I have always hated to conform to stereotypes. When everybody else in kindergarten named red as their favourite colour, I said blue. I didn’t really have a favourite colour, but there was no way I was going to say the same thing as everybody else. Strangely enough, I was never really a rebel either, perhaps because that was just reverse conformity and I found it just as mindless.
So when I read many years ago that a first novel is usually thinly disguised autobiography, I swore I would never do it. (You can thank me for that; my life is not the stuff stories are made of.) So when I actually sat down to write that first novel, I purposely tried to create a character really, really different from me. I am short, Blayn Goodwin is tall. I am fair, he is dark. I am round, he is lean. I am female, he is male. He is young, I am – less young. I am loquacious, he is taciturn. (Yes, I know. I just used two big words in one sentence. That’s my non-conformism acting up again. Deal with it.) I was brought up in the church; Blayn didn’t even know the word “church”. I am a Canadian; he is the descendant of British settlers in the Middle East of an alternate Earth. I live in a rapidly-changing high-tech world; his world is struggling to surpass medieval technology. I look frighteningly like my father; Blayn didn’t even know who his father was.
Mission accomplished, right? I had created a character really, really different from me, whose life bore no resemblance to mine whatsoever. I was pleased with myself.
Then I discovered enneagrams. Enneagrams are one of several systems designed to class personality types. As a writer, I find them very useful to take my understanding of my characters deeper and to make sure that I create a rich variety of characters. I was, at that point, about two-thirds of the way through the first draft of Disenchanted. I discovered that one character, Martin, was a Loyalist and I suddenly had a clearer understanding of what was driving him. (Read the book carefully and you will see how that ended up influencing the plot.) But Blayn, dear Blayn, was an Idealist. Just like someone else I know.
My only consolation is that I share a Briggs-Meyer personality type with J.K. Rowling. Twins, right?