Have you ever read a book where something about the characters or plot didn’t ring true? Where you’re saying to yourself No way could this happen, or He wouldn’t do that. The author’s job is to make the implausible possible, even in fantasy and sci-fi, maybe especially in these genres. Reading involves suspending reality, but only to a point. If believing a story becomes mind-bending work, most readers will toss the book aside. 

Enter the Enneagram.

Authors use many methods to drive a story forward while keeping the plot and characters believable. One of their tools is the personality inventory. Would a “Peacemaker” type individual be the best personality for your hero sniper? Would a “Loyalist” suddenly disappear, leaving a wife and eight children?

Would an introverted, emotional young woman leave her comfort zone and do something entirely out of character, like fly to Cartagena, Columbia, and take on a ruthless drug cartel? Of course, she would—if she has a motivating reason—like her sister has been kidnapped. (Romancing the Stone).

I’m sure you can imagine scenarios where a circumstance or person forces a character out of their personality comfort zone. But to set that tension up, the character must first have a credible comfort zone, and different personality types have different zones, weaknesses, tendencies, and motivators. 

How does an author sort through the millions of options? What if your character’s believable motivation isn’t saving her sister? Then, the book flops. I’ve read many duds, sometimes to the end, hoping the author can craft a round story from a square character. It doesn’t work. 

The work for the author is keeping the character in character. The personality inventory, be it the Myers-Briggs, which I’ve used, or the Enneagram, keeps the author honest and your fictional characters acting and reacting realistically. The inventory provides a list of distinctive personality traits for the Perfectionist, the Helper, the Performer, the Romantic, the Investigator, the Loyalist, the Enthusiast, the Challenger, and the Peacemaker. And what is easy for them, and what is really, really, challenging.

Determining if your character is a perfectionist, a romantic, an investigator, etc., will keep that character who would never kick a dog—from kicking a dog—just because the author needs a bad guy. No author wants readers to think that This could never happen and toss the book aside.

Discovering your comfort zone and what happens when you are forced out of it is fun and a bit disconcerting. I will present a bit more in a Part 2 blog post of the Mystical Enneagram – stay tuned.