Knowing Your Character’s Temperament

Numerous studies have been done on the four temperaments: the choleric, the sanguine, the melancholic, and the phlegmatic. Each of us possesses characteristics of all four temperaments, but each of us also has a dominant and a secondary temperament. Knowing and understanding the characteristics of the four temperaments will go far in helping you create your fiction characters. 

The choleric temperament is the goal-driven go-getter whose eyes are only on the goal, not on the people around him. As a result, he often comes across as harsh and demanding. 

The sanguine temperament is considered the life of the party. It has been said that a sanguine enters a room mouth first. 🙂 Sanguines are social butterflies who need to be around people but quickly forget them to move on to the next exciting adventure. 

The melancholic temperament is the artistic type. Deep, pensive, and prone to depression, the melancholic is usually quite organized and detailed, often focusing on minutiae and not the big picture. 

The phlegmatic temperament is laid back with nary a care in the world. The phlegmatic comes across as lacking motivation and being content with the status quo

All of these temperaments have great strengths as well as weaknesses. Also, each temperament will respond to life in a predictable way. Knowing each temperament’s pattern of response will help you to keep your characters consistent and predictable, thereby rendering them more lifelike and more well-rounded. 

For additional study on the temperaments, you may wish to read the following books: 

Your Personality Tree by Florence Littauer 

Wired That Way: The Complete Personality Plan by Marita Littauer

Leave a Reply to MaryAnn Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “Knowing Your Character’s Temperament

  1. This is great stuff, Mary Ann! My dominant trait is sanguine, but I can see the melancholic in myself, too.

    Knowing our characters’ personality type will help us know their reactions to the situations around them.

    June 18, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    • Thanks, Pam! I’m glad you found this post helpful. You’re right that knowing a character’s personality type will help us determine his response to a situation. It’s a great tool in creating well-round characters.

      As always, thanks for your insights. 🙂

      June 18, 2010 at 12:55 PM