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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Enneagram (Part 3 - How to Use It)

Enneagram Disintegration
Okay, so now I'm able to get back to my Enneagram post. Sorry for the delay!

So, after the previous two Enneagram posts, we have a good basic understanding of how the Enneagram system works, and some of its deeper complexities. In this post, as promised, I'd like to explore some of the ways that using the system can help you build more realistic and well-rounded characters.

First off, I think one of the best uses for the Enneagram is to help add more depth to a preexisting character. Often, as we begin to create a script, our characters lack rounding, primarily acting in one main way, or out of one main aspect of their characters. If, however, we can identify the Enneagram type of a character, we should find a host of other potential traits that we can mix in at the appropriate times. We might have a better handle on our characters' motivations, if we hadn't thought as clearly about that in advance. Essentially, we can "get to know" our characters, the same way in which we might explore our own personalities therapeutically.

Michael Lee and I did this for Hell on Wheels. We had begun by developing a detailed outline, and also coming up with some character sketches. And while I felt I had a good basic understanding the characters, I didn't feel quite like I knew them. This was particularly true regarding Zane, the main character. So I took four of my central characters (main character, protagonist (which are not necessarily the same, as Dramatica fans will tell you), antagonist, and love interest/sidekick), and thought about what their Enneagram types would be. When we first began sketching our characters, we had discussed their roles, back stories, and both inner and outer motivations. But still, Zane remained a little vague for me.

Zane is a young gambler, formerly a big fish in the small pond that was his hometown, now a small fish way out of his league in a much bigger town. Due to a troubled past, he considers himself unlovable, and therefore uses his gambling to essentially "buy" friendships. He also suppresses a violent streak, fearing he can lose control of himself. But he is drawn into the fight against the vampires by the protagonist/mentor, Stagg.

At a quick glance, Zane seemed to me to be either a Two (The Helper/Lover) or a Six (The Loyalist/Pessimist). I liked the Six for some of its stress qualities (acting more Three-like), which would really be Zane through much of the film, though Two seemed to work best in terms of his underlying motivations. While Sixes seek security and support, Twos are primarily motivated by a desire to be loved (hence one of the nicknames), and fear they are unlovable. Seemed pretty dead on for Zane. MLee, however, told me he thought Zane seemed more like an Eight (The Challenger/Trail-Blazer) to him, though he agreed with my assessment of Stagg as a total Eight as well. Eights are domineering and assertive out of a protective desire for self-control.

Another glance at the Enneagram chart, however, should reveal the reason for our initial disagreement about Zane's type. The above chart (as opposed to the one at the top of Part 2, which showed the cycle of security) shows the arrows pointing from each type to its stress point. When a Two is in stress, he will act more like an Eight! Thus it is true that Zane might seem like an Eight through some of his actions over the course of the film. But his core Enneagram type is the Two, motivated by his primal desire to be loved, and fear of being unlovable.

Then I was able to explore the Two more in depth to think a bit more about Zane's potential character traits. I realized quickly that he would clearly not be a "healthy" example of his type, but also would not be particularly "unhealthy." Rather, he fits somewhere in the "average" level of health -- a character who has some internal flaws and is in need of improving, but who remains sympathetic. (While not impossible to write a sympathetic "unhealthy" character, I find such types often work better as villains or antagonists.)

An average Two, can grow emotionally needy, or at times manipulative in order to gain "love." He may flatter others. He may also have a strong sexual drive. On the healthier end of the scale, they may be giving and helpful. At his stress point of Eight (as he should be while fighting vampires, and/or struggling to make his way in his new surroundings), he becomes individualistic, bossy or boastful, aggressive, confrontational, and courageous. These (and other common characteristics) may not all be traits we'll add in to our portrayal of Zane, but at the right times we might, should we need a little color. And since they are common to his Enneagram type, they will seem more realistic, and in place.

Thus, you see how through an understanding of the Enneagram we can help flesh out a more simplistic character. This post is a bit longer than I had expected, so I'll break it up and create a Part 4 for the other ways to use the Enneagram in character development. I'll discuss using it to build a character from scratch, as well as ways to figure out character arcs and potentially dramatic character pairings.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm enojoying your posts on Enneagrams. Thank you.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

You're welcome! :-)

And thanks for reading.

6:19 PM  

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