5 Fun Personality Tests to Get to Know Your Characters
By Scott MacLean
As writers, we all know the struggle of creating characters with unique personalities that somehow feel familiar to the reader yet completely new and interesting. Then we have to maintain that voice throughout the entire manuscript because nobody likes when the twelve-year-old in your middle grade novel starts breaking out SAT vocab words, or when the artist protagonist you’ve created only uses the word “orange” to describe the sunset. Even when a character deviates from their normal attitude, the reader may give you the benefit of the doubt; nobody thinks one way in all situations and characters should feel just as complex as real people. But one thing that never fails to take me out of a novel is when the behavior becomes different from what has been previously established.
I’m not just talking about drastic changes like if Katniss from Hunger Games suddenly joined the careers and murdered Rue, or Harry Potter decided wizardry wasn’t for him and went on to be an accountant. I’m talking about the small shifts that just don’t sit right with the reader. In the manuscript I’m working on now, I had a reader point out something that had completely evaded my attention. I needed to separate my protagonist from the villain of the story, so I created a plotline where the villain sells her off to be married to a prince from another land. The reader, who had seen previous chapters of the manuscript, thought it was strange that the villain—who up until that point did anything and everything to keep the protagonist within reach—thought that was a pretty major shift in motivation.
In hindsight I can see I was just creating something to keep the plot moving, not letting the characters carve their own paths. So in typical writerly fashion I had a minor crisis and decided I didn’t have any clue who my characters were. That wasn’t fully true, but it did set me on a path where I was able to try some new ways to better understand my characters and now I get to share them with you! Out of everything I did to get to know my characters, nothing was as fun or easy as taking the following free online tests!
This is the perfect test to start off with. To gauge the accuracy, I took the test as myself first and was surprised how the results rang so true! This will force you to get into the mindset of your characters, answering each question in their voice and learning new things about them in the process. The end results give you a plethora of information about the personality, like their general attitude about the world, what motivates them, strengths and weaknesses, how they behave in romantic and platonic relationships, and even common career paths the personality leans towards. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not beholden to these results! Everyone is nuanced so the character doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of the description given, but it’s nice to have a starting point!
Now I know this was something developed for Dungeons and Dragons characters, but it doesn’t have to apply to just fantasy! Say you’re writing in a contemporary setting and your character gets the result “Chaotic Good,” this can inform their behavior throughout the plot. Chaotic Good individuals are less trusting of institutions, and lean more towards individuality. We’ve all read a book where the main character refuses to go to the higher ups about whatever is going on, whether that be bullying at school, or something as gruesome as avoiding the police despite having information about a murder because they're determined to solve it themselves *cough cough* a lot of YA *cough cough*. All the alignments have their own ways of moving through the world, and can help you understand how your character would react to different situations.
The Love Language Quiz can really inform how your character behaves in both platonic and romantic relationships! Is your character’s highest score words of affirmation? Then they’re going to seek out others' approval at times, and value those moments where someone is noticing their efforts! Maybe their lowest score is acts of service, so they prefer to do things on their own and remain independent. Perhaps there's a character whose highest score is physical touch, but the person their trying to comfort doesn't like physical contact. Well now you've just created some tension between the two characters. All of these little clues about how the character communicates can help you understand what they value when it comes to their interactions with others and how they'll behave when trying to show someone they care.
This test is based on the work of a developmental psychologist named Howard Gardner, who claims that people have different kinds of intelligence. This is a fun test to get an idea of how your character thinks and where their strengths lie. Do they have poor intrapersonal intelligence? Then your character would likely have less self-awareness. Maybe they don’t understand their motivations or feelings. It’s all a spectrum though and scoring low in an area doesn’t have to mean your character is completely clueless, maybe they just don’t examine their motivations often. Perhaps your character has a high musical intelligence score. That will inform how you write a scene where their experiencing a new song for the first time. All these little quirks can help make your character feel full and real.
Now I don’t know about the results for these ones, but the act of answering the questions in your character’s voice is bound to help you get to know them! Another fun option to keep in mind is maybe taking a quiz that involves a show or movie you think your character would like, or even something with a similar tone to your work-in-progress. Maybe I’d take a “Which Game of Thrones Character Are You?” Quiz if I’m writing fantasy. A lot of these can be silly, but if knowing your protagonist is a Carrie Bradshaw helps you in your writing process, then more power to you! It certainly won't hurt!
Now It's Your Turn
At the end of the day, even if you end up not sticking close to the results, these quizzes will at least start the process of getting to know your character! If you find they help, put all the results in one document and consult it as you go about the writing process. I’m always looking for new ways to get connected to my characters, sometimes I’ll even take a test before I start writing just to get back into their headspace.
It's important to keep in mind that you are not beholden to any of the results you get! Just because your character got a "Lawful Good" alignment doesn't mean that they will never choose the "wrong" thing to do. These tests are just meant to inform you a little about what your character is more likely to do in a given situation, but we all deviate from our usual routine now and then! I hope you enjoy the quizzes and get some writing done!