Character Development

boy readingWhat makes the characters in one book seem so real, and in another, flat and uninteresting? There are many possible answers, but I’d like to focus on one aspect of character development… temperament.

The Four Temperaments

We’ve all heard of them.

Hippocrates categorized them thus:

  • Choleric
  • Melancholic
  • Sanguine
  • Phlegmatic

Merrill-Wilson is a little more descriptive:

  • Driver: Choleric
  • Analytical: Melancholic
  • Expressive: Sanguine
  • Amiable: Phlegmatic

Carl Jung wrote about the Psychological Types:

  • Intuitor
  • Thinker
  • Feeler
  • Sensor

Myers-Briggs brings more detail into the mix:

  • Introvert/Extrovert
  • Sensing/Intuition
  • Thinking/Feeling
  • Judging/Perceiving

Jerry “DRhino” Clark speaks of the Magic of Colors in network marketing:

R – elate to more people
I – nfluence those around you
C – harisma will be yours
H – igher impact now!

Michael Dlouhy, at Mentoring For Free, likes to keep it simple:

  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Red

This Color Chart is a great visual of the four temperaments. Click on the image to enlarge.


In her book, Writing for Children & Teenagers, Lee Wyndham emphasized the importance of “tagging” your characters.


Tagging Your Characters

Tags are devices by which a character may be identified each time he or she appears on the scene. A gesture or characterisitic mannerism such as tossing the head, shuffling, touching a finger to the side of the nose in thought, or flaring the nostrils in anger. A character might habitually pull down on an ear lobe, crack knuckles, swing a key chain, or chew on a strand of hair.He might collect string, pick threads off himself or others, or brush imaginary specks of dust off (probably irate) friends. Smacking the lips before or after speaking might also be an annoying tag.

Speech tags, such as tone of voice or manner of speaking, using some expression repeatedly, sing or whistle one particular song. Tags are not hung onthe characters willy-nilly, but for story purposes. Choose them as carefully as you choose traits and names for your story people.


Tagging your characters is a lot easier to do when you keep in mind the four temperaments.

I’d like to expand on each of the personality colors a little in future posts, but in the meantime here is a FUN way of learning the basic personality colors. It was done with network marketers in mind, but is easily adapted to a writer of fiction…

Personality Colors – Learn to Speak Prospectian, with Bob and Anna Bassett

KNOW your characters, and your readers will enjoy them as much as you do.

© Willena Flewelling

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