Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Character Development

In one of my many day jobs, I am learning leadership development training. One of the foundations of the methods we use is Porter's Motivational Value System (MVS). It shares some similarities with Myers-Briggs, but is superior in many ways.

Here's the nutshell:

People have different things that motivate them.

Some people truly want to help others and make them happy (BLUE).
Some people want to be independent, get things right, and make every detail perfect (GREEN).
Some people want to be in action, take on challenges, and win (RED).

Every person is a mix of these three motivations. If one of the three MVS groupings really captures them, they are a Red, Blue, or Green.

Some people are blends of two, such as Red-Greens, Blue-Greens, or Blue-Reds. And some people are blends of all three; they are called Hubs.

So, why am I bringing this up? Well, this stuff is FANTASTIC when doing character development. Before I even write the first line of dialogue for a new character, I figure out a bunch about him or her and fill out a character sheet. I started doing this after reading Orson Scott Card's book, ELEMENTS OF WRITING FICTION.

Here's my adapted character sheet:

NAME :
MVS :
ACTIONS :
PAST :
REPUTATION :
STEREOTYPES – (play on & violate) :
NETWORK – (work v home) :
NORMAL V STRESS :
HABITS & PATTERNS :
TALENTS & ABILITIES :
TASTES & PREFERENCES :
BODY

Of all of these things, though, the most important thing for me is the MVS. If I know what the character wants, then I know what he or she will say and do, and how they will go about it. Notice that only the final aspect has to do with physical appearance. If your character development is:

Martha is tall, thin, and has straight-brown hair, then no one is going to care about Martha.

However, if Martha is the kind of person who defends her friends and loved ones like a mother bear, who thinks all forms of cheese are evil, and absentmindedly twirls her hair when she's thinking, she suddenly seems much more real, right?