Personality Test

Personalities. Unless you happen to be a soulless husk of a human being, everyone has one. As you can probably expect, however, I will be focusing on the personalities of fictional characters instead of the personalities of real life people (even if these two will probably end up coinciding). How an author develops a character’s personality, and how it is kept consistent throughout a fictional work, can be a difficult process overall.

I think there are varying methods for coming up with a character’s personality. Some people go into great detail with it, in fact. They make up questionnaires and then fill out the answers they think their character would give, or write out a full description so they have it on hand, or any number of organized tactics. I have tried this a couple of times myself. There is a set of questions/prompts in a writing advice book I have (Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer) that I remember answering in a separate notebook for a couple of stories, but I don’t think they were ever finished. It is a good method to go by, but I don’t use it often when creating personalities.

Then there may be authors who do it on the fly and see how their characters’ personalities grow while the story continues. Many people will fall somewhere in between this and detailed character questionnaires. It is speculated that the personalities can be influenced to some degree by the author in question, people that they know, and even other creators’ characters. The environment of the story seems to have the possibility to shape them as well.

Usually, I have a fairly clear image of a character in my head, and if they aren’t fully fleshed out then I can have the basics down. What I mean by that, to go more in depth, is that a character is probably going to need more polishing beyond the initial idea, as it is with all things when coming up with a story: the plot, the world, everything. Likewise, a personality is something you could possibly not get the hang of until half way through your first draft, and then in latter edits you can apply your new knowledge of your character.

Still, the baseline is there for me, and I assume there are a lot of writers who function the same. This will depend, of course, on someone’s personal strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing, but from what I’ve seen you can usually access the ‘feel’ of a character quickly. If you spend enough time with them in your head, even if you aren’t writing anything down for a while, you have a good chance of getting to know their personality, behaviour, motivation, etc. Putting the characters into their environments, situations, and working out how they react solidifies all that.

Character development would appear to be a well discussed topic, of course it is very important in literature. Even in a plot driven story needs to flesh out its characters. This comes with making them well rounded, accenting their traits, and giving them flaws. Their backstory is also normally involved in development.

This stuff on its own can already be a daunting task, but after the characters are created you also need to work at keeping their personality consistent throughout your story – or, longer, your series. I’ve probably made many of my own slip ups in this area. Consistency, especially when you aren’t working on a story for long periods of time, can easily be broken in character, plot, setting, or other elements of writing. Sometimes the way a character acts in the beginning of a work doesn’t fit with the way they act later in a work, and the changes have no reasonable logic behind them in terms of character arc. It can be an awful feeling when you lose your grip on a character’s personality.

However, as it was with general character development, the first draft is there to smooth those difficulties out a bit. Anything that doesn’t make sense for a certain character can be changed; although, admittedly, this could lead to a lot of revising, to the point of major plot changes. Such is life.

A writer generally needs to know a character’s personality inside and out to help the story be successful. Both development and consistency are crucial to that. It can be a fun aspect of storytelling, though, to play around with the creation of characters and figure out how they think, how they act, and what makes them tick. I do make it sound slightly as if characters are some pre-existing entities that an author meets, and that it isn’t all coming from their heads, but it can genuinely feel like that sometimes. And when you spend so much time with the characters inside your own head, it is easy to get attached, which goes for the writers as well as the readers.