The Big 5 Personality Traits


Building The Psychology Of Your Characters

Is your character over confident or narcissistic?  Are they stubborn or neurotic? Are they open to adventure or closed off to new experiences? Who are they at the core?

If you’re not sure, you could use the Big Five Personality Traits as a loose guide to deciding their most dominant traits. Even if you don’t believe in the theory, it is a fun way to test your characters main personality themes. Pretend you’re an analyst trying to match them to a profile.

  1. Are they open to experience? Do they seek out new and creative ways of self-expression? Are they drawn to intense relationships and adventure – even if these are dangerous?
  2. Are they self-disciplined? Do they live their lives by lists, routine, a self-imposed efficiency? Would the very act of spontaneity make them nervous? Do they come across as stubborn or hard-headed, even inflexible?
  3. Are they extraverts? Are they the life of the party and if there’s no party do they start one? Does their energy and the ‘vibes’ from others feed them? Do they sometimes come across as domineering or manipulative?
  4. Are they agreeable? If so, maybe they are too Do they feel compassion and take on other’s problems – perhaps they give their trust too willingly or easily? Does this make them seem naïve at times?
  5. Are they neurotic? Do they become anxious at the slightest provocation? Are they your classic worrier, or do them seem unstable – or even a bit crazy?

The truth is that you must know your characters better than you know yourself, so spending some time understanding their basic make up is worth the effort.

When you’re writing a scene, you must know how that character will react at any given time.

To develop your antagonist, you may enjoy Amanda Patterson’s fabulous resource on troubled fictional characters.

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. When To Stick To The Rules Of Fiction And When To Break Them
  2. Getting Feedback On Your Writing – 4 Things To Keep In Mind
  3. Embracing Your Uniqueness As A Writer