How you heard of the Enneagram?
Probably. If you've been around people lately (well, you probably haven't), you'll probably have been asked "What's your Enneagram?"
If you've never heard about it, here's an explanation from the website Truity.
The Enneagram is a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people conceptualize the world and manage their emotions. The Enneagram model describes nine different personality types and maps each of these types on a nine-pointed diagram which helps to illustrate how the types relate to one another...According to the Enneagram, every personality has a certain world view and looks at the world through their own lens or filter. This makes it possible to explain why people behave in certain ways. By describing how the basic personality adapts and responds to both stressful and supportive situations, the Enneagram shows opportunities for personal development and provides a foundation for the understanding of others.
Even though finding my own Enneagram type (I'm a 3) was enlightening, I'm not here to talk about how to find your own or how to use it for growth. There are plenty of blogs, books, Youtube channels, and etc. to do just that. But what I love about the Enneagram is that it is a powerful tool for character development.
It gives you the character's motivation and fears. The thing that defines and separates the type is the type's core desire and fear. For example, as a type 3, what I desire most is to be important and loved for what I do. What I fear the most is being worthless and a failure. Knowing the internal motivations of your character is critical. Most of the time the plot of your story is the answer to two questions: What does your character want? What is stopping your character from getting it? Why not use a tool that helps you understand that completely?
It tells you how they act in stress and growth. If you look at the diagram at the top of this post, you'll notice a bunch of arrows that point from one number to the next. These show the direction they tend to go when they are stressed. The arrows that go away from the number is the direction they go during growth. The Enneagram Institute (which is my favorite for information) breaks down the types into nine different levels of health to unhealthy. Characters will go between these levels depending on their health/stress level. This gives a tool for how the character might grow or fail to grow, depending on your story. It's also a great place to understand a villain who are likely an unhealthy level of their type.
Variety, variety, variety. Though the Enneagram is divided into 9 types, in reality there are far more, because there are wings and subtypes. I'll be honest that I do not understand the subtypes, but I have found the wings super helpful in character development. Sometimes people and characters don't fit neatly into one type. Sometimes, they will have traits of a different type. In Enneagram, this is called wings, because the core type might lean toward either number on each side. For example, as a 3, I could lean toward a 2 or a 4. In reality, I am a 3w2, which means I lean toward the Helper. But this can change, and a 3w2 could become a 3w4 or could become more balanced. There are countless characters waiting to be created here.
It gives a wealth of information. There is a ton of resources out there diving deep into each of the types. You could learn a lot about existing characters or you could come up with entire ideas for characters you haven't begun to flesh out yet.
How do I find my characters Enneagram?
This, admittedly, can be a little more difficult since there are so many
If starting a character from scratch, just pick an Enneagram that fits their purpose or what rule they play in the story. For example, you know that you need a villain who does his "evil thang" because he's sticking hard to his beliefs--his very wrong beliefs, but ones he holds strongly--and he wants everyone to do the same. Then he's a 1.
If it's an existing character you're trying to get to know better, you could try taking a free test 'from your characters POV', but I haven't had much luck with these. The easiest way is picking the core desire that you believe that they have. This can be difficult if you haven't figured it out, but that's why the Enneagram is so powerful. It breaks down human motivators and all you have to decide is what that is for your character. By figuring this out, you actually learn a ton about your character. After that, you can read more about the type to see if it fits. You can also decide if they lean toward one of the wings.
I hope I have you convinced to use this tool. If so, here are some resources I have found helpful:
Abbey Howe Channel (lots of great Enneagram videos)
Hillary McCaskey (certified Enneagram coach - apparently that's a thing. But her videos are helpful)
The Enneagram Institute (absolute best information in my opinion)
There are plenty more things on Youtube that will dive deeper than this and help you develop characters, but these are the ones I've personally looked at.
As always: Chase your dreams. Be kind. And keep writing fearlessly, darlings.