Using the Enneagram with Judith Searle

PAGE ONE LITERARY NEWSLETTER INTERVIEW



©1999, 2000 Judith Searle, Page One Newsletter

Judith Searle has had a successful double career as an actress and a writer. Her theatrical resume includes credits on and off Broadway, in stock and regional theaters, feature films, primetime and daytime television, commercials, and voice-overs. She is the author of two books: Getting the Part: Thirty-three Professional Casting Directors Tell You How to Get Work in Theater, Films, Commercials, and TV (currently available in a revised expanded edition from Limelight Editions) and Lovelife, a novel published by NAL Books. Her articles on theater and the entertainment industry have appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and The Drama Review. Her television writing includes scripts for "General Hospital" and "Reading Newspapers," a 30-program series she created for public television. She regularly conducts writing workshops at the University of California Irvine and at The New School in New York City. A graduate of Wellesley College, she holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University. 

An acknowledged expert on the Enneagram, she has published many articles in Enneagram Monthly, the premier journal in the field, including "The Latitude and Longitude of Enneagram Fixations," "The Four-Point-On Theory and a Six Organization in Distress," and "Story Genres and Enneagram Types." She has spoken to the Writers Guild of America (west) and Women in Theatre on "Using the Enneagram to Create Characters". She is currently at work on a book called "The Enneagram from the Inside: Literary and Film Examples of the Nine Types" (to be published by Hohm Press).

Page One
"What is "The Enneagram to Create Characters" and how long have you been practicing this type of character development. How and why is this method beneficial to writers?"

Judith
"The Enneagram is a sophisticated system of personality typing that has powerful applications to the work of writers. I've been working as a book doctor and teacher of writing workshops since the mid-80's, and I discovered the Enneagram in the early 90s. I immediately saw that it could help fiction writers, screenwriters and playwrights create more dimensional characters, devise more effective character grids, and gain insight into why they are drawn to write in particular genres. While most typologies deal only with static lists of traits, the Enneagram offers special insights into character arcs. Because it describes the distinctive ways the nine basic human types behave under stress and when feeling secure, writers can use it as a power tool to develop plot and character twists that are both inevitable and surprising." 

Page One
"You've had a double career as an actress and a writer -- Which do you find the most compelling and challenging and why?"

Judith
"My career as a "working actress" went the way most actresses' careers go in middle age: into a nose dive. I started my first novel to keep my sanity while waiting for the phone to ring, and I've written three novels, one of which has been published ("Lovelife," NAL Books). Before I waved goodbye to my acting career, I did a series of interviews with casting directors and collected them into a book that is still selling well ("Getting the Part: Thirty-Three Professional Casting Directors Tell You How to Get Work in Theater, Films, Commercials and TV," Limelight Editions). I've also co-authored a book on parenting ("Sleep Talk" by Lois Y. Haddad, R.N. with Patricia Wilson and Judith Searle). For me writing has been much more satisfying than acting because I have more control over the final product and more freedom to work when the spirit moves me. Being a Perfectionist (Type One on the Enneagram) I take a lot of satisfaction in polishing my own work as well as helping other writers make their work as good as it can be."

Page One
"Who is your favorite writer and why? What was the last fiction/novel you read?"

Judith
"William Shakespeare is peerless in world literature. During the last four years, as I've been researching and writing my book of literary examples of Enneagram types ("The Enneagram from the Inside: Literary and Film Examples of the Nine Types"), I've returned again and again to the Bard's glorious characters. Many of my chapters contain excerpts from his plays, and the way characters like Hamlet, Othello, Lear, Macbeth and Cleopatra follow character arcs predicted by the Enneagram is a striking validation of the system. The last novel I read simply for pleasure (not as part of my researches) was Carolyn See's "The Handyman," a funny, sexy, engaging story that is pure joy. Her quirky central character completely fits his Enneagram type, yet is continually surprising. See's other books are also a treat: "Golden Days" and "Dreaming," especially, are not to be missed."

Page One
"What do you cover in your workshops?"

Judith
"The workshop is a lot of fun: I show half an hour of film clips on each of the nine Enneagram types--a mix of males and females, heroes and villains and just average folks--so it's easy for writers to see how each character is both unique AND representative of his/her type. I also give participants a 110-page workbook that contains excerpts from 18 novels (most of them classics) that show the inner psychological process of each of the types (both male and female examples). I also discuss the nine-pointed Enneagram diagram to show what a gold mine it is for seeing character arcs in their full range, and I offer my version of the unwritten rules of various story genres and how they relate to the nine types. (For example, the thriller has the same basic world view as Enneagram type Six: the world is a dangerous place, a place of "us versus them," and one's safety lies in attracting trustworthy allies)."