Welcome Laurie Schnebly Campbell, romance author who used the enneagram to teach writers about character.
AMBER: Tell me how you became interested in using the enneagram for character development?
LSC: My mother found a really simple book about enneagrams, complete with cartoon illustrations, and the minute I saw it I loved the idea of applying those personality types to characters in my books. There's just so much built-in conflict when you put any two types (even the same kind) together, and neither person has to be a jerk -- it works just as well when they're genuinely good people.
The idea is that when we're under stress, which of course our book characters ARE because otherwise there wouldn't be any story, we all tend to show the darker side of our usual strength. Each type has wonderful strengths, but those can also cause problems when they're taken to extremes...like someone carefree becoming irresponsible, or someone responsible becoming a perfectionist.
AMBER: As a long time fan of the enneagram, I’ve wanted to use the system to write a novel. Of course, I would use all the types and it would make perfect sense. Easier said than done. When is a good time to stand back, look at your characters, and do a personality analysis (if they let you)?
LSC: I'm always amazed at how many successful methods there are for developing characters. Some writers start with an archetype in mind and craft a plot to challenge that character; others prefer watching the plot unfold and THEN deciding what the characters will be like. Either way can work beautifully, and so can all the other ways in between.
For anyone who's not sure WHAT works best, my recommendation is: decide which comes more easily to you. Are you better at coming up with plots, or better at crafting characters? Then, whichever you're better at, do the other step first.
Because if plotting is tougher and you start with that, you KNOW you can create fabulous characters to fit any plot you dream up. And if you have a tough time building personalities, do that first (hint: enneagrams will help!) because once that's done you can always create a compelling plot for whatever people you come up with.
AMBER: I also notice that you teach a workshop entitled “Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw.” As a counseling therapist and romance writer, do you have tips for making your hero and heroine flawed, but not too crazy for a reader to care about?
LSC: Even though the term "fatal flaw" sounds so much more dramatic than "flaw that occasionally causes trouble," flaws don't have to be anything CLOSE to crazy! We're all flawed in minor ways, and those ways are enough to create drama and turmoil in our lives.
Of course, if novelists want to write a psychotic killer or something equally crazy, they can just pick one of those minor flaws and take it to extremes. In fact, the class gets into how each of the nine types could become a villain -- it's all about exaggerating the weakness that goes along with each type's strength.
But keep in mind, the strength and weakness are always two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other...all you can do is use that trait for whatever results you want.
AMBER: Anything else you'd like to add?
LSC: Just in case anyone isn't familiar with enneagrams, here's the short version: we all have some of EACH type within us, but we also have one main type. (Some people recognize theirs immediately; others can see too many possibilities to decide right away.)
See how each strength has a corresponding weakness? That's likely to come out under stress, which happens in EVERY book. And that's only the beginning!
AMBER: So, can you tell I'm a FIVE, observing and interviewing (and hiding out and writing), We also love information so I guess my career as a librarian also worked. Now, back to you. Tell me about your books.
LSC: Well, the one that got me here is called Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams and...hmm, I'll bet you can guess what it's about. Then there's half a dozen romance novels written for Silhouette Special Edition
AMBER: What are you writing now?
LSC: Next will be a book on enneagrams in relationships, and it's funny how that idea started. When the book for writers came out, one of my few non-writing friends -- a guy I went through counseling school with, who's now in private practice -- read it and said "gosh, I could use this for couples counseling."
I'd never even thought of the enneagram types in that context, but the minute he said that it made perfect sense. (My parents, who've been married 50-some years, joke that they never really UNDERSTOOD each other until they learned about enneagrams.) So that's the next book...but I'm only a few chapters into it, and I hate to take time away from teaching to get that done!
AMBER: I agree with your parents. I didn't understand MY parents until I studied the enneagram. I think I understand the concept of personalities evolving for the better as we age (we hope). S Can an evolved character can have all the wonderful qualities of each type? And can a completely depraved character have all the worst?
LSC: Actually I don't think either one is possible, because there are so MANY wonderful (and worst) qualities for every type. But, sure, in theory someone could show a whole lot of good (or bad) traits of their type.
AMBER: What type was your great-grandmother Sedona Schnebly (for whom Sedona, Arizona was named)?
LSC: I wish I'd met her so I could say for sure -- she died shortly before I was born. (Although I've gotta admit that if I'd met her when I was six months old, it probably wouldn't have made any difference.)
Still, from everything I've heard about her, I'd guess she was a One. Everyone who knew her talked about how conscientious she was in terms of doing her duty. She was very involved in the local church, and people who rhapsodize today about the Sedona vortexes would leave her shaking her head in disapproval because she wouldn't hold with that sort of thing. But when she was dying, she asked her husband to go deliver a get-well card to an ailing neighbor. That kind of thoughtful, attentive care is typical of a Perfectionist who's dedicated to always doing the right thing.
During weekdays, she writes and produces videos, brochures and commercials (some of which feature her voice) for a Phoenix advertising agency. For several years she would turn off her computer every day at five o'clock, wait thirty seconds, turn it on again and start writing romance.
to learn more about her books and workshops
And don't miss a peek at
And don't miss a peek at
showing how Laurie develops a story.