Character development can be a challenge. No one wants to be accused of having “cardboard characters” in their story but if you’re a writer who is oriented toward action and dialog you run that risk more than others. If you’re writing a screenplay then of course the actor will add the personality factor but as a novelist you aren’t that lucky; it’s up to you. As one of those action/dialog types myself, oddly enough I discovered this technique somewhat by accident.
I was writing a science fiction novel with a physicist protagonist (of course) and wanted to make his ex-wife as annoying as possible so I made her obsessed with astrology. At the time I didn’t believe in it myself so needed to do some research in order to develop the character. I found a copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs in a used bookstore for 25c and the rest is history.
Why? Because I discovered that astrology works, a revelation that ultimately led to me defying my physics training by becoming a professional astrologer. But I digress.
Astrology works for developing characters because it provides a template for twelve different personality types. You can break them down into various other categories as well which might make it easier to narrow down the sign you want. Before I forget, do pick up a copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs if you can. There were literally millions in print so they’re still out there. Another resource is my website, www.valkyrieastrology.com, where you can find a short description of the signs as well. But if you’re new to astrology (other that possibly knowing your own), you can start with the elements, Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
Fire signs are just that, fiery, and tend to draw attention to themselves, sometimes purposely, sometimes not. They represent the creative life force, have lots of energy, tend to be outgoing and be fully engaged in life. Fire signs include Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.
Earth signs are just that as well, down to Earth. They are realists, practical and responsible with a fair dose of common sense which can make them a bit judgmental and opinionated. Earth signs include Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.
Air signs are, you guessed it, full of air. These are the talkers. They’re excellent communicators and excel at conveying information. They’re mentally active and process data quickly. They’re likely to tell it like it is. Air signs include Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.
Water signs are the most emotional. They feel things deeply, have long memories, and may ebb and flow according to what they’re feeling at the time. Water signs include Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.
While with signs in the same element tend to get along, some elements are more compatible than others. Bear this in mind with character development if you want to factor in conflict. This is easy to remember because it no doubt originated as an analogy to nature.
Fire can’t burn without air; Fire and Air signs tend to get along. Earth stabilizes water and water nourishes the Earth. Conversely, Fire and Water aren’t a very good combination while Earth and Air isn’t, either. You might enjoy the section of my website where I had some fun in a figurative sense with these elemental interactions. You can find it here: http://www.valkyrieastrology.com/Makeover/Compatibility/elementalinteractions/figurativeelementalinteraction.htm
If you write romances then compatibility is particularly important. If you want a real short description of how two characters will interact at the most fundamental level you can check that out on my Compatibility Central page here: http://www.valkyrieastrology.com/Makeover/Compatibility/CompatibilityMain.htm
Just because signs are not compatible with one another at the elemental level does not mean they can’t fall in love! Quite the contrary! It gets far too complicated for me to go into here but as you’ve probably noticed attraction is not necessarily related to whether people naturally get along. And yes, opposites definitely can attract. If you already have a basic character profile for your hero or heroine and decide which Sun Sign he or she should be, they you could purposely choose one that is not compatible for the other to build the conflict any good story requires.
Another astrological division lies with whether a sign is considered Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable. Each of these categories will have a sign from each of the four elements. Cardinal signs are inclined to take action, the movers and shakers, though each sign has its own style. Fixed signs, as you can guess, don’t like change and are often opinionated; what you see is what you get. Mutable signs are more likely to accept change though it will probably be the Cardinal signs that initiate it. Cardinal signs, however, may not finish things up once they get them kicked off; leave it to a Fixed sign to secure it in place while a Mutable sign will tweak it, sometimes to the point that it starts the cycle all over again.
While like elements tend to get along, the modalities do not; they are more likely to either butt heads or perhaps be indecisive and all over the proverbial map. Thus, this is another means for building conflict. This is probably most familiar as two strong-willed people with two different styles but both want to be in charge and/or don’t want to be told what to do.
Here’s the sign breakdown of the modalities:
Cardinal: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn
Fixed: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius
Mutable: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces
Once you decide upon the basic traits, then you can refine it by taking it down to the Sun Sign level. Here’s a very brief description of each one. You can find a more detailed somewhat tongue-in-cheek description here: http://www.valkyrieastrology.com/Makeover/signsalutes/zodiacsigns.htm
ARIES (Cardinal Fire)
~March 21 – April 20
Impatient, loves new activities, aggressive, impulsive, often poor money managers. Temper, reddish cast to hair. Quick to start projects but unlikely to complete them, needs excitement, warrior, hero.
TAURUS (Fixed Earth)
~April 21 – May 21
Steadfast, material security, determined, follows through, like land, plants, gardening & nature. Opinionated, love food, often great chefs, value money and fine things. Can be frugal to the point of being stingy, can be stubborn.
GEMINI (Mutable Air)
~May 22 – June 21
Quick minded, tend to have two diverse ideas/drives in life. Many faceted or bored with life, good communicators, talkers, data gatherers. Love to learn and do so easily.
CANCER (Cardinal Water)
~June 22 – July 23
Sensitive, need emotional security, home is important, moody, need diversifications, creative.
LEO (Fixed Fire)
~July 24 – August 23
Promoters of the world; outgoing, generous, proud of families, home is often their base of operation. Need feedback, praise and attention, particularly enjoy applause; can be dramatic. Natural leaders. Temper, can be vicious if provoked.
VIRGO (Mutable Earth)
~August 24 – September 23
Perfectionists, detail and service-oriented, often go into a healthcare field. Color coordinators, worriers, clean, organized, nit-picky, often into health foods, vitamins, etc.
LIBRA (Cardinal Air)
~September 24 – October 23
Peacemakers, require fairness and justice, weigh both sides of an issue. They are drawn to beauty and harmony such as art and music. Don’t like to be alone; rather be in a bad relationship than none at all. Can be indecisive, change their mind, yet are generally logical.
SCORPIO (Fixed Water)
~October 24 – November 22
Intense, determined, need relaxation. Discriminating, jealous, magnetic, passionate, discerning, fascination with mysteries of life. No strong sense of morals unless instilled at an early age. Need strong direction; may soar or crawl in life. (Note: This sign rules sex, death obsession, power and control.)
SAGITTARIUS (Mutable Fire)
~November 23 – December 21
Happy, energetic, enthusiastic, limited goals. Tell it like it is, funny, non-conformists. Often philosophers, interested in education and religion, love foreign cultures and travel.
CAPRICORN (Cardinal Earth)
~December 22 – January 20
Serious about life, realistic, money managers/need financial security. Organizers, goal and status oriented, get things done. Traditional, conventional, can appear cold and hide emotions.
AQUARIUS (Fixed Air)
~January 21 – February 18
No mold, want to be different and usual are. Transmits ideas, often work in media. Can be impersonal, love world but no individuals. Often become politicians, ideas may be too soon for time, often don’t fit into family as the Bohemian type.
PISCES (Mutable Water)
~February 19 – March 20
Sensitive, artistic (dancers, musicians). Impressed with life, yet often seek to escape through transcending reality. Can fall into savior/martyr scenario. Strong imagination and intuition, may be a victim or victor in life. Dreamers, visionaries, live in another dimension. Can be prone to drug and alcohol as an escape mechanism as well as intense activities such as extreme sports. Living in the real world can be a challenge.
If your character is a combination then consider that besides a Sun Sign everyone also has a Moon Sign and what is called the ascendant which is the sign on the eastern horizon when they were born. The Sun represents your core; the Moon your emotional nature and the Ascendant the way you’re seen by others including your outward personality. Thus, these “big three” are the primary drivers within any individual. Thus, if a single sign doesn’t fill the bill you can go for three and create a more complex, realistic character, one who may have significant inner conflict as these influences war against one another.
This should give you something to work with if you ever get stuck defining a character. There are numerous templates out there where you fill in the person’s general likes and dislikes which often doesn’t round the character out sufficiently, particularly with regard to their motivation (or lack thereof). However, using what you have at that point can help you find their Sun Sign which will then provide a vast array of traits you can work with and exploit in your story. You can also take well-developed characters and figure out which combination they might be as practice. I have found this to be a valuable tool in character definition as well as an interesting and enjoyable profession.
In the context of this blog, yes, I have always had two careers which are currently writer and astrologer. I have to love what I do and feel it makes a difference. Where did that come from? My Moon Sign is Gemini. I have an eagle eye for editing (Virgo ascendant) and am goal-oriented (Capricorn Sun).
Content copyright © 2014 by Marcha Fox
Graphic Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_shooarts’>shooarts / 123RF Stock Photo</a>