Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Key-Word Cavalry: Four Temperaments

Two weeks ago, L Diane Wolfe mentioned the four basic character traits: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholic. So... since it might draw some search results, I thought I'd write a post exploring them a bit, even though I don't really build my characters like that based on their psychological profiles.

It's still interesting, though. And useful to know, if you're someone who builds their characters to fit the situation.

So.... four basic characteristics, also known as the four temperaments. People have been trying to group themselves into these four different temperaments for millennia and the groupings of the various personalities and tastes have changed based on what was considered socially acceptable in each era.

Right now, though, people with each of the four temperaments have the following traits:

  • extroverted
  • hot tempered
  • quick thinking
  • strong willed
  • self confident
  • independent in will and thinking
  • makes decisions easily for him/herself and others
  • tends not to make space for other people's opinions
  • always have ideas and solutions
  • practical
  • very active: tend not to sleep a lot
  • results orientated
  • love to fight for a cause
  • response to others: direct and firm
  • tend to be slow to build relationships due to their ruthlessness in going after results
  • not easily empathetic or compassionate
  • think big and go for positions of authority

  • extroverted
  • fun loving and easily amused
  • activity seeking
  • persuasive
  • optimistic
  • receptive and open
  • easily builds relationships
  • people orientated to the point where they're often late or miss appointments (because they forgot)
  • easily bored
  • always have friends
  • attention span = interest in person or activity
  • can change focus instantly
  • competitive
  • disorganized
  • often struggle to control their emotions
  • like sports
  • dress fashionably
  • very worried about not making a good impression
  • excel at working with people

  • introverted
  • easy-going
  • unemotional
  • response to others: slow and indirect
  • like the quiet life
  • don't get too involved with life and other people
  • approach to life: what will happen will happen
  • prefer to have a few close friends
  • once a relationship is established, they're loyal to a fault
  • resistant to change
  • hold grudges
  • avoid conflict and decisions
  • practical, traditional thinkers
  • mask their true feelings
  • can be patient to the point of not doing anything, but once they decide to take action, they are tenacious and consistent in going after what they want.

  • introverted
  • analytical
  • logical
  • response to others: slow, cautious, indirect
  • reserved and suspicious until sure of someone's intentions
  • timid
  • may appear unsure or have a serious expression
  • self-sacrificing
  • gifted, but perfectionistic
  • sensitive to what others think of what they do
  • organized, even if their workspace looks cluttered
  • out to make the best decision
  • when making a decision: collect information and need time to think and plan
  • fears risks and being seen as incompetent
  • tend to be negative towards change until thinking about it
  • skeptical
  • creative and capable
  • get bored with something once they've figured it out

Of course, most people have some traits from other temperaments mixed in. Some are combination of two or three temperaments. Then there are rare occasions that people are a mix of all four. So it could be fun to the build characters based on traits from more than one temperament. And then throw them into a situation with people with the opposite traits.

It's nice to know, if we need building blocks for a character.

So have you ever used personality types to build your characters?


  1. Great food for thought, Misha. Especially as I'm struggling to get one of my characters into proper shape. Good idea to get people with opposite traits together.

  2. Misha, this is THE best I've ever seen of the four groups. I like putting opposite characters together as it makes for stronger dialogue.

  3. I've never seen these before but this is Awesome!!!! I have a book that breaks the temperaments into four, but this is much better. I like the idea of mixing traits.

  4. These are great. Makes me wonder about me. :)

  5. I've never seen these before either. Very cool. Although I must say I think my characters build themselves more based on their background, although I have attempted to take personality quizes as my characters.

  6. Wow, I have never heard of these before.
    Very interesting. It makes me want to go back and figure out which category (or categories) my characters fit into!!

    great post!

  7. I love reading those traits. I haven't used them but my characters do fall into different categories. Which category do you think you fall into?

  8. Need to use those for my characters.
    And I am mostly Melancholy. With a little Choleric.

  9. I think that, like Oscar Wilde, all my characters have bits of me in them. I don't use these kinds of models for building them- I do try to use their past to explain their personality even if that never enters the story I have a sketch of a past for them. It seems more authentic for me.

  10. These temperaments are new to me as well. Thanks for the list! I guess I'm a mix of Melancholic and Phlegmatic . . . wondering about my characters now.

  11. Never used temperaments before but I see how they could be useful.

  12. I've heard of this before and I could identify myself as a melancholic right away - but what a great idea to apply to characters, esp. opposites!

  13. I'm glad you were able to use the idea! I've always selected my characters' personality trait first and built them up from that point. I also made sure my YA series had a mix of the four personalities.

  14. What an awesome list! Thank you!

  15. Great list of words and you have explained about Sanguine Temperament is really good and awesome.

  16. Reminds me of the Myers Briggs personality types. I am INFJ--Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging(ie organizing the information coming into my world)


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