Posted On August 19, 2011 by Print This Post

How Fabulous is TOO Fabulous? by Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Today, we welcome one of my absolute favorite instructors of all time, Laurie Schnebly Campbell. Join us today to learn about your hero’s fatal flaw AND get a chance to win Laurie’s book!

We all want our romantic heroes to be drop-dead gorgeous and passionately charming and ruggedly virile and possibly even have a couple of endearing flaws from their tortured past.
Yet just how great can they BE before they lose their dazzling appeal?

It’s tempting to skip the flaws altogether, or make ‘em something completely forgivable — like “he loses his temper when people mistreat animals” or “he can never say no to a beautiful woman.”
And if he’s James Bond, that works fine…because readers don’t CARE that James Bond isn’t especially plausible.
But what about readers who want men they can believe in? What about readers who want heroes to grow and learn and change?
That’s where fatal flaws come in.
(No, of course they’re not truly fatal — it just sounds more dramatic than “pesky but overcome-able flaws.”)

Even so, giving my hero a flaw to overcome is…well, uncomfortable. I don’t want ANY flaws in the man I love!
That’s where it helps to fall back on the classics: the seven deadly sins, plus two more added by enneagram theorists. (Ennea, or ANY-uh, is the Greek word for nine, and these nine personality types were first recognized by the Sufis and are now handy for counselors and HR managers who identify helpful and troublesome traits.)

Everybody is one of the nine types, and we almost all have bits of the others as well, along with a larger amount of two or three specific others. Enneagrams are a great way of finding personality types that have good AND bad sides of the same coin.
So, looking at the flawed as well as the admirable side of each type:
The righteous Perfectionist wants to do right and think right and BE right at all times, setting very high standards for the world (and for himself), which earns him a white hat. However, he gets angry whenever anyone (including himself) doesn’t live up to those high standards…so you can see where trouble might arise there.
The helpful Nurturer does a fabulous job of looking out for loved ones and anyone else who crosses his path, so he’s great to have on your side. However, he takes such pride in being needed that he might work to make people dependent rather than independent, creating room for conflict.
The golden-boy Achiever always looks fabulous / successful / brilliant, and can light up a room just by walking in. (Think movie star or handsome prince.) Thing is, that glittering facade might not be totally accurate in every respect, and he doesn’t know how to reveal anything else.
The never-afraid-of-emotions Romantic sees great, sweeping visions of how life could be, and his creative passion gives the rest of us something to dream about. But since everyday life rarely measures up to those great visions, he’ll feel envious every time he compares reality to the ideal.

The analytical Observer puts thoughts ahead of feelings, focusing on whatever most interests him and staying detached from petty concerns about popularity or money or fame. He’s greedy for privacy to pursue his studies, and that detachment frustrates anyone who wants his attention.
The skeptical Trooper resolutely does his job, but he’s constantly aware of potential dangers and ready for fight or flight (usually bouncing between both options). Keeping security as his top priority can be useful, but such vigilant caution can be taken too far…in either the fight or flight direction.
The ready-for-anything Adventurer embraces life in its greatest variety, keeping all his options open in the quest to enjoy every possible new experience, person and place. But since he’d rather not settle for just ONE of anything, anyone expecting some commitment will be in for a long wait.
The natural Leader has a lust for power, which keeps him in control of every situation he encounters — if he can’t control it, he won’t go there. Whether out in front or working behind the scenes, he wants to protect his soft inner core at all times, which leaves him unable to risk any (yep) vulnerability.

The easygoing Peacemaker is great at building a consensus, making everyone feel appreciated, keeping the group happy, and going along to get along. He minimizes any potential conflict by never expressing his own wishes, instead relying on whatever’s comfortable — TV, food, you name it.

So. Do any of those sound like characters (or real-life people) you know?
They could be women as well as men…I’m just using men because of that fabulous Romance University tagline: Empower Writers ~ Entertain Readers ~ Understand Men.

For anybody who’d like more information along these lines, you can get it next month in my online class (with always optional homework assignments) on “Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw” link to OR anytime (with 90% different information than the class) in my “Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams” book.

Which is the prize for whoever’s comment wins the random-number drawing tonight. And that leads us right back to the question awaiting answers: Which type sounds like someone you know?
Keep in mind that most real-life people have already done a pretty good job of overcoming their flaws. It’s only the fictional characters who need to grow & learn & change…so they’ll come up against all kinds of conflict on their way to the happy ending!


RU Crew, what’s your hero’s fatal flaw in the book you’re either reading or writing?

Stop by Monday when we chat with Jo Robertson, author of The Watcher!


Laurie’s Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell ( grew up in a family that discussed psychology around the dinner table. With a marriage counselor for a mother, she felt well equipped to get her romance-novel couples to a happy ending…which might be what helped her win “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts.

The only thing she loves more than writing romance is working with other writers, which is why she now teaches an online class every month and has written a book for novelists who want to create believable characters with built-in fatal (or not quite fatal) flaws.

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112 Responses to “How Fabulous is TOO Fabulous? by Laurie Schnebly Campbell”

  1. As usual, Laurie, I always gain new insights from you. Great post!

    I can think of three people I know who are Nurturers, and two of them excel at it but don’t go to such excesses that they make people dependent on them. But the third person is so “nurturing” that she has practically made her partner helpless. I think I notice this in others because I tend to be a nurturer too!

    In romances we often see nurturing heroines, but not so many nurturing heroes. Or at least it seems that way in the books I read. Yet when I do read about a hero who does something incredibly nurturing for the heroine (often at a personal sacrifice), I just melt. *g*

    By the way, Laurie, thank you for the lesson on how to pronounce “enneagram”! I always stumble over the pronunciation!

    Posted by Sherrie Holmes | August 19, 2011, 2:30 am
  2. Hi Laurie!
    Great post. I LOVE studying Enneagrams. I still avoid a Five or Nine for characters.

    My favorites are Threes, Eights and Sevens…My last hero was a Seven. I love him! lol [thinking Magumn PI]

    The hero in my wip is an Eight. His ‘lust’ for control/protection of his loved ones pushes him to drastic lengths.

    But the heroine has me stumped. She ‘believes she can’t rely on others’.
    Which Type does that fit, Laurie?

    Thanks for the update…love your classes.

    Posted by Carol Hutchens | August 19, 2011, 4:50 am
    • Carol, a heroine who believes she can’t rely on others could be any of the types — see which of these sounds like her.

      One: “I must do everything perfectly myself.”
      Two: “I take care of others, not vice versa.”
      Three: “Nobody can do things better than I.”
      Four: “Nobody else really GETS me.”
      Five: “Others don’t have all the necessary info.”
      Six: “I’ve always gotta be on guard.”
      Seven: “Why tie myself down to anyone?”
      Eight: “I’ve got to be the one in charge.”
      Nine: “No need to bother anyone.”

      Isn’t it fun, analyzing these people?

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 6:46 am
  3. This made me laugh, Laurie. My husband is a nine, in capital letters. Any way you want to put him – upside down, sideways, right way up – he is a total nine and no mistake.

    My current hero is an eight and his heroine is a two. Can’t wait for your class to discover if I’ve pegged them correctly.

    Posted by Shirley Megget | August 19, 2011, 5:00 am
    • Shirley, how cool that you’ll be in class! And it’s convenient for your hero & heroine that they’re an Eight and Two, because (as we see in the diagram) those two share a connection. Having some of the same personality traits means they’ll be better able to appreciate each other — and also better able to infuriate each other. Hmm…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 6:49 am
  4. Already have your book, so don’t put me in the drawing.

    Hmm. I have a sloth, a perfectionist, an achiever, and I’m an observer. We have interesting get-togethers. I’ll have to think about the others.

    Posted by Linda Burke | August 19, 2011, 5:08 am
    • Linda, I’m trying to imagine a Nine-One-Three-Five all together…my guess is that the Perfectionist and Achiever do more of the talking, while the Nine keeps everybody calm and YOU soak it all in. Does that sound like a typical day with your gang?

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 6:53 am
      • It is total chaos when we’re all together. Everyone is talking, sharing, discussing, showing, bossing, and being down-right stubborn (a family failing). And I’m right in the middle egging them on. I think my adult children, grandchildren, sisters, are all perfectionists-achievers-skeptics. One brother-in-law is a perfectionist/observer. The other bil is a peacemaker. The younger grandchildren are bossy, stubborn, leaders. It isn’t dull when they’re all here.

        Posted by Linda Burke | August 19, 2011, 1:22 pm
  5. Great post, Laurie, and unlike the other commenters, I wasn’t familiar until now with this diagram. Very cool, and I’m looking forward to reading your book. Thanks so much!

    Posted by Rebbie Macintyre | August 19, 2011, 5:56 am
    • Rebbie, it’s sure a fun discovery — I remember the first time I heard about enneagrams (my mom was getting HER master’s in counseling) and we sat around analyzing everybody in the family. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized “hey, maybe these could apply to fictional people as well” and then, wow, the creative floodgates opened!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 6:59 am
  6. Very interesting lesson today. When I read through the list, I could pinpoint which number my characters fell under. I’m still hemming and hawing over 2 and 7 for one MC in particular. But I do think he leans more towards 2. I’ll assess my female MCs later.

    This sort of reminds me of a colours workshop (job-related) I took many years ago. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Mercy | August 19, 2011, 6:08 am
  7. Wow, a fabulous mini-workshop on enneagrams. The theory is becoming clearer to me. I won’t say “clear as a bell”, firstly because that’s cliche , secondly because I haven’t finished my first cup of coffee.

    But good heavens, this was a great intro to the subject for the uninitiated, or a good review for those of us who’ve been trying to figure out how to use this in our writing.

    Thank you, Laurie!

    I’m not sure what my hero is, but perhaps figuring that out will help me write the last few dratted chapters.

    Posted by Luanna / Grace | August 19, 2011, 6:20 am
    • Luanna, good luck with those last few chapters! Here’s hoping your next cup of coffee makes them easier…and, heck, if you’re that close to the end it might not even matter which type your hero is. You might rather just wait until the book is finished, and then I can almost guarantee that when you read it next year, you’ll see clearly “oh, of COURSE, he’s a ___!”

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 7:08 am
  8. I love this new variation on enneagrams. I’m looking at this from my villain’s perspective and I’m seeing him now as a one and an eight. I’m guessing that these can also be used for heroines, and that gives me a totally different perspective on my main character.

    This is great. I think I might be becoming more of a two — it seems to fit me pretty well these days. And I can see nine in me as well, especially a few years ago. I’m getting my independence back again, though.

    You’re making me thihk, and have me intrigued with doing more with this version of enneagrams. It definitely makes sense.


    Posted by Darlene | August 19, 2011, 6:33 am
    • Darlene, what a great illustration of “wings” — your showing traits of a Two and Nine might mean that at heart you’re really a One, while your villain with his One and Eight traits might way deep down be a Nine. I’m never sure whether it’s easier to write characters who share traits we have ourselves, but it sure can’t hurt!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 7:11 am
  9. Thanks for a great post. I shared the link on facebook.

    Posted by Vicki Lee | August 19, 2011, 6:51 am
  10. Well, I’ve seen #8 in men and women, and it’s maddening! It is very problematic when this 8 is challenged, even by a small group of supporters! the 8′s I’ve dealt with refuse to actually address the real issue and will bow out rather than address it. And/or their communication style changes when they’re challenged and people find themselves surprised, and have to change gears to deal with it and not let them off the hook! And when I think about it, how does one shoe an 8 changing? I’ve never seen it happen in REAL LIFE! LOL!

    Posted by Charlotte | August 19, 2011, 6:55 am
  11. soory – I meant SHOW an 8 changing….

    Posted by Charlotte | August 19, 2011, 6:55 am
    • Charlotte, you had ME laughing at “how does one shoe” because I automatically thought of “dropping.” :) And as for how an 8 actually changes in real life, the only way is if they think it was all their own idea. Then it becomes a Great Project with (of course) the Gifted Leader At The Helm, and they’ll do a fabulous job!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 7:18 am
  12. Morning Laurie!

    Great to have you back at RU again! =)

    My heroes tend to be 7′s and 8′s. My heroines are 2′s and 4′s…’s always interesting to toss them in the mix together!

    I know you say we all have bits of the others in us, but in using the larger amounts of 2-3 others, how much is TOO much, turning your character into someone unbelievable…? Is it just a gut feeling?

    Thanks so much for posting with us today!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 19, 2011, 6:56 am
    • Carrie, good question about how much variety is over-the-top…it’s always intriguing to see things which at first glance seem just a bit out of character and later make perfect sense. But in the limited space of a book, you can’t use more than a few instances of that without leaving the reader confused. Which is kind of a shame, because seemingly-out-of-character things are always SO entertaining!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 7:21 am
  13. Yikes! I think my hero I’m writing is either a 6 or an 8 – I can’t quite work him out (which is a bad thing to realise now I’ve written half of it!) He’s a war correspondent – solitary by nature, and guarded. An earlier traumatic situation has left him unwilling to open himself up to love again, but he can’t help himself being drawn to the heroine… Help, Laurie!!!
    p.s. I have the fatal flaw book, but I’ve lost it, so please put me in the draw!!

    Posted by Sally Clements | August 19, 2011, 7:12 am
  14. Hi Laurie,

    I make my guys brooders. Not happy, not sad, just in the middle. They don’t smile much either. I think of the end of the tv version of Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy, only smiles after his wedding. He’s finally happy. You offer a great analysis for character building.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | August 19, 2011, 7:20 am
  15. Mary Jo, it’s fun thinking about what might make each type a brooder — great phrase!

    One: “I must stay focused on what’s right.”
    Two: “Gotta make sure __ is well taken care of.”
    Three: “Never let ‘em see you sweat.”
    Four: “I can’t face all the turmoil in life.”
    Five: “So many things to think about…”
    Six: “Gotta stay on guard at every moment.”
    Seven: “If I’m not having fun, I’ll shut down.”
    Eight: “Survey the scene; own the scene…”
    Nine: “Make sure everything’s going okay.”

    Some seem more likely than others, but any of those types COULD be like Mr. Darcy and finally smile at the happy ending.

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 7:32 am
  16. Hi Laurie. I love putting the torture to my heroes. Love the enneagrams, too. They really helped me nail down a slick character who didn’t want to cooperate (Slade).

    Posted by Joan Coy | August 19, 2011, 7:34 am
  17. My heroine is definitely a #2, since she’s pridefully independent, even to the point of putting herself into vulnerable positions because she doesn’t want to ask anyone for help. (and she especially doesn’t want to ask her ex!)

    Posted by Alyssa | August 19, 2011, 7:52 am
  18. Very interesting, Laurie–thank you! I was already signed up for your workshop, so I was excited to see this post today as a sneak preview.

    Enneagrams are brand new to me (and I already have your book on its way to me, so you don’t have to put me in the drawing), but as best as I can tell so far (with a very quick googling after I read the post), my heroine is a 9 and my hero is a 6. She’s fighting to overcome passivity partially caused by a bad marriage and divorce, and he’s got authority issues with an overbearing father with whom he’s developed a contentious relationship–he baits him a lot out of frustration.

    I can’t wait to be see if I’m right!

    Posted by Linda F. | August 19, 2011, 7:58 am
    • Linda, it’ll be a kick seeing more of your people next month! But at first glance, it sounds like you’ve got your character types NAILED — my only question is whether the heroine has always been a peacemaker, or if this is just a temporary response to trauma. I’m betting she endured the bad marriage because of not wanting to make waves, and if that’s the case you’re right on target. And the hero baiting Dad is classic…great stuff!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 8:06 am
      • You win that bet, Laurie! That’s exactly how I pictured her–has always wanted everyone to get along, but she wasn’t a wimp till she was beaten down (not physically, but mentally) by her ex. She didn’t want to make waves in her marriage and was trying to figure it out on her own and wondered what she was doing wrong. But she started finding more strength than she realized she had once the ex dumped her and she and her daughter were on their own.

        Okay, I’ll stop now. :-) Sorry, this is so exciting to me. I love the character-building part of writing the most!

        Posted by Linda F. | August 19, 2011, 8:17 am
  19. Since I jumped onto my path of personal transformation, I read the above and recognized pieces of me. What a disturbing look! Forget about the hero.

    On a more realistic note, I’ve never spent much time with Enneagrams and I appreciated the easy overall view and the insights that go with each character trait. What a gift to use these descriptions and analyze our characters. I can already see the different layers.

    Many thanks!

    Posted by Nanette Littlestone | August 19, 2011, 8:18 am
    • Nanette, I hadn’t realized until now that pointing out each type’s flaw in such big letters IS a disturbing intro to the whole enneagram notion…if you think about the good side of each (which of course is 98% of them) it’s easier to appreciate your type. Which immediately makes me think of that Monty Python song about looking on the bright side — although, shoot, I don’t want that in my head all DAY today!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 8:27 am
  20. Laurie – excellent post and I have note to pick up your book. My hero is smack dab in the middle of deception. He’s a movie star and he was child star and never became comfortable in his own skin.

    Printing this post for my writer’s notebook!

    Posted by Robin Covington | August 19, 2011, 8:22 am
    • Robin, it sounds like you’ve got a spot-on Three hero. And what’ll be so cool for him, as the story progresses, is that for the first time he’ll discover that he CAN be loved for exactly who he is, not who he thinks he should be. What a great journey ahead!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 8:31 am
  21. Best blogger ev-errr… :D

    I have an Adventurer 7 who chose a challenging profession (oncology physician), left when personal issues got very dicey and ‘gluttoned’ right into an adventurous lifestyle. And now I’m not having much luck convincing him to go back.

    What makes a Seven want to learn-grow-change. Or at least even out?
    Kathleen (now returning to shoving cake in her mouth trying to get this guy to play along.)

    Posted by Kathleen | August 19, 2011, 8:29 am
    • Kathleen, an Adventurer who becomes an oncologist has amazing stick-to-it-iveness…for which he can thank his Six and Eight wings, AND his One and Five connections. But the only thing that’ll send him back to his more responsible side now is the realization that NO amount of gluttony will fill the hole inside. Sevens want to avoid (emotional) pain at all costs, and this guy hasn’t yet grasped that fleeing won’t do the trick — once he does, it’ll make all the difference.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 8:39 am
      • Wow. Thank you *very* much – that insight really helps. That explanation fits perfectly into this character and with the plot line I’m struggling with. Break-through!!!!

        Thank you, Laurie!!!

        Posted by Kathleen | August 19, 2011, 8:57 am
  22. Oh, I’m so pleased we’re talking about our hereoes. For my WIP I’m planning an enneagram type 5 hero. He’s a detached loner who holds himself apart emotionally and limits all his relationships to business or casual.(He dates, but short term liaisons set his limits)

    I’m struggling to give him immediate appeal. When we get to know fives we learn they are great listeners, non-judgmental, accepting, can understand other people’s perspective… But what about surface qualities? Is there anything that would make a five immediately attractive to women? Can they be charming or does their detachment rule this out?

    I don’t want the reader to initially see him as boring, work focussed and withdrawn. I want something about him that appeals to women from the very first meeting. What am I missing for this type?

    Posted by JanetCh | August 19, 2011, 8:48 am
    • Janetch, the most immediately attractive thing about Fives is their passion for whatever they’re pursuing. They can be downright eloquent, engaging and charming when they’re explaining something to an interested person — so if this guy is telling the heroine about his work in (whatever), he’ll come across right from the start as a fascinating person!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 9:11 am
      • ‘Fives can be downright eloquent, engaging, charming when they’re explaining something to an interested person.’

        Thanks Laurie. I don’t think my hero is going to be fabulous enough. Maybe he’ll have more reader appeal if I make him a leader 8 with some 5 thrown in and maybe a bit of 7 too (to make him more fun). On reflection there must be a reason why we see lots of type 8 heroes and very few fives. :)

        Posted by Janet Ch | August 19, 2011, 1:54 pm
  23. Hi Laurie, I think in my story that I am using for your class I have a #1 on my hands with some two in there. He is a miserable warlock who knows he is the reason his family is cursed. he feels he has to do everything himself or it will get messed up and also feels that it is his sole responsibility to take care of his family and break the curse.

    Posted by Kim Preston | August 19, 2011, 9:23 am
    • Kim, this warlock sounds VERY responsible — to the point of denying himself in order to care for the family, which of course is because he unconsciously takes pride in being important. But he sure won’t see that up front; right now he just knows that if he wants things done Right the only solution is to take care of it all himself. Poor guy!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 9:36 am
  24. I enjoyed your summary of the fatal flaw. When I start developing characters, I usually use astrology signs, and it helps give me the shading to personality traits. I like the ennegrams and the fatal flaw. My hero is mostly 8 with a bit of 1 and 3 thrown in; my heroine is more 1-4-6. I think I like the way the her 1 and 4 will play against his 8 and 3. Thanks!

    Posted by Sandy | August 19, 2011, 9:26 am
    • Sandy, I know what you mean about how a system (like astrology, or enneagrams, or Myers-Briggs, or birth order) can give the shading to personality traits…that’s a great phrase! And it’s handy that both your characters have some 1 in them; with any luck they’ll realize that they hold common values regarding what’s Good-True-Right. (But probably not without a bit of conflict along the way.)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 9:40 am
  25. The characteres in my current WIP are an 8 and a 4. That’s my gut reaction, without any analysis, and it clears up some problems I’m having with my heroes arc. Great post, Laurie!

    Posted by Mary Kozlowski | August 19, 2011, 9:37 am
  26. Oops! And excuse the spelling errors in my post- I didn’t stop to proof. My bad.

    Posted by Mary Kozlowski | August 19, 2011, 9:38 am
    • Mary, going with your gut reaction can be a great way of identifying your characters’ types — if something rings true, it most likely is! And, boy, I can see all kinds of conflict ahead for a 4 and 8, so it’s lucky they can meet in their 2 and 5 areas because otherwise…woh, mega turmoil.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 9:50 am
  27. My guy’s a solid one. An unfortunate situation in his past causes him to blame himself for his sister’s death. This poor guy’s in turmoil! And he reacts with anger! Thanks for the post, Laurie! I loved this class when I took it! Totally changed the way I look at character development!

    Posted by Barb Han | August 19, 2011, 10:09 am
  28. Laurie – What a fascinating post! I’ve seen similar personality diagrams, but not this one. VERY helpful – thanks so much for sharing this with us!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | August 19, 2011, 10:30 am
    • Becke, I’m glad you like it! There are so many ways of choosing the right personalities for characters, not to mention analyzing those of real-life “characters” — it’s always fun to discover a new one. (Which, hmm, could apply both to personality systems AND characters.)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 10:48 am
  29. I believe personality flaws keep readers reading. It’s all about finding the hero’s faults that aren’t faults to you, I mean, to the heroine.

    Amber, a Five: “Others don’t have all the necessary info.” And I’ll never have it all either, so I might as well stop the research and sit down and write.

    Posted by Amber Polo | August 19, 2011, 10:39 am
    • Amber, trust a Five to put the research ahead of the writing — AND to analyze the distinction so succinctly once it’s actually time to take action. Hmm, maybe there should be a whole club of writers in that same boat? (Although since Fives tend to be loners…aw, never mind.)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 10:51 am
  30. Perfect timing! Man, RU has been on it this week with me. :)

    I’m working on a hero who is a history professor, middle son and uptight as all hell. My heroine, of course, is the complete opposite. Avarice is perfect for him because my tattooed artist heroine is about to drag him kicking and screaming out of his seclusion.

    Thanks for giving me another title to add to my must buy list.

    Posted by Avery Flynn | August 19, 2011, 10:51 am
    • Avery, it sounds like you’re in one of the most exciting stages of writing — picking up all KINDS of great information! (Which, of course, is something your hero would totally approve of.) And, boy, it’s fun imagining what’ll happen when the heroine gets her hands on him…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 11:00 am
  31. Hi Laurie,

    I’ve got your book and use it as a handy guide when brainstorming characters. Reading your list this morning gave me a light-bulb moment. My hero-in-progress has the flaw of lust. His desire to do good and be good is out of control. It will take my stubborn heroine to rein him in.

    Posted by Alice Valdal | August 19, 2011, 11:06 am
  32. My Hero’s fatal flaw is fear. He’s so afraid the heroine is in danger he puts them both in the line of fire.

    Posted by Julie Rowe | August 19, 2011, 11:12 am
  33. Julie, it’s so cool when a hero actually SEES what his flaw has cost him and/or the people he loves. And for this Six, the wonderful irony of his attempt at protection actually making things WORSE will provide an even greater “oh, noooo” moment — poor guy!

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 11:23 am
  34. Fabulous blog, Laurie – I’ve seen your enneagram presentation in one form or another several times, but it never fails to kick my brain in it’s butt. (Also reading the comments and responses is like a workshop in itself.)

    As always, I perplex myself trying to fit in (um not personally. That FIVE could be tattooed on my head.)

    My WIP has a town bad-boy turned businessman who’s all about responsibility and protecting his son from a previous marriage (sort of 1-2? Not sure). He’s (a) not convinced he deserves his success and (b) not willing to put his son’s happiness at risk.

    The heroine’s a 2, I think. Believes in evaluating a situation, making a decision, moving forward, no harm no foul.

    Is there a type for someone who’s not necessarily demanding to be leader but expects everybody to be one?

    Maybe I’ll lock the kids out of the house and think about this a while… :)

    Posted by Vicky L | August 19, 2011, 11:38 am
    • Oops. Meant 8 for the heroine, though I confess to not being sure.

      Posted by Vicky L | August 19, 2011, 11:47 am
      • Vicky, I’m thinking the type who expects everyone to be a leader without demanding to lead could be a Nine…whose Perfectionist and Leader wings would provide the necessary skill for doing the job, yet the Peacemaker is happier sitting back and letting more strong-minded people run the show. Although a bad-boy turned businessman sounds more like an Eight, who’s currently operating more from his Nurturer connection and Nine wing. Hmm, possibilities!

        Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 12:05 pm
  35. What an interesting way to look at the characters. This is also my first time with the diagram and I can see I need to spend much more time to fully understand it. Thanks!

    Posted by Paddywank | August 19, 2011, 11:43 am
  36. My hero in my single title YEEHAW PAISANO, which just finaled in the Maggies, is a cowboy/rancher radio deejay and pretty good singer. This superman’s flaw is anger and it works out pretty well since the heroine, a feisty Jersey girl, needs him for whatever and has to do a little begging to smooth things over. She hates it, she does it and both find reams about themselves. Couldn’t have picked a better fatal flaw! In your workshop, of course, Laurie.


    Posted by Pet Aubol | August 19, 2011, 12:01 pm
    • Pet, it’s such a treat hearing that my workshop helped contribute to a successful book — that’s great; thanks! And of course the hero’s personality is only part of what makes ANY story work…having a cool title, like yours, is another advantage right from the start.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 12:10 pm
  37. Hi, Laurie! I always get excited to see lectures from you. :) After taking your personality ladder class last year, I made huge improvements to the hero in my last wip, and then it finally clicked for my heroine a few months ago too.

    I think my current hero’s flaw is fear. He’s not so big into the whole commitment thing, and he’s not so big on letting people down either. The perfect foil for my unhappily divorced heroine, who needs to know she’s lovable in good times and bad, forever.

    Have a great weekend!

    Posted by Jamie | August 19, 2011, 12:24 pm
    • Jamie, what a great couple you’ve got there! Whether he’s a responsible-but-fearful Skeptic Six or a commitment-averse Adventurer Seven, either way his OTHER wing is gonna keep him from totally embracing that core style. So he’ll not only need to overcome that flaw within himself, but meanwhile he’s dealing with HER fears as well…all kinds of turmoil ahead.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 12:41 pm
  38. Laurie, one thing I’ve noticed — at least with MY characters — is that sometimes it’s easier to figure out where a character “fits” on the chart by examining his or her flaw and then finding the related enneagram type. I’m SO thankful you laid out all the strengths and weaknesses like you did in this post, because that makes it easy for people like me (who for psychological reasons best left unexplored, most likely ;-) ) are better at determining a character’s fatal flaw than the whole host of strengths upon which he or she may be able to draw.

    For anyone who’s on the fence about taking one of Laurie’s classes, just do it. I guarantee you won’t be sorry, regardless which class you choose. :-)

    Posted by Kathleen | August 19, 2011, 12:26 pm
  39. Holy cow, Laurie! I’m late to the party and look at all the fun you guys are having.

    Thank you for yet another fantastic lecture. I’m printing it as I’m typing! The hero in my September release is absolutely a number two. He wants to take care of everybody and winds up driving himself crazy.

    The hero in my WIP is a seven. He’s a free spirit that needs to be tamed a bit. :)

    Great lecture! Thank you.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 19, 2011, 12:28 pm
  40. At home? I hadn’t thought about that before, but it’s easy to see that my honey’s a nine. Middle child, the friend who brought the others together…you get the picture. But slothful? Yeah, I can see that. It drives my mother nuts!

    My hero is a three with one tendencies. In his case he practices deception as a way of protecting himself. He believes that the only thing really lovable about him is what he can do/what he looks like. Until the heroine comes along and proves him wrong of course! Though it’s interesting how much convincing she has to do before he’ll believe her. You’d THINK he’d want to believe that he’s a good guy, but those perfectionistic tendencies just won’t let him! ;>)

    Posted by Heather Jackson | August 19, 2011, 1:30 pm
    • Heather, I’ve always thought a Nine would be wonderfully easy to live with (given my own slothful tendencies) although our house would probably sink under the dust. As for your hero, I suspect he might need extra convincing because of pride — which makes him reluctant to concede that just MAYBE he’s been wrong all this time!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 1:52 pm
  41. ‘Fives can be downright eloquent, engaging, charming when they’re explaining something to an interested person.’

    Thanks Laurie. I don’t think my hero is going to be fabulous enough. Maybe he’ll have more reader appeal if I make him a leader 8 with some 5 thrown in and maybe a bit of 7 too (to make him more fun). On reflection there must be a reason why we see lots of type 8 heroes and very few fives.

    Posted by Janet Ch | August 19, 2011, 1:56 pm
    • Janet, you’re right that Eights tend to be the most common heroes — back in the 80s, I don’t think there was any other kind — and the Observer & Adventurer elements can make him nicely well-rounded. Even so, sometimes a Five will leap off the page…I just finished reading a Nora Roberts last night whose Five hero had me salivating!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 2:13 pm
  42. Laurie,

    I have trouble seeing all the connections between archetypes and enneagrams. I’m sure it’s one of my flaws, or maybe it’s my lack of sleep and the haze of household dust floating in front of my computer screen.

    Part of the problem is that my hero and heroine are deceptive, because they often hide or attempt to hide their flaws from themselves and other people. My hero appears to be a charming wanderer, but he is a tortured warrior who guards his emotions. My heroine appears to be a spunky nurturer, but she wants the perfect life she’s desired since childhood.

    Which enneagrams are they and what are their flaws and wings?

    Janet, who has doesn’t know her enneagram either but is certain she’s not a perfectionist where housework is concerned

    Please don’t tell my synopsis class instructor I’ve been trying to figure out enneagrams today. She thinks I’m doing my brainstorming homework.:-)

    Posted by Janet Brooks | August 19, 2011, 2:28 pm
    • Janet, don’t worry about finding connections between archetypes and enneagrams — they’re such different systems that it’s like seeking the connection between birth order and astrological sign. At first glance I’d say your hero’s a Seven with strong Six & Eight wings and your heroine’s a Three with big Two & Four wings…but I’d better stop theorizing and let you get back to your homework!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 2:57 pm
  43. I enjoyed this post, Laurie!
    I’ve never thought of referring back to the seven deadly sins when giving my character a flaw. Great tip.

    Posted by Haley Whitehall | August 19, 2011, 2:32 pm
    • Haley, it’s always such a kick to come across new ways of doing things! And anybody who knows the seven deadly sins will be intrigued that, when I talk about this to American audiences, hardly anyone can name the whole batch. But people from the UK and Canada can usually zip right through the list — which some have explained by saying they’re better educated, and others by saying they’re more familiar with sins. Hmm…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 3:00 pm
  44. This is great, Laurie! I’ve glanced at the enneagram method of writing characters before, but like others, it hasn’t sunk in until today. So my current hero is a 2, and the heroine is a 6. The antagonist is a 3. Makes for an interesting mix in the ms!

    Posted by Leslie | August 19, 2011, 2:35 pm
    • Leslie, I like how your antagonist reflects traits from both the hero and the heroine — 3s have a 2 wing and connect with 6. So on some level can each resonate with the antagonist, and probably don’t like that facet within themselves, with makes the conflict even MORE intriguing!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 3:04 pm
  45. My current hero and heroine are a combination of six and three. Reading through your article, I realized that they express those traits in completely different ways. My antagonist is definitely two, only not in any good way. I’m saving this for future reference. Thank, Laurie!

    Posted by Judy | August 19, 2011, 2:58 pm
    • Judy, wow, this is a bizarre coincidence that two people in a row have 2-3-6 combinations for hero-heroine-antagonist with only their roles differing. It’s cool that your couple are types that connect with each other, because they’ve each (at some point in their lives) experienced the style of being which their loved one knows well. And that makes ‘em better able to understand one another, while also leaving lots of opportunity for resentment…ooh!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 3:08 pm
  46. Hi Laurie et al.–

    Great discussion! My Heroes (there are 2 in DESIRE AND DECEPTION) flaws are:

    ONE: Perfection/Anger–and clay feet! Dan is so perfect that when he discovers a little secret about himself, at first he refuses to believe it and gets into a huge fight with his wife. Then he has to come to grips with the reality that he’s not perfect and he made a major screw-up. Then he thinks he’s unforgivable. Lucky he has great wife!

    FIVE: Romantic/Envy–Sean adores his Latina, Isabel, will do anything for her EXCEPT murder. He envies the life he thinks other have, not realizing that those people have facades, not real feelings. He does help Izzy to become a new woman (but she’s still pretty naughty!!)

    Thanks for another reminder of why Enneagrams are super for writers.



    Posted by Sharon Buchbinder | August 19, 2011, 3:23 pm
  47. “Even so, sometimes a Five will leap off the page…”

    Type 5 females seem much more intriguing as romance novel characters than type 5 men eg examples of female 5s: Amelia Earhart, Greta Garbo,Marie Curie.

    Male 5s: Startrek’s Data and Odo

    Posted by Janet Ch | August 19, 2011, 3:58 pm
    • Janet, I think what makes a Five leap off the page is their passion for whatever it is they’re doing. (Except Garbo, who was so flat-out gorgeous she would’ve leapt off the screen no matter what her personality.) Amelia and Marie were DEVOTED to flying and chemistry, and Fives could also be devoted to sculpture or French cooking or yoga or breeding horses or any of the other arts & sciences. The classic nerd is sure one example of a Five, but it’s ONLY one!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 4:20 pm
  48. Thanks so much for sharing this. I was recently have trouble with two of my characters, and this is exactly what I was looking for to figure out my dilemma.
    Talk about perfect timing (but not too perfect!) ;)

    Posted by Susan Sheehey | August 19, 2011, 4:17 pm

    Gosh, this is a big group of people — which is fun; it’s like a giant party! I’m heading offline for a couple hours to celebrate Weekend Kickoff with my (Seven/Eight) husband, but will check back later.

    And I’m gonna throw in a free class as well, with so many people already in the drawing. So if you’re a winner, you can take your pick from

    “Dynamic Description & Delicious Dialogue” in February
    “Plotting Via Motivation” in March
    “Blurbing Your Book” next August

    It’ll be fun to see you again there!

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 4:32 pm
  50. Hello Laurie!

    Great to have you back again!

    I think my hero’s an eight and a three…gorgeous, confident and very competitive, a result of sibling rivalry.

    I think what adds to the conflict in my story (or anyone else’s for that matter) is how the hero is perceived by others, i.e. the heroine. She sees a confident, urbane guy who lives a charmed life, not a man who’s got a nerdy side, a guy who’s been hurt before and keeps a mental checklist of the attributes he wants in a lifetime partner because he’s afraid to trust his own feelings.

    I need to pick up a copy of your book.

    Thanks again!

    Posted by jennifer tanner | August 19, 2011, 4:46 pm
    • Jen, you’ve got a very appealing hero here — and with any luck, the heroine will be the ONLY person who sees the side of him he prefers to keep hidden. Because that way, when she truly loves him in spite of all those things he views as flaws, he’ll be able to relax (for the very first time) around someone who GETS every part of him!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 6:25 pm
  51. Hi Laurie!

    As someone new to writing, I have never thought about my hero, or heroine for that matter, using any type of personality theory. While I can easily recognize different traits in myself and those around me, I am not so sure I say the same for my characters. Good thing I am just beginning my editing process!
    I must admit every time I speak with you, or read something you recommend, I learn.
    Thank you!

    Posted by Darcie Thompson | August 19, 2011, 6:23 pm
    • Darcie, the fact that you can and do recognize personality types in people you know means it’ll be easy to do the same thing with characters IF you decide to go that way. Some writers prefer letting them grow “as is” with no preconceived ideas; others like creating them with personality types in mind; and both ways work extremely well. (As do those in between.) In any case, it’s always fun seeing what tools are out there…and deciding which ones you like best!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 6:39 pm
  52. As always, a great lesson in writing and defining characters. Laurie! And this one I am definitely keeping on my tool bar :) I have a wonderful time coming up with the wonderful traits but a hard time coming up with the way it could also be a flaw. THANK YOU!

    I tend to write Peacemakers and it was fascinating to see you break down the flaw. In fact my current hero is a peacemaker and I’ve been struggling with what his flaw to overcome is. And now I have it!


    Posted by Misty | August 19, 2011, 8:01 pm
    • Misty, what a kick to see the right answer magically appear before your eyes — although you helped the magic quite a bit by creating this guy in the first place! I seriously think these types are so innate that we can create them without even realizing it, but knowing how it works makes the process even more satisfying.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 20, 2011, 9:49 am

    Wow, it’s been a REALLY fun day — all of you with thoughts and questions about enneagrams made it such a treat to be back here at Romance University! I love talking about stuff like this (big surprise there, huh?) with people who already enjoy it and who are just now exploring it.

    And after lining up all the commenters in on-the-screen order (including those who mentioned having the book already, because now the prizes include a free class which you can always donate to a friend) and feeding their #s into, our winners are:

    #40 Leslie
    #28 Avery

    Congratulations to both of you, and contact me offlist — or, heck, I’ll bet I can get hold of you through RU — about the prize you’d like.

    Laurie, feeling like a total wuss for going to bed early tonight but figuring if amybody else has a comment I can always answer it tomorrow…so good night and THANKS to all of you for joining in!

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | August 19, 2011, 8:10 pm

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