Character Archetypes – X for X-Type (A Study of 4’s)

Do your characters have A or B Type personalities? Or perhaps something from both?

Or maybe they are a C Type or D Type? With associations to blood types, or maybe some humor? Today’s post will be a study of personality type systems or groups with four different types; and a study in melding them together for a realistic personality.

archetypes x-type

The X-Type

“I’m aware I’m a little Type A, and sometimes more Type B, but I choose to take the best of both types, and simply be me.” ~ X-Type Self-Awareness

Some of your characters may well fit into the standard A Type or B Type personality but most of us in real life, let alone fictionally, combine a range of characteristics from different archetypes to become a Type X.

Type X” as a name is a catchall phrase used occasionally by people to explain that they have a combination of some traits from those pinpointed as Type A or Type B. In theory this wouldn’t make a great lot of sense – Type A’s and B’s are meant to be in contrast to each other, so having somebody holding contrasting traits may seem odd. But any of these traits could be used, meaning there’s no defining list of traits relevant to a Type X.

This is probably as it should be. Even an obvious Type A can not always resort to Type A traits in all situations. And nor can our main characters be confined to just one archetypal list of relevant traits and behaviours. Our main characters need to grow and learn, and this may well require a mixture of other archetypes as they move along their character arcs.

My own main character, as an example, is a Type X Archetype – a mixture – primarily an advocate hero (an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, an Enneagram Type 1 or Reformer), they become reluctant hero the more they learn, and combine some traits with Aquarius, their star sign (psychic healer), and some overly-assertive traits coming from a ENFP (Myers-Briggs again) champion aspect. There are several aspects of ancient myths in there too. In my choice of archetypes I’ve ensured I have selected ones which complement and match, essentially creating a multi-faceted character. But with enough contrast to give the characters worthy inner conflict.

But sometimes, especially for secondary or tertiary background characters, it’s better and faster to just use one highly recognisable archetype. So, let’s take a look at the Type A or Type B Personalities from which the Type X or mixture was derived.

A Little History on Type A’s and B’s (and C’s and D’s too)

The Type A and Type B Personality Theory was developed by two cardiologists in the 1950’s, who began to believe that coronary heart disease was more prevalent in people with personalities which were more competitive, outgoing, ambitious, impatient or aggressive.

Although the theory was later rejected by many (with links from the Tobacco Industry as funding the research), the theory nevertheless had major impacts on our health psychology fields of today. Now we understand that Type A’s are more at risk for heart disease if they are heavy on the hostility and expressed anger quotient, but there is no real permutations with mortality rates or longevity.

Other psychological studies have pinpointed certain behaviours and personality traits have a link with heart disease or even cancer, with cancer patients being taught to express their feelings (rather than keep them pent up) via behavioural therapy and journal writing; while other studies have shown laughter and humour as being a helpful medicine for recovery.

Michael Jawer and Marc Micozzi are co-authors of ‘The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion: How Feelings Link the Brain, the Body, and the Sixth Sense’, in which they propose a Type C and Type D personality type. The book and other psychologists suggest that Type C personalities – who feel much more stress over work – are also more prone to cancer.

So, although the full-on Type A OR Type B Theory has been mostly discounted, or certainly moved on, we still tend to use it in businesses, corporations or to describe certain friends, coworkers or classmates today. Type A, B and somewhere in between has become a cultural shorthand or archetype for us.

Unfortunately this also means that most of us have more understanding for the person who outright fits a Type A. Type A’s are more visible – they are the queue-jumpers or people making a fuss at airport counters, or the over-bearing boss. Type A’s fit more stereotypical tropes or other archetypes; like the boss, the over-bearing mother, the cheating bully.

Meanwhile Type B is much less talked about and less visible.  Fortunately, for character development, we can turn to several archetypes which fit the Type B’s main set of possible characteristics – the creative artist, the helper or carer, the retired mentor or hero, the wise old man.

Type X – the Mesh

It’s important to see the Type A , B, C or D as a spectrum or continuum of behaviours and traits, not a label or real solid archetype. Realistically, most people – and characters – will mesh or hybridise some of these as behavioural tendencies only, which we may call a Type X.

In different situations, the angry boss type A may be a very indulgent and casual parent at home; the obsessive workaholic on failing a large task may find they have an innovative design taking them away from their stress; and the indecisive artist may, when facing a villainous monster, find some quick decisions and the power of an angry outburst helps him survive.

Type A’s – The Achievers

“I will fill the glass” ~ Type A Motto

Type A’s are the ambitious, outgoing and driven individuals at risk of heart disease or coronary problems if taken to the extreme. In the workforce particularly it’s easier to be accepted as the hard-driven go-getter Type A than a Type B.

Traits and behaviours listed for Type A’s are –

  • ambitious, goal-orientated, self-driven
  • rigidly organized (to do lists, plans, schedules, diaries)
  • highly status-conscious
  • sensitive and anxious (external signs of heightened agitation which are good for characterisation – nail biting, teeth-grinding, fidgeting)
  • impatient and domineering, proactive and decisive
  • detail-orientated, so may be more short-term focussed
  • in a rush, frenetic, hate delays and ambivalence to their deadlines – the best way to annoy a Type A is to go slowly
  • extroverted, to the point of frequently talking over and interrupting other people
  • concerned with time management, have a time urgency (hate waiting in queues, being held up in traffic, queue-jumpers)
  • workaholic (to exhaustion) – always doing something, even standing in a queue
  • aggressive and demanding, short-fused or hostile, triggered by minor events.
  • sets high standards
  • concentrated in multi-tasked careers (often in management)
  • high-achievers / over-achievers
  • competitively or achievement driven – focus on winning, or losing (if there’s no competition, they’ll create it for themselves)
  • left-brain thinkers – logical, analytical
  • highly conscientious – take on other responsibilities, remember birthdays, makes sure everyone is having a good time at a party
  • can be very productive, and achieve a lot – Type A’s make it happen
  • difficulty in accepting failure (in themselves, although may expect it of others)
  • low tolerance to incompetency
  • more likely to be preoccupied with social status, life accomplishment and self-esteem
  • future-worrier – worries about the future, and dwells on worst possible outcome
  • sleep and relaxation problems – difficulty in falling and staying asleep

Associated Archetypes (these display some Type A characteristics) – big boss, manager, over-bearing mother, achiever, over-achiever, administrator, idealist, advocate, angry woman, puppet-master, dictator, battle-axe, big bad, bad mother or simply mother, carer, cleric, director, drama queen, extremist, jobsworth, workaholic, neat freak, schemer, plotter, scientist, shrew, nag, performer, world-changer.

Type B’s – The Chilled

“The Glass is Half-Full, and that’s good enough for us” ~ Type B Motto

Type B’s are the contrast to Type A’s, the more laid back and less driven individuals. Their traits and characteristics include –

  • people-orientated, may have lots of friends and a vast social life
  • less stress levels, can disregard physical or mental stress when they don’t achieve
  • focused on enjoying the game rather than the outcome of winning or losing in competition
  • indulgent and tolerant
  • patient, even under stressful conditions
  • collaborative, enjoy the process, and non-competitive  – everyone wants them on their project
  • steady workers, but work is not the be-all and end-all
  • able to not work and relax
  • careers in creativity, technology, teaching or helping eg. writers, artists, designers, counsellors, therapists, actors, software architects, judges,
  • may appear messy, disheveled or disorganised
  • happy (may prefer) to work alone, as sole entrepreneurs, or helping others
  • enjoy exploring new ideas and concepts
  • reflective, creative and innovative
  • inner and outward world focused
  • higher levels of satisfaction in life
  • right-brain thinkers – pattern-orientated, creative
  • big-picture and broad thinkers – focus on the long run, with coherent views of the road ahead
  • can make good high-level thinkers and planners as leaders, CEOs etc
  • may be indecisive, procrastinators
  • can be disappointed in failures, or goals fall short, but not devastated
  • good at moving on
  • can enjoy achievement, but not solely focused on it
  • can be time-challenged – miss appointments, poorly scheduled
  • don’t mind long-queues, it’s a good time to look at social media on the phone
  • have more friends than the Type A’s
  • see the good in people – able to see people as other than simply being useful, or a competitor. put people at ease
  • mindful, enjoy the moment, focussed on living in the moment

Associated Archetypes (these display some Type B characteristics) – absent-minded professor, artist, helper/carer, architect, artisan, designer, mediator, judge, bohemian, change-maker, writer, inventor, bestie, charming rogue, egalitarian, supporter, enthusiast, loner, lone-wolf, lovable loser, wanderer, seeker, explorer, loyal friend, wallflower, maintainer, Peter Pan, pedagogue, intellectual, spirtualist, player, hedonist, thrill-seeker, Pollyanna, dreamer, romantic, techie, theorist, world-changer.

Type C’s – The Knowledge

“I will find out how to fill the glass up again” ~ Type C Motto

Type C’s take a little of the introversion and work ethics of the Type A’s but also turn some of the traits of Type B’s and turn them on their head.

  • introverted, uncomfortable around people and social situations, would prefer alone time
  • detail-orientated, heavily into research and knowledge
  • self-driven and focussed
  • numbers and facts orientated
  • curious, do not take things at face-value, will find out how things work
  • decisions are based on systematic and detailed information
  • known for being deep and thoughtful
  • notice small things, good listeners, able to pick up context easily
  • natural problem solvers, innovators, if given enough time
  • highly sensitive to emotions, and critique, yet can be overly critical themselves
  • take great responsibility for others and outcomes, dedicated, takes life seriously
  • may suppress their own wants, needs and desires
  • are not overly assertive (yet also not passive)
  • can be highly stressed by conflict, things going wrong
  • over-thinker, worrier, anxious
  • requires time alone (as an introvert) to re-energise
  • provided they are given time to base decisions on facts and information, can be excellent leaders and strategists who have great control

Associated Archetypes – accountants, clerics, number-crunchers, some innovators, inventors, professors, analysts;  leaders, rulers, strategists (sometimes)

Type D’s – The “Distressed”

“The Glass is half-empty, as usual” ~ Type D’s Motto

Type D’s may be a mesh between Type B’s and C’s – the introverted person who likes routine and guidance set by others.

  • Prefer trodden paths, routines and structure driven from somebody else
  • Can prefer inertia, certainly don’t like change
  • Won’t volunteer if actions are unknown, or risky; won’t take responsibility
  • Prefer to blend into safe routines – part of the crowd
  • Can be afflicted with worry, gloom or depression, and this can impact others around them
  • Negative outlook, always sees the worst-case, problems and issues, but can rarely resolve them
  • Irritable and grumpy
  • Avoid rejection by not opening up to others or taking risks
  • Can be very stressed or depressed, prone to heart problems, sleeplessness
  • Passive, let things happen
  • Hugely pessimistic, depressed and down-trodden
  • Let’s the world get on top of them
  • Whilst Type A’s are prone to coronary disease (and associated problems like blood pressure), Type D’s are very disease-prone in all aspects. These people may take a lot of time off work for health reasons, and recover slowly.
  • Avoids social contact, very few friends

Associated Archetypes – the worker, the crowd, the slacker, the sloth, lazy. negative nancy, grumpy old man,

Association to the 4 Humours

4 humorsAlthough this post isn’t really about the four humors as type theory, there is an associated relationship. This Type theory refers to the four humors –

  • Choleric  –  refers to a person that is irritable (yellow bile).
  • Melancholic  –  refers to depression (black bile).
  • Sanguine  – refers to being optimistic (blood).
  • Phlegmatic  –  refers to being calm (phlegm).

These four basic personality groups (humors) were established by the Greek in 140 AD and were based on an excess of four body fluids: yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm.

Note that the “humors” pertain to the bodily fluids identified by the Greeks. The term “temperament” pertains to the name given to the personality group – sanguine as an example.

The 4 Humors and Temperaments have lately had a fifth added – Supine, showing you that most people let alone characters don’t sit comfortably within only one personality grouping, no matter how many you come up with.

The 4 Humors have also been associated with other typing systems or names.  Speaker Florence Littauer described the four temperaments with alliteration: Powerful, Popular, Peaceful, and Perfect. Author Dr. Gary Smalley characterized them using animals: Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, Beaver. Happily, both authors agreed that some people are primarily one type, while others may incorporate two or even three types within themselves.

The 4 Temperaments have also been associated to many other systems of type differentiation, for instance – the 4 elements (air, water, fire and earth) and from those, associated through to Western Astrology which also links into the elements. You can perhaps see from all of these links how easy it may be to build on the character development by starting off with something as simple as a generalistic personality type.

Types to Blood Types

Japanese Blood TypesOr, if you have a character who is from certain parts of Japanese Culture, or visiting Japan, you may like to build your character with one final and very specific detail – their blood type.

In parts of Japanese and Korean culture, dependent on your blood type (ketsu eki gata), you may have certain character traits.

Here, instead of C and D, we have an AB Type, and an O Type.

Blood types have repercussions on your best diets, health matters and your future career and who you should marry.



Part of 2016’s Character Archetype Series (A-Z) @ Hunter is Writing.


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