The integration and disintegration are in the lines. 2 to 4 to 1 to 7 to 5 to 8 to 2 and reverse, 6 to 9 to 3 and reverse for disintegration. The important part of this happens to be in the topology. In this discussion, we talk about triangle people and those not on the triangle. However, to help you get familiar with the types, I will borrow from movies and television.

Star Trek

Star Wars

Cartoon Characters

What is interesting in these diagrams is the clustering. Star Trek is aimed at a geek audience and so has more clustering in the intellectual types of 5 and 1. Star Wars is straight adventure, so the clustering leaves the 5, but stays in 1 for the vindictive anger and outrage that is a failing in the Sith. The clustering at 2 is usually based on gender, where the type is more service oriented. On the cartoon diagram, you see much more clustering at 7 where the outrageous happens. 7 is the comedy channel. Zany characters who have a lot of imagination and a lot of defiance of the rules are usually 7 or have a 7 wing. The other obvious point of interest is the lack of character in the "fire pit" or the 4/5 border. These maps show a similarity to population distribution with heavy clustering in this country with males at 6 and females at 2. More and more females seem to be showing up at 6, so some of this mapping may be learned behavior. Politicians and actors tend to cluster at 7/8 and 2/3, engineers and scientists at 5/6, teachers and medical people at 2, theatre and performing artists tend to be 4/3. Many writers, famous writers, are in the fire-pit with composers, avant-guarde thinkers, and some professors. People who are in the fire-pit are usually reclusive. The one James Bond villain of this type was Drax from Moonraker.

James Bond

Here is a Bond map. Since these movies are British, we see some drift off the strong 6 with 7 and 3 predominating. These are both anti-social aggressive types, so one would expect both Bond and his enemies to be overlapping. With action characters, it's hard to determine whether they are counter-phobic and running with a 7 wing that will push them into adventure, or a 3 who is basically an adept liar who cares about his "mask" so much that he will not get close to anyone. Spies are 3s. Killers are 3s. But the actors who play these tough roles are often outdoor 6 types like Lazenby.

Working with a Map - Interactive Styles


The above map shows the tendencies of the types to bad interactions. The first shows the root reaction, the second the unhealthy impulse and the third the reaction to which the character must move. You can see at point 6 the heroic model of fear/anger/courage that is so often portrayed. Often the form of the anger can take the shape of whining or complaining. If you think of Han Solo interacting with Princess Leia, you see his fear reaction, his complaint, and her concern turning into patronizing sarcasm or a snappy "mom" lecture. This is a stereotypical interaction of American lovers under stress. I will now talk about each type a bit.

The point 1 does not react to life-threats with fear. Outrage is for those who break the rules and the urge is to punish, not to run away or protect. There is no thought about protecting the self. This person is so sure of going to Heaven that the self can easily be tossed away. Sometimes the body is punished for incorrect thoughts. Some people confuse all anger with counter-phobia. For this type, the best way out of a bad situation is not anger, but keeping a cool head and trying diplomacy. This type will see threats, any threats as insulting and not dangerous.

Point 2 is going to be concerned and worried. Not necessarily afraid, but so focused on what will happen to the future, not able to focus on the moment. This is the parent, usually the mom reaction. It is almost unheard of that this type is acting alone, so the concern is for the group survival. The reaction is to lecture the others into fighting harder. Think of Leia, she fights, but her mouth and mind is snapping at those around her to buck up and help. To overome "momming" this type must trust in love, rise above the threat and know that everyone is doing their best. Think of a parent dashing into traffic to pull back a kid and the reaction of a lecture. How hard it would be to rise above that lecture and just hug the child.

Point 3 is a bad guy point. Almost every murderer in fiction is a 3. This is because the reaction to threat is an emotional disconnect. This can become so immediate and fulfilling that the conscience is underdeveloped allowing the type to survive even when it means eating a friend. To come out of this mode requires deep inner strength that few have. Most who fear numbness because it disconnects from living, try to get angry or do something to activate the adrenaline. The way out for this type is to humanize the people in the interaction. If you are curious about this type, I highly recommend the new Sherlock series. This is a great insight into this kind of mind. When he needs to come out of his sociopathic tendencies, he has to focus on his friends and why they are better than he is and why he admires that. This type "dresses to impress" so learning to admire others is a challenge.

Point 4 does not react with fear to situations because they are so fatalistic that their every moment is fear. There is more fear in something good than in something bad. Something bad happening is a confirmation of life being hell. As you can see from this description, this type has to walk away, which is not a good interaction for a story. However, if you are writing from inside the head of this type and the reader is sympathetic, then the reader will be glad when the type chooses not to continue the hell, but to leave it for a new life. Think of Jim Morrison of the Doors. We would have enjoyed him doing what David Bowie did, which was to walk away from fame and drugs and women and depression.

Point 5 is the mad scientist point. However, before that point, any interaction at all is over-defended, usually intellectually. The type tries to get attention by dazzling the others with information, so a threat is a threat, not only to person, but to a school of ideas or a way of thinking, or of the world itself. The only way out of this is to back off and try to look at things without loading them. This is very difficult, so interactions with this type are already met with defensive logic and hostility. This type is extremely unpopular in America, so even when a person is this type, they will rely heavily on the 6 wing. You see Data, Barkeley, Geordi, and Scotty all "going to 6" when they are confronted. Like the 4 type, a story from inside the head is a sympathetic story despite movies about eccentric scientists being movies about people viewers love to despise.

Point 6 almost needs no discussion, it is such a popular personality and a popular story character. Writers spend a lot of time trying to come up with different threats and showing how the 6 overcomes them by conquering "fear itself." "Feel the Force, Luke!" is the call of every person of this type.

The 7 type finds bad things to be distracting and irritating. Life is supposed to be a fun game, for bad things to happen isn't fair. Often, a "bad" person is an invitation for the 7 to engage is malicious teasing and shunning behaviors. This teasing is often seen as joking around and is part of the human tendency to poke fun at the despicable. It becomes a defensive reaction in the 7, until a game begins to run off the threat with the group malice. Type 7 is a highly social type, so egging the others on into a blanket shunning is a reaction to a threat that is effective. The 7 also tends to ignore threats by being too busy to pay attention. They are distractions, midges and flies, until they are fatal. For this type to focus, look and pay attention is very difficult.

Point 8 relishes any conflict or threat. This type gets great joy out of fighting and the fight, not just winning or overcoming, but the struggle itself. Most 6s envy this type that rushes into battle laughing. This aggression doesn't work as well in the real world, where the 8 can fire everyone who won't stand up and face him, or knocks the head of a child who can't jump into the competitive fray. This type is also a bad guy type, for it is hard for most to get into the head of someone so eager to do battle. But there is one extremely popular character who was this type, the old Captain Kirk. He jumped into any threat with his fists up. "Cowboy diplomacy!"

Another type that is not a good story character is the 9. Another introverted type like the 5 and the 4, most will not know the kind of fear the 9 suffers, even the 9. The reaction to conflict is to try to ignore it, go deeper within, push down the feelings into that space that is behind the trapdoor. Until the conflict escalates. The 9 is flanked by two very aggressive types. Often when the dam breaks, it is violent. But most 9s never get this far and just become fat, sitting and watching television while they eat comfort food. This type will agree to almost anything to avoid any kind of conflict. So you can see why this is not a good character for a story, where conflict is important. This type makes a great mentor or counselor for the 6. Yoda is this type.


What happens in an intimate situation? How do the types bond with others? The top line describes the kind of person that they are as a friend or lover. The second describes their irritating quality, the third describes their value. I won't go into each type as much, for it is good to read every book out there you can find on personality. The Enneagram seems to sum up the flaws and assets of stock characters better than most, but try doing a one word summary with other map types for your characters. I find it helps to draw them in a circle and put lines between them showing how they will interact in good/bad, reactive/healthy ways. One of the reasons Star Trek was so popular with engineers was the way that we got to "see" Geordi call a meeting to solve a problem in which everyone sits around and brainstorms how to solve it. There is an interchange of ideas that the 5s love without the bucking to hold the floor that they hate. This was almost never seen in any show before. Romance remains popular because it explores relationships on the right side of the map where the interplay of helping and guiding, inspiring and supporting is threatened by interpersonal pride and posturing. Masks have to be cast aside for the true feelings and appreciations to come out. Rather than rely on stereotype stories and compete with hundreds of like stories, it may be to your advantage as a writer to explore other interactions.

How Personality Affects Archetypes


According to Joseph Campbell in his book, The Masks of God - Primitive Mythology the first god types were the witch and tricker as shamans. The witch channeled the energies of the animals to bring good luck for the hunt, literally calling the animals to their deaths. The trickster was the better known shaman, the one you went to to curse your enemies, the witch blamed when your cows got hoof rot. The first witch/channeler type almost vanished, going instead into the parts of the earth she used to represent, a spring or well would have certain healing abilities, etc. This is why we call her an elemental. When I did a magical application game, this type was represented by dragons and dwarves, for creation and destruction using fire magic. To see Jane Grey as the Dark Phoenix is quite astonishing and shows that this type still lives deep in the Western psyche.

The spread of the story of the earth goddess and the vegetative sun god turned the witch into a demon and the wizard trickster into a devil, both of whom had to be fought. This was just a sign of competing religions, the religions of the south trying to overcome the demons of the north. We see it best in Greek Mythology where the Titans are defeated by the gods of Olympus. The heroic story of the dead and dying sun(son) who kills the old year and is resurrected by the nourishments of the mother is so prevalent and so powerful that it became the basis for one of the great Western religions. Unlike in Asia, where many held onto the spirits and daemons of the sky, where shamanism persisted and eventually became Shintoism, Taoism and some of Buddhism, the West was conquered by the Osiris/Isis story by force. Millions died in the spread of this story. So it is not a petty thing to be talked about in books. It is a religious conflict that continues to this day, seen mostly in the reactions of the conservative Christians to Hallowe'en and fantasy which they right call "devil worship." It is not worship as much as the persistence of the old religions trying not to disappear from the collective conscious.

The fact that the religion type and the story type coincide with the most popular personality type makes for a mindset that is sure that anything outside of this is a mental sickness. I will not be successful in trying to be objective and pointing out that this whole set of religious story is popular, not "true." Truth is the blending of ALL the types, of every personality and every variation, or they would have died out. We live in a very easy age where many variations of mind can flourish, but they survived the Ice Age and other trials because they were necessary to the species's survival. To shunt them off to mental hospitals is racial suicide. As much as we may hate it, the traits that makes a person a homicidal maniac is the same trait that makes for an inspiring personal coach! The same brain that could be a paranoid mad scientist is the brain that can keep the lights on. The same carping, mothering that makes you feel like shit, is the love that binds the family through thick and thin. This is what we are stuck with. Religious tolerance and racial tolerance is tied to personality tolerance. It is all hard.


You can see by this chart, that the ghettos of romance are centered on the right side of the diagram, where action and comedy is on the left. Often, stories are structured with the protagonist being a hero faced with different characters from the other parts of the chart. He has a teasing, rule-breaking sidekick, a wise mentor, a carping, loving girlfriend, and an enemy who is anti-social or demonic or elemental (like fighting a fire). I cannot say this enough, THIS IS A STEROEOTYPE!!! It works, so well that it gets used over and over. Hollywood has almost put down a mandate that this is the only kind of story that they will accept from screenwriters. IT IS POPULAR!!! If you want to make money, stick to this story. If you want to gamble on a huge, hungry audience who will have to find you, go with another story. Romance stories (bridal path) still sell millions of copies. Mysteries, ditto. If you understand personality archetypes, you will do better with these stories. If you understand the plot sequences, you will succeed with these stories.

© 2018, A.R. Stone