I have followed the tried and true character development methods including writing out a detailed character description, interviewing my characters and, most important of all, determining what kind of ice cream each of my characters crave. After all of this work I sometimes still look at my characters on the page and see flat, lifeless, uninteresting people who merely do what I tell them rather than the other way around. I want my characters to drive my story, taking me to places I have not thought of even if it ends up turning my plot completely upside down.
I have just finished reading a business book that has just the recipe to help bring my characters to life. If you’ve read any business books, most are about understanding behavior or changing behavior to generate improved group, team or company results. This book is no different in that respect. What the book does offer, that made my mind go straight to character development, is an interesting twist that the same ideas can be used on personal relationships.
Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential AND HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS by Shirzad Chamine has a formula, once I turn it in on itself, to generate evil, sweet, struggling, depressed, and over-achieving characters we all love and love to hate.
The main premise of Positive Intelligence explains that we all have Saboteurs in our brains that were originally responsible for keeping us safe and helping us survive. As we grow and mature the Saboteurs want to keep control, not letting the Sage in our mind come forward. This book shows when the Saboteurs are influencing our thoughts which helps diminish their power and let our Sage come forward.
For most, our primary Saboteur is the Judge. The book describes in detail nine other Saboteurs that exert influence over us in different situations. Our individual personalities help determine which ones are more powerful in each of us. I know several people who definitely have strong Controllers and others who are strong Sticklers. For me, my Pleaser and Hyper-Vigilant Saboteurs are quite influential.
As I neared the end of the novel I began thinking about how these ideas could be used to help me develop the characters in my novel. Then it clicked. The strength of the Saboteurs may be the key to fleshing out each of my characters. I reviewed my character development pages that still felt unrealistic and two dimensional, and I began assigning Saboteurs to each of the characters.
My main character is definitely a Controller and Avoider which got him into his current situation. The antagonist was more difficult to pin down which is probably why she seems so flat, but now see her has a Hyper-Achiever with tendencies toward the Victim and the Pleaser. As a rewrite many of her scenes it will be interesting to see if anything else comes through as a dominant Saboteur. I’m committed to working through this with each of my major characters by asking myself which saboteurs resonate in each character?
Next, I took the idea of the main character developing his Sage powers to more realistically show his evolution throughout the book. The interesting thing about developing Sage powers is that we all will fall back to the Saboteurs at one time or another. Showing success with his Sage will help him escape some precarious situations while falling back on his Saboteurs will result in setbacks that place him further from his goal. Other characters may have to make similar changes over the course of the story, so I asked myself which of the five powers of the Sage will each character use in his or her evolution?
Five Powers of the Sage
Positive Intelligence may not be for everyone, but it has helped me see find more realism in my characters. It won’t be the only tool I use which is why we have many tools in our toolboxes. If you are struggling with your own character development, perhaps this will give you the insight you need to bring your own characters to life. Even if it doesn’t help with your own character development, there is still much more to learn from this book to help anyone become a more positive, empathetic, productive and happy person.