Set Your Characters Free

Ever just want to grab your protagonist by the shoulders and scream, “Who are you?”

It happened recently, one of those fabulously brutal critiques in which a friend labeled the darling of my story a cardboard cutout. The advice from my writing group, “Find out who she is before editing further.”

So I asked Hannah. Several times.

She hid in the shadows of my imagination and refused to speak.

I cried out to God, “Help me understand my character.”

In the quiet echo that followed, I knew God intended something deeper. Yeah, that’s what happens when you throw up double-meaning requests.

After several months of writer’s block, a friend suggested a great book on temperament traits, Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsey. I started by taking the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. I’m a Guardian. I took it again, on behalf of Hannah, and discovered she’s an Artisan.

No wonder she didn’t possess the depth of character she deserved, our opposing behaviors vied for plot reactions. With a bit of study on my part, Hannah came into focus. To the point that she now objects when I try to force her to respond in a way contrary to her personality. Blessed freedom–for both of us!

One by one, my other characters demanded emancipation. With a virtual revolution on my hands, I delved back into the book to discover more personalities, and their interplay.

I retook the test for a character development workshop, quickly, without thinking. It registered Artisan. Am I spending too much time in Hannah’s head? Or could it be God, setting me free to experience the character He’s designed in me?