Purple Prose + conflict

Your Characters’ Humor

When creating your characters, consider their humor. I’m not talking about their sense of humor. I’m referring to the concept Hippocrates (the father of medicine) came up with. He claimed the humor was responsible for each person’s typical mood. In Breathing Life into Your Characters, Rachel Ballon described these moods as temperaments and each temperament is made up of various traits. The four temperaments are:

Sanugine (cheerful and optimistic)


Melancholic (depressed)


Choleric (too aggressive and impulsive)

source unknown

Phlegmatic (Cold-hearted)


For a complete list of traits for each temperament, check out this brilliant post by Misha Gericke (it’s the same one from Cool Links last Friday).

Depending on the situation, a different combination of traits will be expressed. This reveals characterization. If you know your characters’ temperaments and traits, it will make writing the scene so much easier. And when you pit two characters together with contrasting temperaments, you create conflict.

Here’s an exercise you can try when creating characters (main and secondary):

1. Select several characters from the story and assign each a temperament and several traits.

2. Come up with an idea for a scene. It doesn’t have to be from your story, but do keep to something similar to what you would find in your book. For example, if you’re writing YA contemporary and your characters’ lives are never at risk, you might not want to do this exercise with a life of death situation. Or maybe you do.

3. Now write the scene, but write it from each character’s point of view. No, I don’t mean you can go head hoping. If you have three characters, write the scene three times, each time from a different character’s point of view. (Hint: Identify the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict for each character first).

Not only will you get to know your characters better, and how they would deal with a situation similar to what’s in your story, it will help you develop each character’s voice for their dialogue. If you’re having trouble getting the emotion right in a scene, you can always try this exercise, too. It will help put you in the secondary character’s head.

(Note: this exercise isn’t the same one in Rachel’s book. Her exercise inspired this one.)

When creating your characters, have you consider their temperaments?

book, characterization, and more:

Your Characters’ Humor + conflict