The Enneagram – Part 1

Part 1 is an explanation of how the Enneagram works. Part 2 will explain how to use it in your writing.

Quite simply, the Enneagram is a neat little way of categorising your characters by their psychology.

According to Enneagram theory, everybody falls into one of nine character types and each character type exhibits certain behaviours, based on what drives them. For some it’s the need to put things in order, for others it’s the need to be in control, or be original, or be helpful.

As a writer, I use the Enneagram a lot.

Here are the character types, along with a brief description:

  1. reformer The Reformer or Perfectionist – who likes to see things in order.
  2. Helper The Helper or Giver – who likes to assist others and receive love.
  3. Achiever The Achiever or Performer – who likes to win.
  4. individualist The Individualist or Romantic –  who dreams and likes to be original.
  5. investigator The Investigator or Observer  – who likes to know everything going on.
  6. loyalist The Loyalist or Skeptic – who needs to trust and be trusted.
  7. Enthusiast The Enthusiast or Epicure – who loves to indulge in everything life has to offer.
  8. challenger The Challenger or Protector – who craves security and control.
  9. peacemaker The Peacemaker or Mediator – who brings harmony to situations.

It’s easy to see how having a relatively short list of potential character types immediately creates a range of characters who all have different goals and desires – which opens the door to a wide variety of conflicts, much more subtle than simply good guys versus bad.

More of this in part 2…

Additionally the Enneagram describes some key traits of each type:

  1. holyidea HOLY IDEA – what the character truly believes in. Where their moral compass firmly points.
  2. egofix EGO FIXATION – when they’re at their most selfish, they’re here.
  3. desire BASIC DESIRE – what they really want on a psychological level
  4. fear BASIC FEAR – what this type of person hates and takes great pains to avoid.
  5. temptation TEMPTATION – what is the characters compulsive behaviour.  What they revert to under pressure.
  6. virtue VIRTUE – what redeeming behaviour this character has learnt. What they’re capable of at their best.
  7. vice VICE – what they’re up to at their worst. What foul habits they have.

Again it can really help to build a character from being mostly driven by one particular aspect of their personality. It comes to define them and drive.

The traits a character displays are all related and form a consistency that makes it easy to build up an image of a particular type that is easily accessible.

Perhaps you’d like to try to work out which type you, or some of your  (favourite) characters are!

To summarise the various traits of the types I’ve grabbed this little table. All of this, and descriptions are available in the App.

Type Ego Fixation Holy Idea Basic Fear Basic Desire Temptation Vice Virtue
Reformer Resentment Perfection Evilness Goodness Hypocrisy Anger Right Thing
Helper Flattery Freedom Being Unloved Unconditional Love Manipulativeness Vainglory Altruism
Achiever Vanity Hope Worthlessness Value Pleasing Everybody Deceit Truthfulness
Individualist Melancholy Origin Commonness Originality Self-blame Envy Equanimity
Investigator Stinginess Omniscience Uselessness Competency Overthinking Greed Detachment
Loyalist Cowardice Faith Vulnerability Safety Suspicion Fear Courage
Enthusiast Planning Work Boredom Experience Rashness Gluttony Sobriety
Challenger Vengeance Truth Loss of Control Self-Protection Rejecting Help Lust Magnanimity
Peacemaker Indolence Love Loss Peace of Mind Submission Indifference Serenity

 

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Click to go through to the App store

If you’d like to have a pocket guide to carry around with you, then please check out the App

And, in case I haven’t laboured the point enough already… more on how to use the Enneagram in part 2! (which is coming soon)

Thanks for reading. I always love to hear your comments! – James

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