What Is DISC and Why Should I Use It for Characterization

If there’s one thing people like to do, it’s categorize types of people. Myers-Briggs, a Jung Typology Test, combinations of the two, other variations – there are tons of options. So the short answer to “What is DISC?” is that it’s another of those personality tests. Why should I use it for characterization? It’s simple.

No, seriously, it’s simple – DISC is simpler and in many ways more concise than the other personality tests because of the terms it uses for its 4 characteristics. They’re characteristics that can easily be broken down into terms the average person can understand – and apply.

What Is DISC?

Want to learn more? Here’s a video that explains DISC far better than I ever could.

Seems pretty understandable, right? (There’s nothing better than clearcut and funny for really teaching you something, is there?)

We watched this video the other night in my first real estate training course (Woohoo!), and I immediately started thinking about how to use it in my writing (I guess I have a one-track mind.).

Why Should I Use It for Characterization

Having already thought about using personality tests for characterization, I could easily see the advantages of using DISC rather than other personality tests – you can figure out the character’s main type without taking any tests. Maybe, if you have a really strong understanding of the other tests, you could do that, but if you don’t (like me), then, analyzing all the parts of the character’s personality is probably more intimidating than thinking: My character likes numbers and facts. My character’s a C.

Ok, yes, people (and characters) are going to have overlap into the different types. Maybe, the character’s mostly a C with equal parts D and S, and a weaker I tendency. That’s still useful for figuring out character behavior – it’s like a rough summary as opposed to the detailed analysis (if you’re a strong C, you might not like this version…).

The video even starts to go into this. It also discusses how the main character type can change in different circumstances. That’s my favorite part because I think those differences are an integral tie between characterization and realism. People act differently surrounded by friends than they do surrounded by enemies (usually, anyway).

Is DISC a substitute for fleshing out your character’s background and knowing your characters well?

No. Absolutely not. DISC is a useful tool for exploring your characters – it’s a way to get that vital information, not a way to bypass that information. It’s also a useful reference tool for once you have the information. Instead of reading through the whole character history, you can glance at a character’s DISC  evaluation and use that to figure out an appropriate response.

You could even make a graph of it if you’re visual. Or use an existing graph that you think fits as a reference.

what is disc and why should i use it for characterization

There you go – 4 opposing options

I also like that the video talks about the way these personality traits are distributed in society. It’s useful for examining the overall layout of characters in your book. Although I wouldn’t worry too much if your protagonist group doesn’t match those percentages – it’s not uncommon for similar personality types to wind up in the same field or social groups. So there will definitely be subgroups in society where the DISC percentages are more highly I or D. Just be aware that conflicts and tensions may also be more common or more commonly dramatic as a result (like he said).

Welp, there you go. Lots of different facets of DISC to consider using in your writing. What do you think? I figure the video answered “What is DISC” pretty fully, but did I answer “Why should I use it for characterization?” Are you sold?

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