Thursday, April 3, 2014

CPI 260 - Crafting Characters #AtoZChallenge

From the website:
"The CPI 260 (California Psychological Inventory) personality assessment
measures work-related characteristics, motivations and thinking styles using 26 individually researched trait measures."
  • Looks at individual motivation and current level of satisfaction
  • Because of the way it is designed, it can deliver information about a person that is less obvious, or of which the respondent themselves may be unaware, ensuring that a recruiting manager or executive coach is able to really get to know their candidate or coachee. This approach also means that the tool is highly resistant to faking, as the questions are not obviously related to the qualities they measure.

 (Access to the CPI 260 questionnaire and associated products is restricted to qualified CPI practitioners.)

    Now, I'm guessing that most of you A to Z readers are NOT qualified CPI practitioners, so we can't get a glimpse of those closely held secrets.  But we can use elements of the above description to highlight an aspect of character building:  what does your character do for a living, and how important is it to the story?
    If your main character is a firefighter, a doctor, a pirate, or a politician, then their occupation is probably central to the story.  Of course you'll do your research and make sure that the details of the profession are correct. But even if your character's job is not particularly relevant, you can use the CPI 260 description above to flesh out your character.  Ask yourself the following questions.

  •      Is he happy/satisfied with his job?
  •      Is it a conscious career choice, or something he "fell into"?
  •      How does his profession influence the way he thinks and the way he views the world?
  •      Is he suited to it?  (Physically, mentally, emotionally?)
  •      How does it affect his family and relationships?
  •      How do his co-workers view him?  His boss? How do they all interact?
  •      Have you been consistent with your time frames? (He can't be out sleuthing if he's supposed to be doing brain surgery.)
  •      How does he get to work? Can you use that for a potential setting? (Car, walk, bus, subway, boat)
  •      Have you used a common stereotype? This is a big one for me.  Nothing is more boring than a crooked lawyer, a fearless pilot, or a brilliant scientist.  Make them multi-dimensional. I'm sure the lawyer didn't start out working for the mob, I know for a fact that many pilots have had at least one moment of sheer terror in their flying careers, and I believe that most scientists have screwed up experiments and come to wrong conclusions at some point.  Give us some internal conflict. Tell us how much they love - or hate - what they do. Show us their human side.  (Unless they're aliens.)
      Even if a job is not central to the story, I think it helps to mention one.  It allows the reader one more way to visualize the character and gain some insight into what his daily life is like as well as what makes him tick.

Adjectives for the day:  caliginous, callow, candent, caritative, cernuous, chthonian, clamant, concomitant




  1. These are useful tips, particularly the stereotype one - it's extremely important to make sure your characters are multi-dimensional. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. A good character should always be mufti-layered, even ones who may be drab and lifeless. Unless they are emotionally damaged, most go through many things even in just one day. Thanks Lisa.

    1. Thank you Stu! Even a background character should have some sort of life! :-)

  3. I'd never heard of the CPI 260 - thanks!
    In my books, my character's job pretty much defines him.

  4. My character's jobs have always been important to my stories. Especially with my ebook that'll be coming out later this year, 30 Seconds. The hero is a cop and the heroine is a doctor. Without their professions my plot would've failed.

    And mentioning a job, even if it's not highlighted in the story, is a great idea. Characters have to be seen as real, and real people have jobs. Or at least unemployment, so mentioning that too will help readers identify with him/her.

  5. I haven't given much thought to my character's jobs.
    Well - there was one (long forgotten draft) where I did. But only because I based his job on my own and was using it to write my frustrations with my job! haha.

    Deeply Shallow