Developing Compelling Characters Using The Narrative Enneagram

This post is a reflection on The Narrative Enneagram tool and how a writer may leverage it to develop three-dimensional and compelling characters.

The Enneagram describes “nine distinct strategies for relating to the self, others and the world.” Each of the nine types has distinct “psychological, spiritual and somatic patterns,” as well as Focus of Attention and Life Lesson.

Below I describe my approach to leveraging The Giver, Enneagram Two, to develop a sample Protagonist character.

First, I begin by drafting the Premise for my story.

Then, I develop a Character Dossier for the story’s main characters. As an example, I would develop Jonah, the Protagonist, by answering the following questions:

What is the protagonist’s inner journey?
Jonah goes from focusing solely on others to feeling worthy of love.

What is the protagonist’s outer goal?
Jonah’s outer goal is to finish his military service and return to an ordinary civilian life and form a family.

Then, after considering multiple facets of Jonah’s Character Dossier, I would study the nine Enneagram types to identify the one that corresponds most closely to my understanding of Jonah, thus far.

To begin, I would use the Enneagram’s three Centers of Intelligence perception (head, heart, and body) to flesh-out Jonah further.

Based on a thorough review of the Enneagram types, as well as what I know of Jonah a this stage, I might select The Giver as a launching point. The Giver is a feeling-based Enneagram type that emphasizes the heart for feelings, empathy, and concern for others. Like Jonah, The Giver focuses on success (earning an honorable discharge from military service) and relationship (returning to an ordinary civilian life and forming a family). The Giver also focuses on “performing up to expectations of the job or other people.”

The Giver’s other characteristics present a wealth of opportunities to develop Noah’s story arc:

The Giver’s Focus of Attention is on the needs, feelings, and desires of others.

The Giver’s Life Lesson is to “To develop the humility that comes from allowing yourself to be loved without being needed and to have needs of your own.” This life lesson parallel’s Jonah’s inner journey closely.

The Giver’s Speaking Style is “friendly, open, expressive, focused on others, and quick to support or give advice.” Reflecting on Jonah’s Character Dossier, The Giver’s Speaking Style provides rich opportunities to develop his voice.

Once I have crafted a fully developed and compelling Protagonist, I would proceed to leveraging Enneagram types to develop the remaining characters in the story. This is an iterative process, since it is highly likely that I would revise the Protagonist and his story arc as I develop the other characters.

The Narrative Enneagram is a fascinating tool and provides a rich and inspired resource for writers. In this post I have outlined briefly how I intend to leverage The Enneagram’s types to develop the characters in my stories. Consider following the link below to explore The Enneagram types.

References:
Enneagram Types. (2019). Retrieved 20 October 2019, from https://www.enneagramworldwide.com/tour-the-nine-types/

Didn’t Have A Clue About Women, But Sure Could Plot

I admire Dickens beyond words. He is one of the greatest plotters of all times. Didn’t have a clue about women, but he sure could plot.

Goodreads.com. (2019). Donna Leon Quotes (Author of Death at La Fenice). [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/16290.Donna_Leon [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].

Image Source: Hunter, A. (2019). Andre Hunter (@dre0316) | Unsplash Photo Community. [online] Unsplash.com. Available at: https://unsplash.com/@dre0316 [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].

Life’s Task and Calling

What I love and feel is my “life’s task” and calling

I love creating and sharing engaging and entertaining stories. Through my stories, I entertain, motivate, and educate my students and my clients. As I transition to the next phase on my life journey, I am focusing on pursuing my “life’s task:” to entertain and inspire as a writer of fictional stories a broader audience.

Example project on my Mastery Journey towards becoming a writer of fictional stories
In my role as VP of Marketing for a national homebuilder, I designed and implemented a comprehensive project to revise our promotional materials. The goal was to reach and engage with prospective homebuyers in six distinct segments: Young Adult, Single Professional, First-time Homebuyer, Single Head-of-household, Trading-up Family, and Active Retiree segments. With our promotional materials we sought to engage, inform, and educate buyers. Most buyers preferred to read in English. Many preferred to communicate in Spanish.

Despite the language preference differences, we knew our promotional materials should engage and reach each group with customized messages. Thus, the stories we featured would describe homeowners whose lives, dreams, and desires resembled the unique desires of each targeted segment. Using real homeowners as my inspiration, I crafted brief fictional stories that were composites of several homeowners’ experiences as they considered, selected, and purchased our homes. Each story story featured a fictional homebuyer and described their unique lifestyle and homeownership aspirations. Yet, each story described homebuying needs and desires that were truthful reflections shared by actual satisfied homeowners. In other words, the individual stories of young professionals, first time home buyers, growing families, and retiring active adults I created were fictional—but how our homes satisfied their needs was very much real. The stories worked their intended magic, drove awareness of our communities and grew sales of our homes.

Positive insight gained completing this project

What I learned from this project changed profoundly my professional writing. Prior to embarking on this project, my writing had been focused on brand-building and efficient sales communication, promoting standard solutions and describing actual customers. Once I made the leap to creating fictional buyer stories instead, I discovered how much more effective—and how much more engaging – my marketing and promotional materials could be. Evers since then, I’ve been hooked on business storytelling. When appropriate for the project, I leverage consumer research and my storytelling skills to craft fictional stories that are more truthful than they are true. 

Knowing the difference between truthful and true is the key to success in business storytelling. Creating these promotional materials, I discovered that well-crafted fictional stories can communicate “truth” and impact readers effectively. For instance, upon reading the fictional stories of homeowners in my promotional brochures, prospective homebuyers related to the composite characters and connected more powerfully with our model homes and communities. 

As humans our brains are “wired for story,” (Cron, 2012). According to Cron, for millennia, listening to stories and later reading them, people have enjoyed being entertained as they learned about their world: how to live their lives, how to behave, how not to behave, and how it feels to dream, to fear, to love. Listening to well-told tales humans learned to crave discovering what follows after we hear the magical words “once upon a time.” As a writer and story teller, I will explore, with reverence and respect, the awesome power of well-told stories to engage, entertain, and inspire my readers.

Negative insight gained completing this project

            Providing too much information too soon can be confusing to readers. Instead, it is more effective to build a business story (or an entertaining tale) that unfolds gradually until it reveals fully the message it holds. At first, in the project I described previously, each of our promotional materials included too many details, in both English and Spanish, and the readers were confused. That was the wrong approach. By creating separate, high impact, and engaging promotional materials in each language, and weaving in compelling stories and descriptions with fewer features and construction details, we connected more effectively with each unique group of buyers in our target market.

Lessons learned from the reading 

From reading Chapter IV, “Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence” scenarios in the Mastery book, I learned four lessons about communicating my expertise as I develop as a writer of fiction.

Negative Lesson One: Do not avoid fools but instead suffer them gladly.

Greene explains what should matter in practical life is getting long-term results by getting work done as efficiently and creatively as possible (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Instead fools value short term results, immediate money, attention, and good looks (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Lowering yourself to their level and attempting to win arguments with fools is a waste of time and emotional energy according to Greene (2012). In this lesson I learned that instead of avoiding fools and their negativity, I will adapt Greene’s suggested strategies to neutralize the harm they do. I will do this by focusing on my goals, ignoring fools when possible, learning from them how not to behave, and seeking to turn to my advantage what fools throw my way.

Positive Lesson One: Speak through my work.Greene suggests that we express our social intelligence through our work, as well as demonstrate we are thinking of the group and advancing its goals by being efficient and detailed oriented, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). According to Greene, speaking socially through our work and remaining focused will raise our skill levels and cause us to stand out among others who make noise but produce nothing, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). My take away from this lesson is the following: Professionally, I strive to be efficient, contribute to the success of clients and employers, and take pride in communicating excellence through the quality of my work. Unknowingly, I’ve been following Greene’s advice of speaking through my work long before I recognized doing so expresses social intelligence. Embracing my life’s calling, I will continue to speak through my writing.

Negative Lesson Two: Do not dismiss critics but instead see myself as they see me.Greene, explains that while we are quick to recognize mistakes and defects in others, we are too insecure and emotional so find fault in ourselves, (Greene, 2012, p. 158). Also, he points out it is rare that people tell us what we do wrong. Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others would benefit our social intelligence, would help us correct our offensive flaws, help us recognize how we contribute to negative dynamics, and enable us to develop a realistic assessment of who we are (Greene, 2012, p. 158). The lesson I learned is especially important for a writer: Rather than dismiss critical comments and suggestions, it is imperative that I embrace them unemotionally to understand how my work triggered the criticism. My skills and effectiveness as a writer will improve if I actively elicit and seek the criticism of informed readers.

Positive Lesson Two: Craft the appropriate persona.Our ascension to mastery and our success is powerfully influenced by the personality we project to the world, according to Greene, (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Since people will judge us based on our outward appearance, we must create the image that suits us best, and by shaping our appearance intentionally, influence other people’s judgement of us (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Greene advices us to think of this as theater. He suggests that we develop a persona that is “mysterious, intriguing, and masterful… giving them something compelling and pleasurable to witness,” (Greene, 2012, p. 155). This suggestion is intriguing. My personal inclination is always to be transparent and forthcoming through my demeanor, thoughts, and opinions. As a result, my choice in clothing, shoes, glasses, and personal accessories would be described best as professional and conservative. In this lesson, I learned that, keeping Greene’s advice in mind, and thinking creatively of my writer persona as theater—it’s time to rock something fresh! Perhaps donning writerly glasses and a snazzy fedora will do the trick and help others see me as The Writer. Stay tuned, as I find out how well this strategy works out for my persona.

References

Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story: The writers guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. New York: Ten Speed Press.

Greene, R. (2012). Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence. In Mastery (pp. 144-166). New York, NY: Penguin.

Tom Kelley(Founder-Ideo) – Do What You Love. (2010, October 28). Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://youtu.be/nPRW9q-0unc

Image Credits

Unsplash. (n.d.). Pop & Zebra (@popnzebra): Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@popnzebra?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText Source for illustration image.

Illustration Quote

Greene, R. (2012). Mastery (p. 19). New York, NY: Penguin.

Inspiration

In the video “The last Lecture,” Dr. Randy Pausch sets out to describe how to achieve your childhood dreams. Ultimately, his presentation pivots to a more existential concept. As Pausch explains, “It’s about how to live your life. Because if you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself—the dreams will come to you. If you live properly, the dreams will come to you” (Pausch, 2008).

Reflecting on this week’s Mastery textbook reading, there are three key concepts that underscore for me, with great power and clarity, Pausch’s recommendation on how to live my life and pursue my dream of being a successful writer. These three concepts are as follows:

The Creative Task
When selecting the creative task upon which to focus our attention Robert Greene suggests “you must have patience and faith that what you are doing will yield something important. You could have the most brilliant mind, teeming with knowledge and ideas, but if you choose the wrong subject or problem to attack, you can run out of energy and interest. In such a case all of your intellectual brilliance will lead to nothing.” He continues to explain “the task you choose to work on must have an obsessive element. Like the Life’s Task, it must connect to something deep within you” (Greene, 2012, p. 179).

Negative Capability
According to Greene “the mind must be able to feel doubt and uncertainty for as long as possible. As it remains in this state and probes deeply into the mysteries of the universe, ideas will come that are more dimensional and real than if we had jumped to conclusion and formed judgements early on.” Greene explains that all Masters possess this Negative Capability and this quality “allows them to entertain a broader range of ideas and experiment with them, which in turn makes their work richer and more inventive” (Greene, 2012, p. 182).

The Authentic Voice
Greene advices creatives and artists in the apprentice phase to take time and invest effort in learning structure, developing technique, and absorbing every possible style of their art form. He explains that “the greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something and make a splash. What happens in such a case is that you do not master the basics; you have no real vocabulary at your disposal. What you mistake for being creative and distinctive is more likely an imitation of other people’s style, or personal rantings that do not really express anything. Audiences however, are hard to fool” (Greene, 2012, P. 2009).

Mastery Journey
This week’s video and reading assignments provided powerful inspiration and actionable steps that I intend to leverage fully to guide and propel forward my Mastery Journey. Dr. Randy Pausch’s message is profoundly lucid, heartfelt, and inspirational. Robert Greene’s recommendations are extraordinarily insightful, effective, and actionable. Together, their sage advice provides purpose and structure for an apprentice’s life and mastery journey.

References
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin.

Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture reprised. (2008, May 26). Retrieved August 12, 2019, from https://youtu.be/BODHsU3hDo4

Image Credits
Unsplash. (n.d.). George Pagan III (@gpthree): Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved from
https://unsplash.com/@gpthree?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText
Source for Week 2 Discussion Board illustration.

Grit


My name is Rolando Andrés Ramos. I was born in Havana, Cuba, grew up in Fort Lauderdale, and live in Orlando, Florida. I am passionate about creating and sharing engaging and entertaining stories. Throughout my professional career I have helped organizations, entrepreneurs, and artists discover and communicate their brand stories. Currently, as a digital marketing strategist, writer, and educator, I guide entrepreneurs, students, and artists to achieve their professional goals by leveraging data-driven information and digital marketing techniques.

Starting now, as I take steps to transition to the next phase on my life journey, I am focusing with full intent and unwavering commitment on developing creative writing skills to craft and share fictional stories. Thus, I am pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree from Full Sail University, a unique and amazing institution that is home to an ever-expanding family of educators, students, and alumni who are dedicated and inspired creative artists.

Reflections Upon Results from The Grit and Ambition Scales
On the Grit Scale (Duckworth et al., 2007), I achieved a score of 3.83 out of a possible 5.0. My score indicates that I am somewhat short of being “extremely gritty.” This assessment seems to coincide with my past behavior when pursuing goals and undertaking projects. I generally achieve my goals and finish my projects. However, on occasion I shift the thrust of my pursuits away from a goal, or my passion for a project fades, and as a result I do not finish what I start.

On the Ambition Scale (Duckworth et al., 2007), I achieved a score of 4.8 out of a possible 5.0. My score on this scale approaches “extremely ambitious.” This assessment also seems to coincide with my past behavior. Generally, I am achievement-oriented, driven to succeed, and seek to be the best at what I do.

Strongest and Weakest Areas
My strongest areas are that I am achievement oriented, seek to overcome setbacks to conquer important challenges, and I am a hard worker. I believe my strengths are due to being a first generation American with a strong work ethic and driven to succeed.

My three weakest areas are that I allow new projects and ideas to distract me occasionally from pursuing prior goals, become interested in new pursuits every few months, and sometimes have difficulty maintaining focus on long term projects. I believe my weakest areas result from my curiosity and insatiable appetite for new experiences and knowledge. To transform my weaker areas into strengths, I need to prioritize my goals and focus on completing the steps necessary to achieve them.

Three Concepts from The Mastery Reading That Resonated with My Results
The three concepts from this week’s Mastery readings that resonate most with the results I achieved on the Grit and Ambition Scale assessments are as follows:

  1. Occupy the perfect niche- The Darwinian strategy for finding your life’s tasks. (Greene, 2012). I chose this concept because focusing on my perfect niche to find my life’s tasks will enable me to identify the essential projects and pursuits upon which to concentrate. Focusing primarily on essential projects and pursuits will enable me to resist the call of distractions and maintain focus on long-term goals.
  2. The three steps of the Apprenticeship Phase: Step 1, Deep Observation- The passive mode. Step 2, Skills Acquisition- The practice mode. Step 3, Experimentation- The active mode (Greene, 2012). I chose this concept because it provides a structure and workflow for me to develop and master creative writing skills systematically and with minimum distractions.
  3. Trust the process. Robert Greene explains that “when it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient” (Greene, 2012). I chose this concept because it describes the process wherein practicing a new skill over days and weeks will eventually lead to that skill becoming hardwired and part of my tool set. As I learn new storytelling skills in a variety of genres, it will be essential to trust the process and avoid becoming bored or frustrated when the genres taught are not the ones I plan to focus upon in my writing.

References
Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1087-1101.

Duckworth, A. L. (n.d.). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance

Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin.

Image Credits
AL, Q. (n.d.). Untitled [Photograph found in Unsplash]. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@quinoal?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText