Some authors don’t care which sandwich their lead character will order at the local cafe, or the top five things they would bring to a deserted island. Others of us know everything from their astrological sign to the last time they waxed their privates.
Great character development comes from great characters, and great characters comes from knowing who they are. What they want, what they love, what they hate. What alcohol do they drink? Do they go through speedy checkout or wait in line?
All of these things are pivotal to your writing, and something that I like to use as I’m world-building and running through character development is the good ol’ fashioned character alignment from the most beloved
Yes I’m a nerd. And a geek. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
For anyone who DOESN’T know what this is all about, there are 9 different “personalities/alignments” that you can be. You. Me. The dude down the street.
I’ll explain below. If you already know all this; skip to the bottom.
HERE IS A TEASER FOR NOW.
A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished.
Lawful good combines honor and compassion.
Lawful good can also be dangerous when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.
A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them.
Neutral good means doing what is good without bias for or against order.
Neutral good can also be dangerous when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.
A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he’s kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society.
Chaotic good combines a good heart with a free spirit.
Chaotic good can also be dangerous when it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.
A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.
Lawful neutral means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.
Lawful neutral can also be dangerous when it seeks to eliminate all freedom, choice, and diversity in society.
A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil-after all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way.
Some neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run.
Neutral means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.
Neutral can also be dangerous when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.
A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn’t strive to protect others’ freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it.
Chaotic neutral represents true freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal.
Chaotic neutral can also be dangerous when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.
A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises.
This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains.
Some lawful evil people and creatures commit themselves to evil with a zeal like that of a crusader committed to good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a duty to an evil deity or master.
Lawful evil is sometimes called “diabolical,” because devils are the epitome of lawful evil.
Lawful evil combines honor with a dedicated self-interest.
Lawful evil represents methodical, intentional, and frequently successful evil.
A neutral evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. She has no love of order and holds no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make her any better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn’t have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has.
Some neutral evil villains hold up evil as an ideal, committing evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies.
Neutral evil will advance themselves without regard for others.
Neutral evil represents pure evil without honor and without variation.
A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him.
Chaotic evil is sometimes called “demonic” because demons are the epitome of chaotic evil.
Chaotic evil combines self-interest and pure freedom.
Chaotic evil represents the destruction not only of beauty and life but also of the order on which beauty and life depend.
And without further ado, here is the
CHARACTER ALIGNMENTS OF THE GENESIS TRILOGY
And there you have it. You’re smart people. You can probably figure out why I chose what I did. For the record, if there is ever a movie:
I want Benedict Cumberbatch for Enoch and Željko Ivanek for Ba’al.
You hear that, directors? I’m telling you this NOW that it is non-negotiable.
Those are my only demands.
P.S. For the nerdy ones who haven’t taken the alignment test for themselves IRL or their characters, check out some here: