Posted On August 27, 2010 by Print This Post

Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw

Morning, RU crew! We’re fortunate to have Laurie Schnebly Campbell join us once again to talk about character development. This time, she’ll tell us why our story hero shouldn’t be perfect and how we can effectively rub some dirt on him. Welcome, Laurie!

It’s always such fun to be with people who love writing — and reading!

A few weeks ago a writer friend asked me why her hero NEEDED a fatal flaw. Wouldn’t an ordinary flaw be good enough?

And I realized that it’s misleading to call these flaws fatal…because how often, at least in a happy-ending book, does the hero wind up dead?

(Okay, we won’t count the gorgeous vampires.)

But unless we’re writing about James Bond or someone else where the action matters more than the character, every single person we write about will have some kind of flaw.

Why? Because real-life people HAVE flaws. And it’s those defects, or the desire to overcome them, which can lead to our characters’ motivation.

SPEAKING OF MOTIVATION…

The fact is, virtually everyone — in fiction as well as in real life — is doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

A serial killer? Yep. A cheating spouse? Yep. A compulsive spender? Yep.

As writers, we can make those people every bit as easy to understand as the tax-paying, lawn-mowing, child-loving characters. (Maybe they’re one and the same.)

That doesn’t surprise anyone who knows that even the darkest villains have some plausible motivation for whatever they do.

It’s only natural. After all, none of us ever does ANYthing without a reason.

(If you just crossed your legs, you had a reason:  your body was uncomfortable in the old position. If you move to Antarctica, you have a reason:  maybe you got a job there, or someone you love got a job there and you’d rather be with this person in Antarctica than without them somewhere else. We don’t always think about our reasons for whatever we do, but no matter what we do, there’s a reason.)

So every character, just like every real-life person, is doing whatever they think will work best for them at this point in their life. Holing up in an ivory tower. Partying all night. Nurturing everyone they can get their hands on. Worrying about terrorism. Everyone picks what seems like the best way of getting along in the world.

And what they pick is a clue to their personality type. Which, again, is something that EVERYONE has.

We don’t care much about the cabbie who drives our hero to the train station, so that cabbie doesn’t need any special personality type or motivation…nor any fatal flaws. He doesn’t need to overcome any problems in his life or his personality.

But every major character has to overcome something in order to evolve during the course of the book. And that’s why we writers need to know our characters’ fatal flaws.

FINDING A FATAL FLAW

It’s handy that enneagram theorists have already identified a flaw for each of the nine personality types. “Ennea” (ANY-uh) is the Greek word for nine, and enneagrams are handy for counselors and personnel managers who want to understand the people they’re dealing with. Which makes them handy for writers as well!

Of course each type has its own special strengths as well as its own particular weakness. And our characters — just like all of us — manage to overcome their flaws most of the time.

But stress can bring out the worst in people. Yet we already know that stress, or conflict, is what keeps a story interesting. So our characters are going to come up against situations that reveal the worst of their flaws…which will give them the opportunity for a triumphant change.

No matter which type they are.

Each type’s name gives a clue to their strength, and their flaw is what happens when that strength is taken to extremes:

  • Perfectionist One:  Anger when they (or anything else) isn’t perfect
  • Nurturer Two:  Pride in being needed by everyone around them
  • Achiever Three:  Deception to keep up their outstanding facade
  • Romantic Four:  Envy because other’s lives seem MORE glorious
  • Observer Five:  Avarice for more privacy and greater knowledge
  • Skeptic Six:  Fear of possible danger to their loved ones (or self)
  • Adventurer Seven:  Gluttony for every possible new experience
  • Leader Eight:  Lust for power, to be in control of their surroundings
  • Peacemaker Nine:  Sloth, keeping life comfortable and decision-free

See the possibilities? That’s only the beginning!

***

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN…

I’ve talked enough, here, but if there’s anything you’d like to know about your characters or their types — or the types of anyone else in your life — I’ll be checking back for questions all day.

And anyone who speaks up will go into an end-of-the-day drawing to win free registration to one of my upcoming classes. So I’m rolling up my sleeves and hoping like crazy I won’t be the only person at the party today!

Laurie, who’d love it if you already KNOW your own (or your character’s) enneagram type — what is it?

RU Crew, stop by Monday for our Young Adult sub-genre segment with author Simone Elkeles and librarian Amy Alessio.

BIO

Laurie Schnebly Campbell, who beat out Nora Roberts for “Best Special Edition of the Year,” writes about finding a character’s most heroic traits and balancing those with traits that’ll create conflict…not only BETWEEN credible characters, but also WITHIN them. Apart from what’s covered in her character-building book, she’s teaching more about enneagrams online this fall — and you can see her workshops at www.BookLaurie.com.

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Discussion

55 Responses to “Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw”

  1. Hi Laurie–

    Welcome back to RU! Based on your list, I’d say my heroine is a Nurturer/Achiever and my hero a Leader/Skeptic. The first enneagram is what the world sees, the second is what the hero/heroine sees.

    Thanks for the great exercise!
    Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | August 27, 2010, 5:27 am
    • Tracy, I like your idea of what the world sees and what the character sees — that’s a cool way to use personality types!

      In enneagram theory, which we DON’T have to follow since we’re writers rather than theorists, the idea is that everyone has a core personality which they may or may not show the world…or even themselves.

      But everyone also has four other types besides that core: the “wings” on either side of their core, and the “arrows” their core goes to. So your Nurturer/Achiever heroine is spending a lot of time in one wing as well as her core, while your Leader/Skeptic hero might actually be an Adventurer (unacknowledged by himself OR the world) who hangs out in both wings.

      It raises fun possibilities…like “hmm, what if he really DOES have a carefree side that he’s completely repressed? And what would happen if he revealed a glimpse of that?”

      Laurie, already wanting to meet this hero

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 9:28 am
  2. Hi, Laurie -

    It’s always such a treat to have you at RU!

    I would say my current heroine is a Peacemaker and my hero is either a Nurturer or a Skeptic, probably leaning more toward the Skeptic side.

    A couple of questions for you: Where (besides your book) can authors read more about using Enneagrams? And how can authors use their characters’ enneagrams to create conflict?

    Many thanks!
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | August 27, 2010, 7:49 am
    • Kelsey, wow, TWO great questions!

      For learning more about enneagrams in places besides my book, I recommend a book called “The Enneagram Made Easy” by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele at
      http://www.amazon.com/Enneagram-Made-Easy-Discover-People/dp/0062510266

      plus a website called
      http://www.enneagraminstitute.com — they’re both fascinating.

      There’s also a class I’ll be teaching next month, and that’s at
      http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclasses.html

      All kinds of resources, huh? And as for conflict, let me come back to that because it’s time to head out to work!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 9:34 am
      • Whew, finally back to the question on how writers can use enneagrams to create conflict for characters:

        No matter what their types are, these characters each have some inherent strength which — taken to extremes — can become a weakness. And those weaknesses are what cause trouble in various aspects of their lives, including their relationships and usually a whole lot more.

        So regardless of which two types you put together, they’ll clash in some way. Of course, they’ll also grow-learn-change during the book until they wind up achieving a happy ending…and that, too, will involve overcoming whatever weakness has plagued them all along!

        Laurie, condensing a four-week class into two paragraphs — is that cool, or what?

        Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 5:01 pm
  3. Hi Laurie,
    I’d say my heroine is an Achiever while the hero is a Leader.
    I have a question that is a little out of the box…do you see a connection between the Enneagram personality types and Myers-Briggs indicators? I’m an ENFJ in Myers-Briggs and a Nurturer Enneagram (which is probably common for teachers like myself).
    Great post, Laurie. Thanks : )

    Victoria

    Posted by Victoria Gray | August 27, 2010, 8:22 am
    • Victoria, there ARE studies devoted to that very thing: connections between Myers-Briggs and Enneagram types. What gets tricky is making parallels between 9 and 16 (drat, the math is off!) so the organizers have to do a lot of fancy grouping to make it fit.

      But there are tables at
      http://pstypes.blogspot.com/2009/07/myers-briggs-and-enneagram-type.html
      that show those fancy groupings…and when you’ve got some free time to browse, they’re kind of fun to read.

      In terms of really getting to know what makes people tick, though, I think it’s easier to view each system separately, like birth order and astrology — or any other two systems that weren’t specifically designed to work in tandem.

      You can MAKE them line up if you want to work at it, but there are usually more interesting things to work on!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 10:35 am
  4. Morning Laurie!!!!

    My hero is a leader, my heroine a nurturer. Should make life interesting for them! And my poor, poor hero…..when my heroine “saves” him from being a work-a-holic who could quite easily overtake the world? Is he grateful? Augh. Men! =)

    As for me, I’m a peacemaker…..but no sloth here…*kicking the three foot tall laundry pile out of the way* …

    Laurie, can you give us a little hint about birth order and the effect it has on your hero/heroine?

    Great to see you again!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 27, 2010, 8:48 am
    • Carrie, I’m laughing at the three-foot pile of laundry…you belong at MY house!

      Birth order can have a huge effect on people, same as enneagrams and all kinds of other factors. Each birth-order position has its own motto, which offers a quick-n-easy rundown of what they tend to be like:

      Firstborn — I was here first, and first I’ll stay.
      Second — We try harder.
      Middle — Life is unfair.
      Youngest — I’m entitled.
      Only — To know me is to love me.

      There are all kinds of other factors like blended families, twins, and the clock starting fresh every five years, but birth order can be a fabulous way of getting to know characters!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 10:40 am
      • I just had an “aha” moment – the clock starts fresh every 5 years. That explains the way my sons behave…they’re 7 years apart, and Mike, the youngest, has never fit the stereotype for a second son…vedddddddy interesting.

        Posted by Victoria Gray | August 27, 2010, 10:43 am
  5. Laurie,
    I love the list of Fatal Flaws. Now I’ve got to do more research because I think my main character is either Achiever or Peacemaker. I think I’m going to be working with two personalities in the book — the one he shows to the world with his false identity (Achiever), and Peacemaker because he’s lazy and better at conning people and staying under the radar so he doesn’t have to defend himself or his lack of actions to anybody. How would I show the double personality and identity? I’m thinking that maybe he’d have to show the Achiever side most, and maybe in smaller snippets, the Peacemaker side would come out (and show how he got involved with the villain.

    You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks.
    Darlene

    Posted by Darlene | August 27, 2010, 8:52 am
    • Darlene, you’ve got a natural combination there — it’s always cool when an author’s instinct matches what enneagram theorists have maintained for centuries!

      The Achiever, Peacemaker and Skeptic all “go to” each other, so anybody whose core is one of those will automatically feel comfortable in the other two as well. They don’t necessarily spend equal time in all three, but for your Peacemaker to spend a lot of time as an Achiever is completely plausible.

      And, who knows, he might even have a bit of Skeptic in him…?

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 10:43 am
  6. Hi Laurie and welcome back!

    I’ve got this one down because I just took your Personality Ladder class (which I highly recommend, by the way.). My hero is a leader. I learned a lot about him in your class so thank you for that. Who knew you could boil down a character’s strength and weakness into one word (for both!)?

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 27, 2010, 8:57 am
    • Adrienne, it’s such a kick getting to see your picture! Which, duh, I could’ve looked at any RU blog to find but that never occurred to me.

      Once I’ve met somebody in a class, though, seeing their photo is a real treat because I already have a mental picture — and the on-screen one rounds it out nicely.

      Now, hmm, if only we could do that with all those characters…!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 10:46 am
  7. Hurray, it’s Friday and I get to hang out with the Romance University gang! Well, for at least ten minutes before heading off to work, but meanwhile it’s a treat to see Adrienne, Carrie, Darlene, Kelsey, Tracy and Victoria already up and at ‘em.

    Replies are coming individually…just wanted to say hi before diving into the questions and observations (which you folks are always GREAT at coming up with)!

    Laurie, who’ll start working my way down the line right now :)

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 9:23 am
  8. Hi – I’ve taken 3 (maybe 4) classes with Laurie and I want to tell you they are fabulous. If you have the time, take one, you won’t regret it. (No, she’s not paying me to say that)

    In my current WIP, my hero is a leader, my heroine a skeptic (with a healthy dose of control issues). I’m in the middle of a really rough first draft and writing their types down now has just given me a clue as to how I need to ramp up the conflict with them. Right now, they’re floating by pretty content.

    Posted by Shannyn | August 27, 2010, 9:43 am
    • Shannyn, what a treat running into you here — and seeing that you’re already putting the types to work on your WIP!

      Putting that Leader and Skeptic together will be a fun challenge, and you know what they’ve got going for them which they probably don’t recognize yet? They each have an Adventurer wing…so at some point when they both give way to their carefree, self-indulgent, see-the-world-on-a-whim side, they’ll have a fabulous preview of how great life together COULD be.

      But then, of course, it’s back to the turmoil for another however-many pages. (Aw, drat!)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 10:50 am
  9. Enneagrams and fatal flaws are always interesting. My current heroine is an Achiever and I have two main male characters. One is an Adverturer and I’m not sure yet what the other one is. I’m still working on him as I comb your Believable Characters book, Laurie.

    Thanks for another great lesson here at RU!

    Posted by Misty Evans | August 27, 2010, 11:11 am
    • Misty, it’s gonna be all kinds of fun creating trouble for your Achiever heroine — with the Adventurer hero, it’s easy to imagine his spontaneity and lack of concern for Good Appearance bothering her…while at the same time those very things attract her.

      And isn’t it nice to know that no matter WHAT type the other hero is, even if he’s another Achiever or Adventurer, there’s certain to be plenty of great opportunity for conflict?

      Laurie, loving how well you set those people up!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 11:35 am
  10. Hi, Laurie,

    I’m enjoying your current class! My hero is an Adventurer and my heroine a Nurturer. Ideas for making sparks fly?

    Thank you – and for the great class,

    Laura

    Posted by Laura | August 27, 2010, 11:24 am
    • Oh, Laura, with an Adventurer hero and Nurturer heroine there’s a LOT you can do to make sparks fly! First off, he doesn’t want to be tied down — and she wants to be needed. (Uh-oh.)

      He’ll be attracted to and also alarmed by the world she represents, which is full of comfort and commitment. She’ll be attracted to and also alarmed by the world HE represents, which is full of spontaneity and excitement.

      What’s cool is that as a Seven with an Eight wing and a Two who goes to Eight, they’ll each have some Leader in their personality. And you can just imagine the difference in their styles of leadership!

      But that’s also a clue to where they’ll find their resolution…they’ll both be able to draw on that steady confidence in order to overcome their fatal flaws.

      Laurie, betting there’ll be all kinds of sparks along the way

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 11:44 am
  11. Hi Laurie,
    Your analyses are always spot on. Great to see you here. My hero is a Leader/Controller. I’m thinking his strength is his self-confidence and his weakness is his belief that his way is the best way. Some might call that arrogance. My heroine is an Adventurer/Enthusiast. and I’m consider her strength to be her enthusiasm and her weakness to be that she’s scattered and undisciplined. I can see lots of conflict here but room for compromise–in the end anyway. Any thoughts?

    Posted by Susan Vaughan | August 27, 2010, 11:43 am
    • Susan, you’ve built a very clear picture of these characters’ strengths and weaknesses. And the fact that they each have a wing where the other one lives is a good clue that, on some probably-unacknowledged level, they can identify with each other…even though they’d scoff at the idea.

      So when they reach their happy-ending compromise, it’ll very likely involve each of them owning a side of themselves that they’ve rarely expressed. She CAN take on leadership qualities, which’ll make her less scattered and more able to carry her enthusiasms to a satisfying conclusion. And he CAN take on carefree qualitieis, relaxing his determination and not having to run every show every minute of the day.

      But of course it’ll take a lot of conflict for them to reach that point — and, boy, are they in a good setup for conflict!

      Laurie, betting they (at some level) start out envying each other’s strength from the very first meeting

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 11:52 am
  12. Hi Laurie,

    Your comments on birth order are interesting. As the youngest, I was the last one to graduate, get a driver’s license, and turn 21. I’m sure it’s a factor in my impatience. Waiting is agony now. My youngest is the same way. My oldest is more serious and hesitant: the price of going first. I have finished a manuscript about sisters and try to use those dynamics.

    Thanks,

    Mary Jo Burke

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | August 27, 2010, 12:53 pm
    • Mary Jo, good for you on using those dynamics in a sisters book — you’re going to make them seem a lot more realistic to people who’ve noticed those things in their own family relationships!

      And, boy, you’re right about how hard it can be to wait for everything when all the older people are ALREADY enjoying privileges the youngest one can’t reach yet…it’s interesting that when two siblings are relatively close in age, the younger one almost always has better posture from a childhood of trying to be as tall as the older one.

      Laurie, who likes to blame my terrible posture on BEING the older one

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 1:06 pm
  13. Hi Laurie,
    Very interesting to read about this!
    I realize that in these categories, my love in real life and I both share “2) Nurturer and 3) Achiever” qualities.
    What “fatal flaw” would we need to look out for?
    Thanks for sharing your insights,
    Lyle

    Posted by Lyle Scott | August 27, 2010, 1:09 pm
    • Lyle, it’s a mixed blessing when you both share the same qualities! But more of a blessing, because you can each understand where the other person is coming from — and the things you like in yourself are nice to see across the breakfast table.

      The only downside is that you might share the same weak points, which means if NEITHER of you is instinctively gifted in the area of (say) remembering to replace the smoke filter, somebody will have to stretch beyond their usual comfort zone in order to make that happen.

      But with a pair of Nurturers / Achievers, you’ve both got a lot of skills for looking after yourselves as well as each other!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 1:30 pm
  14. Drat! I think I’m a five. What do I tell my spouse? ;<)

    Posted by Paul | August 27, 2010, 1:14 pm
    • Paul, if this spouse is someone you’re ALREADY married to, as compared to someone you’re just THINKING about marrying, my guess is she already suspects you’re a Five. Which isn’t a bad thing to be!

      Fives have a reputation for being introverted, analytical thinkers, and that reputation can get a bad rap: “oh, they’re all nerds who don’t know how to have fun.” (Okay, sometimes true…as a Five myself, I sure didn’t do much partying in college.)

      But Fives also tend to be loyal, interesting to chat with, and good at coming up with fun / romantic / challenging / surprising things to do…all their mate has to do is ask for it. Once a Five is given a problem to solve, putting that incisive intellect to work on ANY relationship question is a piece of cake!

      Laurie, betting your spouse likes that about you already

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 1:37 pm
  15. Hi, Laurie,

    I am grateful for your insightful commentary. In reading through it, I am convinced that I am a 9. Don’t like confrontation at all.

    Equally important to your tips to writers is your insight into the general human condition. So when you say… “So every character, just like every real-life person, is doing whatever they think will work best for them at this point in their life. Holing up in an ivory tower. Partying all night. Nurturing everyone they can get their hands on. Worrying about terrorism. Everyone picks what seems like the best way of getting along in the world.

    And what they pick is a clue to their personality type. Which, again, is something that EVERYONE has.”……..I find myself cogitating about myself and others and how this is played out. Or when you observe that “…stress can bring out the worst in people” I found myself thinking “… OR the best?”

    You’re a good thought-starter! Thanks!

    Posted by Lawrence Wilber | August 27, 2010, 2:00 pm
    • Boy, nobody can appreciate how “everyone’s doing the best they can with what they’ve got” than a Peacemaker Nine!

      I remember during a class on enneagrams, I asked everybody to send in a bumper sticker for their own type…and any other type that inspired a slogan. My favorite came from one guy who’s a mystery writer, and he declared:

      “I’m a Nine…if that’s all right with you.”

      Which shows why more women dream of marrying a Type Nine — and, incidentally, more men dream of marrying a Type Two Nurturer!

      Laurie, figuring they probably don’t yet realize that ANY types can get along fabulously (or terribly) because it doesn’t depend so much on the personality as on what people actually do with it

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 2:10 pm
  16. Thanks, Laurie!

    Very informative post. I will certainly take enneagrams into account when I create my next set of characters. I have to admit I’m a perfectionist, although I see bits of myself in some of the other categories as well.

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | August 27, 2010, 3:01 pm
    • Wendy, you’re absolutely right in thinking you’ve got bits of other categories in you along with the Perfectionist core. We all have some of each type in us, although a few of ‘em rarely appear.

      And if hearing that you’re right is especially thrilling, that’s a good clue that you ARE a Perfectionist…because they’re more serious about doing things right than any other type!

      Laurie, just now realizing I should ask my tax guy which type he is (although he probably hasn’t got a clue)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 3:43 pm
  17. Susan, picking up the book Laurie wrote about creating believable characters with enneagrams. Gosh, guess I’ll go with my WIP as I just did the short synopsis yesterday and I know these folks inside and out–just want to check my facts–So, my hero is a Leader with wings of adventurer and peacemaker (which is great news for the heroine he follows back in time to find) and my heroine was a little harder to pin down, but became very clearly a Nurturer when I looked at her “wings” and “go to’s”. So as you study the enneagrams of the two a bit further, you can see how well these characters can and do work together. ;-) ;-)

    Posted by Susan Yarina | August 27, 2010, 3:12 pm
    • Susan, good for you on checking the types as you do your synopsis — that’s sure a handy way of confirming that everything holds together!

      And, wow, today it’s looking like Nurturer heroines are especially fond of Leader & Adventurer heroes. (As well as vice versa.) There’s a lot to be said for such a pairing, and in fact it’s one of the most classic romance situations ever…although with your time travel spin, there’s no risk of anyone thinking “oh, sure, I know all ABOUT these people.”

      Laurie, glad those characters not only can but do work well together!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 3:46 pm
  18. Hi Laurie, this is fantastic! Being a five (and a one and an eight and a three ) I’m disappointed I had never heard of enneagrams! :)

    I’m really impressed that everyone seems so clear about which number their characters are (channeling my inner four, here). All nine seem like the essential components of all human beings!

    I’m thinking more in terms of “this scene calls for the one and three parts of the hero’s personality, clashing with the two and nine of the heroines.”

    I could most certainly not define either my hero, heroine or myself, or anyone else I know as just one of these. Is there one for ‘confused’?

    -Sonali

    Posted by Sonali | August 27, 2010, 3:24 pm
    • Sonali, I like the way you’re thinking! You’re spotting traits of all the types that appear in your own personality, and you’re TOTALLY on target in thinking that all nine are essential components.

      When you picture the most well-adjusted person in the world, they probably do reflect about 11% of each type…bringing into play whichever attributes are most needed for whatever situation they’re in.

      But since that doesn’t give writers much chance for creating conflict, it’s fun to look at the downside of each type as well. Which trait within their core personality is going to cause the most trouble during the book?

      Of course, for the happy ending we know they’re going to overcome it. Meanwhile, don’t worry about NOT spotting a definite “this is it” type for anyone…we’re just scratching the surface here, and you can always get more information later if you want it!

      Laurie, figuring that makes the whole thing a lot easier (whew)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 3:53 pm
  19. Hi Laurie,

    Do children ever deviate from their family position? That is, do onlies ever feel like they aren’t so likeable? Or first’s feel the younger children come before them?

    You’re a great teacher and speaker.

    Best,
    Georgina

    Posted by Georgina Devon | August 27, 2010, 3:45 pm
    • Georgina, there sure are exceptions to those quick-n-easy slogans about each birth order position! That’s because birth order is only ONE of the factors that make people the way they are.

      Which, heck, is true of just about everything we use for defining personalities. And that’s a good thing, because otherwise the choices would be pretty limited — if every Youngest Peacemaker Extrovert Pleaser were exactly the same, life would get dull a lot sooner.

      Whereas, in real life, we could have a whole room full of Y.P.E.P.s and while they’d share some traits, each one would still be a unique personality. Which makes them a whole lot more exciting to be with…and to read about!

      Laurie, now wishing I hadn’t stuck Peacemaker in there because YEP would be such a cute abbreviation

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 4:01 pm
  20. Hi Laurie,
    My character holds himself apart and backs off at the first sign of need. Loving him would be a one way deal. He believes he doesn’t need anyone. He’s taught himself not to need. He lost a baby sister, his mother left and his father became an alcoholic and incapable of looking after him properly.
    He’s hardworking to the point of being driven. He’s totally absorbed in his work and doesn’t let himself get distracted. Emotionally he puts as much distance as he can between him and anyone he finds himself beginning to care for. He’s not interested in marriage or family.

    I’d love your thoughts on the enneagram type he might be.

    Posted by Janet | August 27, 2010, 4:05 pm
    • Oh, Janet, this is interesting because it raises a Big Important Point: do people adopt their enneagram type based on what happens in their life? For instance, if this hero had been raised by two healthy loving parents, would he STILL focus solely on work and avoid any emotional needs?

      Yep. He might not focus TOTALLY on work, and he might allow an OCCASIONAL show of emotion, but even so he’ll be determined to rely on himself and himself alone.

      Which sounds like either an Observer Five or a Leader Eight, and since those two “go to” each other, they’re both good possibilities. To narrow it down, think about what his other wings/arrows would be.

      As a Five, he might be comfortable in Romantic, Skeptic, Adventurer and Leader roles, although he wouldn’t necessarily adopt all of those.
      As an Eight, he might be comfortable in Nurturer, Observer, Adventurer and Peacemaker roles, although again he wouldn’t necessarily adopt them all.

      Either way, we know he’s going to wind up changing in the book…discovering that trust CAN be a good thing when you love the right person!

      Laurie, betting this guy’s co-workers view him as highly dedicated but not much fun

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 4:48 pm
  21. The nine bumper sticker reminded me of a cartoon that had an Einstein-like guy at a blackboard saying, “e = mc@ — but that could be changed?”

    If I have a an irrepressible, sort of never-grow-up-really-fun great guy…
    strong, fun, handsome, great, sexy…which sounds to me like a seven,
    can he have a fear as a flaw? Could he be a seven with a six flaw?

    Posted by Lisa Heidinger | August 27, 2010, 5:15 pm
  22. Lisa, if you have a guy who’s strong, fun, handsome, great and sexy, you’ve definitely got a romantic hero! And all those traits are SO appealing that you’re right in thinking he needs some kind of a flaw…otherwise, where’s the conflict?

    So the question is, what kind of flaw seems realistic? Being an irrepressible never-grow-up sort can certainly be a problem in everyday life, and so can being afraid of whatever the heroine values: intimacy, adventure, alone-time, you name it.

    He could even have BOTH those flaws if you want to make him really interesting. Maybe he’s afraid of growing up, or maybe he seeks out fun as a way of avoiding his fears. Either way is totally plausible, because regardless of whether he’s a Skeptic Six or Adventurer Seven, he’ll have the other wing as part of his personality!

    Laurie, suspecting anybody in love with a guy could describe him as strong, fun, handsome, great and sexy…isn’t that the greatest thing about love?

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 5:27 pm
  23. Well, Laurie, excellent and appreciated. What a great way to end the day. I hope I never quit learning, but more, I hope you’re in front of the class teaching.

    Best to you,
    Peggy W.

    Posted by Peggy W. | August 27, 2010, 5:29 pm
  24. Hi Laurie!

    My hero is a 3/8 a middle sibling from a close-knit, prosperous family of over-achievers. The heroine is a 2/5. Strong and independent, she’s a product of a product of a broken home, suffered from emotional abuse, and is estranged from her father.

    I “think” I’ve fleshed out most of the issues and conflict they encounter with one another, but after reading everyone’s posts and your replies, I’m going to take a closer look at my character’s flaws.

    Thank you!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 27, 2010, 6:02 pm
    • Jennifer, it sounds like you’ve got your characters well developed already! And if that’s the case, DON’T worry about making them conform to what enneagram theory says is likely.

      As long as they feel plausible to you and the readers, nobody’s gonna care if their particular set of traits isn’t a theoretical combination. Because, heck, we’re NOT enneagram theorists — we’re storytellers, and what matters most is telling a good story.

      Laurie, who’ll have to bite my tongue if I ever get asked to address a crowd of theorists…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 27, 2010, 6:39 pm
  25. Laurie -

    Thanks for such a great lecture and conversations about enneagrams and characters’ flaws. We always love having you here at RU!

    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | August 28, 2010, 9:03 am
  26. Thank you, Laurie, for an intersting perspective on the not-so-fatal flaw of a hero. Those flaws are what make the character seem real; and in life, they are the qualities that make us human. Even with a paranormal hero, a flaws are what make the hero personable, on a level we can relate to.

    I’ve had your book on my Amazon wish list since I first discovered it a few months ago, but it’s been on hold since my DH got laid off. Soon, though, very soon, I pray, I’ll be able to order it.

    Thanks RU. You have the best ‘speakers.’
    :smile:
    Julie

    Posted by Julie Robinson | August 28, 2010, 4:01 pm
  27. Oops, didn’t edit my note.
    Oddly, your birth order mottos do fit my brother and sister, though they are twins. What I mean by that is that I would have thought they would BOTH fall under the 2nd born category (I’m first). My sister, who was born 7 minutes before my brother really fits the 2nd motto, while the 3rd motto sums up my brother. Not that I said that!! Then there’s my youngest brother and my only child, who really remind me of each other. They were born under the same sign, if that makes any difference. As an oldest child and daughter, I couldn’t help but be a Nurturer. MY DH calls me ‘Miss Volunteer.’

    A book I’ve really enjoyed on birth order is “Were You Born for Each Other?” by Dr. Kevin Leman

    Posted by Julie Robinson | August 28, 2010, 4:20 pm
  28. Where would my hero fall under if he holds grudges or where would his little sister fall under if she feels useless to everyone else?

    Posted by Anonymous | June 11, 2013, 2:07 pm

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