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Characters with Humor

This is not a post about funny characters. This is about creating character personalities based on the 4 humors.

The what?

Here’s a quick refresher course on the ancient Greek categories.

Hippocrates ( 460–370 BC) is responsible for taking an even more ancient Egyptian theory and developing it into one that categorized temperaments into 4 basic types. These personality types were attributed to an excess of certain ewww-worthy body fluids.

A surplus of:

1. Blood corresponds to a sanguine personality. The best of all the temperaments, these extroverted folks are fun-loving, carefree, optimistic, kind, caring, and loving. They are easily distracted but also forgive and forget just as quickly.

2. Black Bile is associated with melancholia. These introverted and idealistic types are prone to introspection and depression. They can also be neurotic, obsessive perfectionists. They are the quintessential brooder.

3. Yellow bile is linked to the choleric traits of aggression, decisiveness, ambition, and vengeance. These quick-tempered types are cunning and quick to blame others.

4. Phlegm is associated with phlegmatic traits. Lazy, slow, cowardly, and lack of ambition are the negative aspects of this type. Patient, docile, and peace-making are the positive aspects.

Note: Yes, one could be a balanced personality and have all the requisite amount of fluids, but what would be the sense in creating a character without flaws?

See chart at end of post for more associations.

It’s easy to find evidence of humor types in TV, literature, and film. From  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ( Ferris = sanguine; Cameron = melancholic; Sloane = phlegmatic; Jeanie = choleric)  to The Hangover ( Phil = choleric; Stu = melancholic;  Alan = sanguine;  Doug = phlegmatic) scores of characters are created that fit the 4 humor types.

Why create characters that conform to some ancient weird-gross body fluid classification? 
A good story requires:
  • a cast of characters with distinct personalities. The 4 humors help a writer “see” their characters’ strengths and flaws with more clarity.
  • interesting dialog. Knowing your characters’ type helps create authentic dialog.
  • lots of conflict. What better way to add conflict then have these personalities be at odds with one other. Ninja Turtles, anyone?  Seinfeld?
  • character growth. One type learns from the others. Whether that growth is positive or negative is determined by your plot.

Other types of categories for sussing out characters: Western astrological signs, Chinese zodiac signs, Greek/Roman gods, and the Meyer-Briggs categories.

Have fun creating your characters!

4 humors

Related links: Rock Your Writing

What Kind Of Conference Attendee Are You?

writing conference attendeeThe best place to get the latest publishing scoop is at a writer’s conference. There’s tons to choose from and they happen all over the world! Large, medium, small, intimate, or intimidating, writers go to meet other writers, attend workshops, and listen to keynotes speeches.

Having been to my fair share of conferences, I’ve noticed a thing or two about conference attendees while people watching or indulging in authorveillance. They fall into one of several  groups:

Wallflower: Shy writers attending for information only. They have no intention of pitching, won’t make eye contact with anyone, and pretend to be fiddling on their cell phone when the opportunity to talk to others presents itself.

Read My MSer: These folks walk around with copies of their manuscript asking folks they just met to read their novel. This puts writers between a page-rock and word-hard place. Are they looking for someone to tell them how wonderful it is? And what will they do if you give advice? And who are YOU to give advice anyway?

Clinger: Wallflowers often advance to Clinger status. Once they’ve made a conference friend they follow them everywhere, seek them out at every meal, and ask “what session are you going to next?” Clingers often gravitate to each other and soon become fast friends—which is a good thing.

 Newbie: What I do? Where do I go? Can I speak to an agent? How do I pitch? What if I flub my pitch? How many words is a normal [ insert genre]? What’s a platform? How did you get so many Twitter followers? How am I supposed to manage social media? Blogging too, are you joking? What’s a query? I have to have an elevator pitch? Ah, crap, my MS is no where near ready to be queried, what do I do?

Very Important Person: One can always identify a VIP  because they are usually accompanied by an entourage. They might be one of the keynote speakers, notable agent, famous publisher representative, or high profile author. OR they be one of the hosts/founders of the writers conference. ( I’m thinking about hiring an entourage for the next conference so at least I look important. )

Stalker: Writers with one singular purpose: To seek out agents during moments of weakness ( at the bar, dining with friends, in the bathroom ) to pitch their novel. They will cut fellow writers off in the refreshment line if their victim—ah, agent—happens to be standing next to you, talk over your pitch, chair hop to get closer to the agent’s table so they can ‘accidentally’ leave their manuscript on the agent’s chair.

Weary Wanderer: Identified by the shadows under their eyes and cup of coffee in their hand, these folks are mentally drained after attending 2 workshops. They often need naps or breaks during the day to recover from the plethora of information provided during the sessions. Their exhaustion is often amplified by not using technology for note-taking.

Bookish Bacchanal: Sleep late. Attend a session. Drink some coffee. Saunter around. Ask when the bar opens. Go for a swim. Sight see. Catch another session. These writing folks come alive at the bar where they lift their glasses with others who extol the mercurial life of the writer.

Befriender: They may arrive alone but in a few hours they will have added 50 new Twitter followers and Facebook friends. They strike up conversations at every session, make you laugh, ask about your MS, and keep their successes on the down low. By the time lunch has ended they know the genre and plot of everyone’s MS who is sitting at their table.

( Member of ) Wolf pack:  From a group of writer friends to a bevy of agents, the Wolf Pack is almost always together. Identified by their inside jokes, tight knit formations, and large scale seat saving, this group is happy hanging with their pack members. Warning: Observe their body language before attempting to enter the group.

Look for me at the next conference!  I’ll be the tall redhead at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference this June.

What kind of conference attendee are YOU?

By the way, I would LOVE to be a workshop speaker—I have oodles of academic material on writing craft and authorial technique.

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’; 10 Things To Do After A Conference

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