The Enneagram For Writers: Characters and Careers: Part II
January 15, 2021
Welcome to part two of our deep dive into the Enneagram for writers! We’re taking a look at how the nine Enneagram types can be used for character inspiration, as well as provide insight on bad habits writers may have.
Check out the breakdowns for types One through Four here, and let’s jump into types Five through Nine below!
- MOTIVATION: The need to understand, to be capable and competent
- AFRAID OF: Being useless or helpless
“Fives are alert, insightful, and curious, … [But] they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. Behind Fives’ relentless pursuit of knowledge are deep insecurities about their ability to function successfully in the world. … [R]ather than engage directly with activities that might bolster their confidence, Fives “take a step back” into their minds where they feel more capable.”
The Good Place
Advice for an Enneagram Five:
Fives have a tendency to retreat and isolate themselves. So a writer who’s a Five may need a bigger push to network or connect to their writing community than other Enneagram types.
If you happen to be a Five or simply a writer who wants to invest more in their writing circle, you can take a class to connect with other students. Or if you’re submitting to competitions, keep an eye on the writers who place at the same level as you. In a way, these writers are your “graduating class,” and placing in the same competition and same level is a nice common denominator when it comes to making new connections.
- MOTIVATION: The need for security
- AFRAID OF: Being betrayed or unsupported
“… Sixes develop a radar for trouble that they can’t turn off. While this habit makes them highly intuitive and analytical, these tendencies can also get skewed toward worst-case scenario thinking, projection, and self-fulfilling prophecy. From the outside, the thoughts and beliefs that typically drive Sixes may seem overly negative. However, they seem to Sixes like smart ways to prepare or strategize to meet problems should they arise, giving them a (potentially false) sense of control." (BC 188, 195)
Better Call Saul
Advice for an Enneagram Six:
Sixes are great at troubleshooting and foreseeing potential problems, so they can be pretty strategic when it comes to their writing and career, but their weak spot can be most clearly found in the notes process or any time they need to hear or receive critique. So if you happen to be a Six or simply someone who struggles with critique, consider trying to get 100 rejections in a year.
By reorienting your approach to taking creative risks, it can weaken the sting that comes with rejection and replace it with a badge of honor as you keep track of every attempt made rather than only tracking your wins. You can read more on what inspired this practice from Kim Liao here.
- MOTIVATION: The need to be happy, to avoid suffering, to have their needs met
- AFRAID OF: Being deprived or in pain
“Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness.”
Sex and the City
The Little Mermaid
Advice for an Enneagram Seven:
Sevens are the poster children for being easily distracted, but I’m sure this tip will come in handy for any and all writers despite their Enneagram type. The answer to this bad habit can be found in the App Store. There are, thank god, tons of apps nowadays that will block or restrict your social media access (check out SelfControl, Anti-Social, StayFocused, or Write or Die). You can also try apps like Coffitivity and Songza to help provide mood music or coffee shop background noise that can help maintain focus for working.
- MOTIVATION: The need to be self-reliant and strong
- AFRAID OF: Being harmed or controlled by others
“Eights naturally focus their attention on power and control — who has it and who doesn’t, and how it’s wielded. … They see the world as being divided into ‘the strong’ and ‘the weak,’ and they identify with ‘the strong’ to avoid feeling weak… and do not like to be told what to do.” (BC 20)
Advice for an Enneagram Eight:
Because of their desire for control, Eights can be contrarian at heart; bucking the system and ignoring rules at every turn. A writer Eight may avoid screenwriting classes, books, and even outlining, preferring to trust themselves and refusing outward instruction. The solution here may be the hardest for an Eight to accept; if you are a writer who cringes at structure, formula, and rules, consider that by setting aside time to learn the rules, you’ll be able to then break the rules with intention and to serve your story instead of fighting against them without reason.
Consider using a free library app like OverDrive or Libby to check out a book on screenwriting structure, read scripts to study the formatting of your favorite films, or even just turn on an episode of your favorite show and write out an outline of the show scene by scene as you watch along. Simple, structure-based exercises will deepen your understanding of structure and storytelling if you take the time to do them.
- MOTIVATION: The need for peace and to avoid conflict
- AFRAID OF: Loss and separation
“Nines like to ‘go with the flow,’ and they automatically accommodate the agendas of others as a way of unconsciously avoiding expressing (or even registering) any preferences that could lead to conflict.” (BC 20)
They “want to create harmony in their environment, to avoid conflicts and tension, to preserve things as they are, [and] to resist whatever would upset or disturb them.”
What We Do in the Shadows
Advice for an Enneagram Nine:
Nines are great at understanding and accommodating others, and that allows for deep insight and multiple perspectives in the characters they write. But a Nine’s weakness in writing can be found in two spots.
First, they may struggle to add real conflict to their stories, failing to truly put their characters through the ringer. If you resonate with an Enneagram Nine or are simply looking for a way to add more conflict to your script, consider doing a conflict pass on your script. For each act, note what your protagonist wants, what’s in their way, and what’s the worst that can happen if they don’t get what they want. If you’re looking to add layers of conflict to your protagonist’s main external conflict, look to add an internal or emotional conflict for your protagonist, situational conflict from the protagonist’s surroundings, and conflict from supporting characters, too. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? And keep brainstorming possibilities for your characters to explore.
Writer Nines may also have a tendency to take everyone's notes. If this sounds like you, check out this article on how to un-muck your notes process for extra help.
The Enneagram has a lot to unpack and we’ve barely touched the surface here. Not only are there the nine main types we’ve just explored, but each type has three subtypes as well. If you’re interested in learning more about the Enneagram, try taking one of the free tests available here and check out Beatrice Chestnut’s book The Complete Enneagram and the Enneagram Institute for more info.
**Bolded quotes are from the Enneagram Institute website (enneagraminstitute.com), and nonbolded quotes are from Beatrice Chestnut’s book The Complete Enneagram with corresponding page numbers.
Written by: Liz ThompsonLiz Thompson is a screenwriter, playwright, and development consultant, and has sold shows to CBS (sitcom) and NBC (crime/mystery). Raised on a mix of Gilda Radner sketches, Columbo reruns, and neuroscience conferences, Liz’s love of comedy, mystery, and the puzzle of human behavior is woven through every story she writes. In between outlining and pitching she runs The Writer’s ARC group on Facebook and can be found at www.BletchleySpark.com.