Friday, October 19, 2012

Edelstein's 23 Adult Personality Types, Toropov's Examples from Shakespeare

Linda Edelstein, an author and psychologist, offers 23 adult personality types in her book WRITER'S GUIDE TO CHARACTER TRAITS. These are extremely valuable to writers doing pre-draft character sketches for novels, short stories, and screenplays.

As I read her work, I wondered whether I could find Shakespearean character examples for each personality type, and lo and behold, I could. The resulting 23-point chapter summary, with examples from the Bard, is of potential use to those of us who happen to be Shakespeare freaks and also happen to be creating sketches of major and minor characters.

"Connecting the dots" here confirmed once again that Shakespeare presaged modern psychological findings ... and also confirmed for me the brilliance and necessity of Edelstein's book. The brief summaries I adapted from it here are only "loglines" reflecting the much deeper insights you will get from reading Chapter Two of Edelstein's superb book.

Everything not in (parentheses) below: source = A Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein. Great book. Buy it now!

Everything in (parentheses) below: source = me.

The Adventurer

May look and sound ordinary, but underlying most activities is the need to feel like a warrior, often unknowingly at the cost of others. This character is typically, but not always, male. (Think: Hotspur in Henry IV PART 1, or Kate in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.)

The Boss

Has to be in control, whether at home, work, or play. Having things go his/her own way matter a great deal to this character. (Think: King Lear in first two acts of KING LEAR.)

The Conventional

Lives by the rules and prefers the established ways; thinks the status quo is vastly preferable to the risk of change. (Think: Bianca in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.)

The Creator

Gets meaning from the ability to produce new ideas, products, approaches, and/or outcomes. (Think Prospero in THE TEMPEST. Or, if you don't dig wizard archetypes, Henry V in HENRY V.)

The Dependent

This character's whole world revolves around having his/her needs met by others; he/she simply does not do well without help. Making independent decisions may be difficult or impossible. This person's need for validation and support goes beyond what is normally expected for a particular stage of life, occurring as a central reality even in periods of youth or robust health. (Think Virgilia in the early acts of CORIOLANUS.)

The Eccentric

Zigs when others zag. Is genuinely different; typically appears "weird" to others. (Think: the Fool in KING LEAR or Touchstone in AS YOU LIKE IT.)

The Extrovert

Draws energy and inspiration from interactions with other people. Thrives in groups. Actually enjoys time spent with others. (Think: Benedick in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.)

The Fall Guy/Girl

Seems to make a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. (Think: Roderigo in OTHELLO.)

The Fearful

Inhibited; driven by a fear of rejection. These fears dominate this character's internal life and interactions with others. (This will sound strange, but think it through: the Shakespearean model here is the Othello from acts three and four of OTHELLO. To the extent that he fears and visualizes Desdemona's rejection and betrayal of him, Othello catastrophizes his situation and becomes increasingly isolated. This character is not defined by the absence of physical bravery, but by a terror of being rejected.)

The Flamboyant

May be male or female. This character is driven by love, sex, competition, and disloyalty, always with a lack of authenticity. Shows or expresses more than is really felt. Flamboyant women may lack close relationships with other women. (Think: Cleopatra in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.)

The Hyper

This character is active, but not always with direction. Motion without progress is common. (Think: Hamlet in the first three acts of HAMLET.)

The Loner

Drifts with little strong attachment to anyone. This withdrawal is not the temporary kind resulting from culture shock or trauma, but a way of life. (Think: Don John in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.)

The Manipulator

Seeks control through domination of others, much of it covert. Typically highly charismatic. (Think: Iago in OTHELLO.)

The Man’s Man

Macho, macho man. Only allows certain acceptably "masuculine" elements of self (e.g., competititiveness, harshness) to emerge. (Think: Coriolanus in CORIOLANUS.) For the female counterpart, see The Ultra-Feminine, below.

The Passive-Aggressive

This character lives under a dark cloud. He/she tries hard, but always feels misunderstood. (Think: the Dauphin in HENRY V.)

The Perfectionist

Strives not for excellence, but perfection. Standards for self and others absurdly high; failure to meet those standards can lead to intense internal stress. May believe he/she will be valued only if perfect. (Think: Angelo in MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Inspector Javert, too, but that's another writer.)

The Personable

Your best buddy. Supportive, loyal, good listener. Values friends and friendships. (Think: Horatio in HAMLET.)

The Problem Solver

Lives to help. The "fixer" who can help you work through just about any dilemma; may lack imagination, deeper insights. (Think: Theseus in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.)

The Resilient

Undergoes same challenges as everyone else, but has an amazing ability to recover from life’s setbacks. (Think: Gonzalo in THE TEMPEST.)

The Show-Off

Has to be center of attention, has to have an audience, has to stand out. (Think: Mercutio in ROMEO AND JULIET.)

The Ultra- Feminine

Is to the female sex what the Man’s Man is to is to the male sex. Identity relies heavily on "feminine" archetypes of passivity, innocence, etc. (Think: Desdemona in OTHELLO.)

The Victim

Lacks self-determination and control. Convinced that people or circumstances are more in command than of their lives than they are. (Think: Richard II in the play of the same name.)

Adapted from Chapter Two of Linda Edelstein's awesome book, WRITER'S GUIDE TO CHARACTER TRAITS, which you can and should buy here: