Friday, February 4, 2022

Writing an Un-Put-Downable Character Part 1: Personality

A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

Characters make or break a story. It doesn’t matter how complicated your plot, how beautifully imagined your world, or how elegant your prose. Without characters who resonate, your story won’t work. 

So what does it take for writers to create characters who resonate with readers? A lot of work! 
No, you can’t just sit down at a keyboard and bang out some words to tell us that Johnny walked across the room and expect us to automatically care about him. Sorry. 

We have to know your character’s motivation. What’s in his or her heart? How does he or she see the world? And why should we care?

Character has always been my favorite part of telling stories, so ages back I started paying attention to how I designed the men, women, children, and various sentient fuzzy creatures who inhabit my imaginary worlds. 

These are the elements I came up with: 
  • Personality 
  • Conflict
  • Contradictions
  • History
  • Interests 
  • Language 
  • Internalization 
  • Dreams 
  • Observables 
  • Growth 
Yes, that’s a lot to keep track of. And because I have a terrible memory, I decided that having an acronym for it would be a good idea. I plugged it into an online acronym generator and got this: 


I wish it could have been something more suave and impressive and epic. But, hey, at least it’s not very forgettable. 

So I thought I would take this year and share my strategy for creating characters that everybody loves (or that they love to hate, which are my personal favorites).

We’ll just go in order and start with Personality. 

Generally speaking, a personality is the unique way each person is wired to respond to life. Every character needs a distinct personality, but to create one, you have to know the elements that go into it. 

There are more personality tests out there than you can shake a stick at, but my two favorites are the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram.

Let me preface all of this by saying that I am not a psychologist. Not even close. But I do watch a lot of people in the Walmart parking lot… just saying.

When you’re just starting out in creating your character’s personality, stick with MBTI. It’s much easier to work with before you have gotten to know your character on a very deep level.

MBTI in a nutshell

MBTI categorizes all personalities into 16 types based on eight different categories of personality. This is so much deeper than I have space to explain, but let me give you a really brief (and probably unsatisfying) overview.

All personalities are either: 
  • Introverts or Extroverts
  • Intuitives or Sensors
  • Thinkers or Feelers
  • Judgers or Perceivers
Extroverts are energized when they are around crowds of people. Introverts are energized by alone time. 

Intuitives trust their guts about relationships and situations, while Sensors trust what they can observe.

Thinkers respond to life based on facts and figures, and Feelers respond based on their emotions.

Judgers are usually organized and structured, and Perceivers—well—they have a tendency to frolic in fields of daisies when they should be working. 

Yes, I’m a P. An INFP to be precise. Introverted Intuitive Feeler Perceiver. What that tells people about me? I need alone time to recharge. I trust my intuition before I trust my eyes. I feel all the things. And I often sacrifice structure for spontaneity. 

Does that tell you who I am? Not really. But it does tell you how I will respond to life in general. And that can be enormously helpful when you’re designing a character. 

If your character is a P, you can be certain he or she won’t find joy in creating spreadsheets. Rather, they’ll be outside climbing trees and getting lost in a forest somewhere. You just hope they are wearing shoes. 

Try taking a personality test at 16 Personalities ( as though you were your character. See what answer you get. It might give you some really great insight!

Now, the Enneagram. The Enneagram is what I like to call the advanced character design tool. It takes you WAY deeper into a character’s personality and doesn’t just tell you how he or she responds to life. It tells you WHY.

The Enneagram in a nutshell

The Enneagram is composed of nine different personality types: 

1 - The Reformer

2 - The Helper

3 - The Achiever

4 - The Individualist

5 - The Investigator

6 - The Loyalist

7 - The Enthusiast

8 - The Challenger

9 - The Peacemaker 

Okay. I lied. You can’t fit the Enneagram in a nutshell. It’s too deep and wide to do it justice, and everyone I know who has tried to summarize it has confused people. 

The most important thing to know about the Enneagram is that your type doesn’t depend on how you act. Your type depends on what you fear. 

Figure out what you fear the most, and you’ll have a much easier time understanding what type you are. The same goes for your characters. 

Read up on the Types. I like the Enneagram Institute ( And see if any of your characters fit in with what you can find. 

Do not (I repeat) DO NOT take an Enneagram test online. They simplify things far too much and often base questions on behavior, which isn’t always a true measurement of why people act the way they do. 

Instead, I highly recommend reading The Road Back to You by Ian Cron ( It’s still the best book I’ve found for an easy-to-understand approach to the Enneagram that’s also based on the Bible.

Once you get to where you can integrate the psychological understanding the MBTI brings and the soul of what the Enneagram brings to your character development skills, you’ll be able to create a character that legitimately leaps off the page.

It’s a ton of fun. Give it a try, and look for next month’s post on CONFLICT!


Award-winning author, A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at


  1. I love this post! I think your acronym is dynamite. You reduced the character interview to the core.

    1. Thank you so much! I love character work immensely, so I'm really excited to share the rest of my process!! (And to have some fun at the same time.)

  2. This is neat. I'm always looking for ways to give my characters that extra layer of depth. Thank you for breaking it down in a not-so-nutshell, nutshell.