Writing Characters with the Enneagram, Part Nine: The Peacemaker
If you’re looking for ideas for a character or want to dig deeper into a character you’ve already developed, the Enneagram—a personality system that divides people into nine types—is a useful tool.
The Enneagram is all about what fears and emotions drive people. Rather than simply noting what people do, it dives into why they do it. That is powerful information in a writer’s hands. What happens when a character has to face their fear? What if they don’t get what they want? How might they travel from an unhealthy version of their number to a healthy version, or vice versa?
For example, Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is an Enneagram Nine. She is oblivious about how special she is and denies her desire for adventure, because she’s resigned to her lot in life as a hatmaker. She’s also resistant to change, not even leaving the shop to visit her sister, who lives nearby, for weeks. When Sophie’s cursed with old age, she’s forced to leave the hat shop and look for a solution. Her own stubbornness often gets in her way.
And here lies the genius of the Enneagram—in addition to giving you insights into your characters’ fears and desires, it suggests obstacles you can throw in front of your characters—challenges that emotionally invest them in their journey.
The Enneagram can be a complex system when you dig into it, but I’ve distilled this post into a basic overview of the Enneagram Nine and all the information you need to kickstart your character creation.
Overview of the Three Subtypes
Perhaps you’re already familiar with the nine personality types of the Enneagram: One, the Reformer; Two, the Helper; Three, the Achiever; Four, the Individualist; Five, the Investigator; Six, the Loyalist; Seven, the Enthusiast; Eight, the Challenger; and Nine, the Peacemaker. But there are also three subtypes under each of these. That’s a whopping 27 personality options, with endless variations!
The Enneagram suggests that people have three basic survival instincts that impact how you act, think, and feel: self-preservation, where your survival depends on the physical things you need to live (e.g. health, food, stability, protection); social, where your survival depends on connecting with others and receiving care through relationships; and sexual (also referred to as one-to-one, because sex and romance isn’t always involved), where your survival depends on attracting individuals to meet your needs.
While everyone has each of these instincts, the idea behind the three subtypes is that there is a dominant instinct, and how it interacts with a character’s emotional issue (for Enneagram Nines, this is laziness), defines your subtype. I go into more detail about the three subtypes for Peacemakers below and include fictional examples for each.
Is Your Character a Peacemaker?
Enneagram Nines are a little bit like every other number on the Enneagram. They can have the strength of Eights, the playfulness of Sevens, the loyalty of Sixes, the curiosity of Fives, the creativity of Fours, the dedication of Threes, the empathy of Twos, and the morality of Ones. They are adept at understanding other perspectives, sometimes to a fault—they don’t always know their own opinions and can easily meld into other personalities. They hate conflict.
Strengths: Content, receptive, accepting, serene, trusting, patient, kind, optimistic, supportive, calming, communicative
Flaws: Afraid of conflict, deflective, disengaged, complacent, avoidant, oblivious, stubborn, resigned
Emotional issue: Laziness/Stubbornness. Nines are resistant to change and letting themselves feel emotions. They numb themselves to their emotions (particularly anger) to avoid conflict.
Desire: Peace and harmony
Story obstacles: Drop an emotional event on a Nine—such as a death, a tragedy, an argument, or a breakup—and watch them run from their feelings. Nines don’t like conflict. Put them in positions where they need to stand up for themselves and embrace their individual identities.
Unhealthy Nines: They disassociate from life, becoming numb to everything around them. They may struggle with depression, remaining in an indifferent state rather than dealing with anger, grief, or other emotions. They become hostile if others try to penetrate the barriers they have put up around themselves.
Average Nines: They are afraid of conflict and avoid it by going along with others. Nines dislike change and find comfort in patterns and regular habits. They downplay their own emotional problems rather than risk shattering their inner peace. They might become indifferent to others, or they might be great listeners but avoid sharing their own thoughts and emotions; in the latter case, their relationships become an exhausting cycle of all give and no take.
Mature Nines: They are flexible mediators who are able to see all sides of an issue but maintain their own identity. They believe they have worth and their opinions matter. They are emotionally stable and optimistic, often having a calming presence.
Quick Tip: For a hero’s arc, move them from Unhealthy to Average, or Average to Mature. For a villain’s arc, move them from Mature to Average, or Average to Unhealthy (sometimes, Average villains are more interesting than Unhealthy ones, because they are more relatable). Characters may also move between these health levels depending on whether they are stressed or at peace.
The Three Types of Peacemakers
If the above sounds like your character (or a character you would like to create), you can dig even further into their personality by assigning them one of these three subtypes.
The Realist (Self-Preservation Subtype)
Active and intuitive, Realists focus on physical needs and basic activities like eating and sleeping. They are practical people with a subtle strength who don’t worry much about abstract concepts. They often have a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour. They are also more assertive and stubborn than other Nines.
By focusing on the material, Realists avoid self-reflection, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t opinionated; Realists have no problem arguing that they’re right and you’re wrong. They find comfort in routine and like to spend time alone.
Uncle Iroh (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Daniel “Oz” Osbourne (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Caduceus Clay (Critical Role)
Chirrut Imwe (Star Wars)
William Adama (Battlestar Galactica)
Sophie Hatter (Howl’s Moving Castle)
Shepherd Book (Firefly)
The Benefactor (Social Subtype)
Much more social, fun-loving, and extroverted than other Nines, this is the countertype. They sacrifice their own needs for the needs of the group, because they want to be a part of something. They may feel like they don’t belong and have to put in extra effort to compensate. They are generous, unselfish, and adept at predicting others’ needs.
Benefactors make good leaders and like to control things, though they prefer to do so from the background. They give so much of themselves out of fear (this could be fear of abandonment, conflict, “rocking the boat,” or something similar). They are hard workers and natural mediators due to their ability to see all sides of a conflict.
Hugo “Hurley” Reyes (Lost)
Clint Barton (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Ruby Rose (RWBY)
Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings)
Ben Hargreeves (The Umbrella Academy)
Alina Starkov (Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo)
Peregrin Took (The Lord of the Rings)
The Seeker (Sexual Subtype)
Seekers may be uncertain of who they are on their own, so they focus on others’ needs and may even mimic behaviours, emotions, dreams, or desires. It feels safer to explore someone else’s identity and go along with others’ plans than to consider their own needs. They tend to be friendly, gentle, empathetic, and good-natured.
Seekers may struggle in relationships, because they don’t know how to be themselves. These are the types of people who always go along with others’ plans and who let more dominant personalities take advantage of them. Healthy Seekers are able to connect with others on a deep level while still maintaining their own identity.
Will Byers (Stranger Things)
Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings)
Groot (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Bran Stark (Game of Thrones)
Luther Hargreeves (The Umbrella Academy)
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer)
Matthias Helvar (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo)
Check out the rest of the “Writing Characters with the Enneagram” blog series (I’ll update these links when the posts go live):
Part Nine: The Peacemaker
If you would like to dig even deeper into the Enneagram, here are some more helpful resources:
The Enneagram Institute website, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut, PhD
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
“How to Use the Enneagram to Create Compelling Characters with H. Claire Taylor” — Plottr, YouTube
“5 Ways to Use the Enneagram to Write Better Characters” — K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors