Please welcome today’s guest, Margaret Fieland, who talks a bit about her process. Thank you for participating, Margaret!
Rob Walker Takes a Personality Test
I’m not a list maker, a plotter, or well-organized. I don’t make lists of traits for my characters. Instead, I imagine them standing in front of me, moving and talking. I write about them.
And, after I discovered character writer (you can download a limited functionality, free version here), I started giving them personality tests.
I have a difficult time answering multiple-choice questions, with personality tests topping my list. However, I don’t experience the same problem when my characters take them.
Character writer is based on the Enneagram model, but I’m more familiar with Myers-Briggs, so when I started writing my latest science fiction novel, I decided to give Colonel Rob Walker, my new main character, one of them. You can find it here. Myers-Briggs consists of four sets of preferences. The four sets of questions in the test I picked are designed to help pick the dominant preference in each set.
First axis: Introvert/Extrovert. Does Rob crave outside stimulation? Is he at his best in a crowd? Does he look to others when forming his opinions, or does he decide on his own? Does he prefer his friends one or two at a time?
Okay, easy. Rob is an introvert. He has two wives and three children, and his new posting has all of them crammed into a tiny house. It’s driving Rob nuts, so much so that he’s sneaking out of the house as soon as the sun rises to eat breakfast (first meal in my manuscript) in peace and quiet.
The next axis is how we understand our environment and the world around us. One mode is called sensing (S) and the other Intuitive (N). What this means is, do we figure out our world starting from our senses: sights, sounds, smells, or do we understand it starting with an organizing principle. The website calls the sensing “reality” based and the intuitive “speculative.” What this means is that an N starts with a pattern and works on organizing the information using the pattern, while an S starts with the details.
Again, easy. Rob is an S. He attends to present opportunities using common sense and creates practical solutions. He remembers where, when, how, and who about past events. He can improvise from past experience, but he’s not going to make any intuitive leaps, and he hates guessing when he can’t nail down all the details
The third axis is how we form judgments and make choices: with our head (Thinking) or our gut (Feeling).
And now I’m surprised. I had Rob pegged for a Thinker, but, reading the side-by-side questions, I’m having second thoughts. The key question, the one I can answer with no difficulty, is the one about conflict: “has an almost toxic reaction to disharmony.” That’s Rob, all right, so for now, I’m going with F.
The final axis is how we make decisions and pick our actions. We all use both judging (thinking and feeling) and perceiving (sensing and intuition), but one dominates when choosing our actions. Is Rob a J or a P?
A J plans details in advance, advances through tasks in sequence, likes to keep ahead of deadlines and avoid stress, likes routines, measurable goals, and dates. That’s Rob, all right.
So now I have Rob’s type: ISFJ., which makes him a dominant Introverted Sensing type according to the test I gave him. You can read about it here.
And, yup, that’s my boy: dependable, reliable, trustworthy, likes clearly-established responsibility. If he takes something on, he sees it through to the end. He’s pretty traditional. Presented with a potential problem, he’ll look to past experience for a solution. Out-of-the-box thinking is not his style.
Plenty here to get my new main character into trouble. He’ll face a problem where his only solution is something against the Guard’s policy. Maybe he has to go against orders.
All in all, a good test result.
When fourteen-year-old Keth’s dad is transferred to planet Aleyne, he doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not to discover Dad grew up here, and studied with Ardaval, a noted Aleyni scholar. On Aleyne, Keth’s psi ability develops. However, psi is illegal in the Terran Federation. After a dangerous encounter with two Terran teenagers conflict erupts between Keth and his father. Keth seeks sanctuary with Ardaval. Studying with the Aleyne scholar Keth learns the truth about his own heritage. After Keth’s friend’s father, Mazos, is kidnapped, Keth ignores the risks and attempts to free him. Little does he realize who will pay the cost as he becomes involved with terrorists.
By the time I woke the next morning the sun shone low in the sky and warm, spicy air blew through the open window. I decided not to fight over what to wear, since standing out wasn’t on my to-do list. Dad and Ardaval sat in the courtyard sipping kaff. Ardaval nodded at me and turned to Dad. “You should let him wear Aleyni tunics, pants, and sandals. He’s going to be much too hot in those clothes.” He spoke Aleyni.
Dad pushed his lips together and checked me over. “I’d rather he dressed in Terran standard trousers and shirts. I don’t want him to look like an alien…” He answered in Common.
Ardaval flushed at Dad’s choice of language. “Gavin, those clothes are much too heavy for this climate. The boy will melt.”
Too bad Dad wouldn’t listen. Sweat already dripped down my back. I frowned, staring at him. “Why can’t I wear the Aleyni stuff?”
Dad would never say yes, and a big piece of me was glad he’d saved me from making the choice. The Aleyni clothing appealed to me, but I wasn’t ready to look weird, especially on my first day.
Dad shook his head. “You might attract trouble, and I need to keep you safe.”
Ardaval sighed. Oh well, at least I asked.
Dad pushed me toward the door. “Come on, we don’t want to be late.”
“We don’t?” I mumbled. Dad shook his head and followed me out the door and down to the trans stop. I would have enjoyed the bright blue sky and warm sun more, but the heavy Terran clothing left me sweating. “Dad, are Aleyni human?”
“They’re a separate species. Or so goes the official line. Nobody in the Federation has studied Aleyni genetics, and the Aleyni themselves aren’t interested.”
“It’s considered an inappropriate area for study.” He glanced at me, noting the frown on my face. “Kind of like a sacrilege.”
“How come they look like us?”
He sighed. “Many origin theories exist, but the bottom line is nobody understands.”
I scraped my shoe in the sand collected in the street, admiring the pale pinks and blues as they appeared and disappeared. “It still doesn’t explain anything.”
He smiled. “No, it doesn’t, but I’m afraid since it’s politically incorrect to believe humans and Aleyni are closely related species, no one wants to hunt for answers.”
By the time we reached the trans stop, sweat dripped down my face and my shirt clung to my back. The only other people waiting, a group of Aleynis, stared at us for a moment before moving away. I flushed and wanted to say something, but Dad’s face turned cold and he moved away, too. I wondered what would have happened if we’d been speaking Aleyni.
Back on the base we walked over to Dad’s office. A long counter of the gray synglass wrapped around one wall and part of another. File cabinets covered the third wall and a shelf for books hung over part of the counter. A comp and a printer rested on the other part of the counter. A chair with a padded seat stood in front of the comp.
Brad walked in, took a data cube from Dad, scanned it quickly and locked it in the file cabinet. “Gavin, we’ll discuss these recommendations later. You stay here and read this, and I’ll walk the boy to class.”
He handed Dad another data cube, opened the door, and ushered me out. We walked over to the port school, which met in yet another of the gray buildings.
The room he led me to held six kids my age or a few years older. The beige walls and thin beige carpet appeared dingy and worn. The desks and chairs, made of the same gray synglass as everything else, formed a half circle.
I walked into the room and stopped short, unsure of what to do next. The teacher, a man Dad’s age with fair, sun-burned skin and blue eyes, wrote on a large comp at the front of the room. It linked to those of the students, like the ones back home.
Brad took my arm and propelled me toward the teacher as he turned away from the comp. “John, this is Gavin Frey’s son, Raketh. His father is here for an indefinite stay. Try to get him integrated as quickly as possible.” Brad gazed over the room before turning to leave.
John held out his hand and I shook it. “Nice to meet you, Raketh.”
“Keth, please call me Keth.”
John nodded and turned to the other kids. “Class, this is Keth, the son of Major Reynolds’ new assistant, Gavin. He’ll join us from now on.”
“Jork,” one of the boys with brown curly hair said, but he grinned at me.
“Welcome to the class,” piped up one of the girls. She smiled at me. I blushed. I found her kind of pretty, actually. She tossed her hair over her shoulder and smirked at a boy with fair skin and straight blond hair who looked the same age. The kid glared at me instead of at her.
John tapped the desk with the stylus he’d been using to write on the comp. “Enough. Keth, you can take a seat.” He pointed and I sat.
John made them go around the room and introduce themselves. The kid next to me with the curly brown hair answered to Martin, and the girl with the red hair said her name was Henrietta. The blond boy was Tom.
John said, “We’re going over some Aleyni vocabulary. I can help you later on. For now, try to follow along.”
“I honor the request, and bend myself to your will,” I said in Aleyni. Clearly nobody bothered to tell him I already spoke the language.
Martin poked me. “What did you say?”
“I said yes.”
“How come you speak Aleyni? You just got here.”
I shrugged. Just another thing to make me a freaker. “My dad made me learn it.”
Martin stared at me for a moment. “It’s weird.”
“We used to have Aleyni exchange students hanging out at our apartment back on Earth. I guess he wanted to make them feel comfortable or something.” Like I believed that. I never told anyone back home about speaking Aleyni, not even Mark, my best friend.
John clapped his hands “Since you already understand the language and don’t need to pay attention to the lesson, why don’t you and Henrietta move to the corner there,” he pointed across the room, “and go over this vocabulary.” He stared at me for a moment and handed me a data cube. “Come get me if you get stuck.”
Red crept up my neck. Maybe I should have resisted the urge to show off my Aleyni. After dragging my chair over to the corner, we both sat. “Go on, ask me to translate any of those words from Common into Aleyni. You can correct my pronunciation. John says it’s bad enough so no Aleyni would ever understand me.”
I managed to pay attention even though I needed to pry my eyes away from Henrietta’s chest. Every time my eyes strayed she’d grin and toss her hair. Luckily, Tom sat with his back to us.
After the language lesson came a history lesson. The history lesson covered the first encounters between the Terran Federation and the Aleyni. John projected a star map on the comp at the front of the room and pointed to a spot. “This is where we first met the Aleyni. As you can see, it’s within a light-year of our home solar system.”
I asked, “How long ago did we first meet the Aleyni?” Yeah, I should have remembered.
John said, “A hundred years ago, although according to the Aleyni they have been watching us for at least five thousand of our years.”
Martin mumbled, “Like we believe them.”
I would have asked more questions, but the buzzer went off for break, and we trooped down the hall to the cafeteria. A counter at one end dispensed the food and more of the gray tables and chairs covered the floor. The food choices consisted of soups of dried beans and vegetables and hand meals made with soy protein. I grimaced and selected some soup and one of the hand meals.
Martin poked me. “If you want any meat, you have to buy it on the black market. Vegetables and fruit, too, but Major Reynolds looks the other way on those.”
John led us to a round table. I ended up next to Martin again. Henrietta sat on my other side. The blond kid, Tom, sat opposite me. He glared at me.
Henrietta smiled at me. “You helped me a lot this morning. Maybe you can come over to my house and go over my homework some time.”
Fat chance. I’ll bet if I ever went over there, Tom would kill me. He continued to glare at me. I choked on my bite of hand meal, and Martin needed to pound me on the back.
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Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals such as Turbulence Magazine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, “Lifelines,” was published by Inkspotter Publishing in November, 2011. She is the author of “Relocated,” published by MuseItUp Publishing, and of “Sand in the Desert.” Her book, “The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com. or http://poetic-muselings.net/