Using the Enneagram with Judith Searle


©1998 by Judith Searle

The Enneagram is unique among personality typologies in showing a picture of process, which is the essence of any story. Certain basic literary forms share assumptions about reality (world views) with certain Enneagram types, and the protagonists of these stories are usually people of corresponding types.

The correlations between story genres and Enneagram types are of obvious interest to writers, for whom these connections may offer insights into why they are drawn to write in particular genres. But these connections have a broader appeal to anyone who enjoys reading novels or viewing films. We can gain insights into our own type through observing the kinds of stories we are drawn to, and we may also be moved to examine in a new way the stories we tell ourselves about our own life.

"Genre" stories--such as thrillers, westerns, love stories, and horror stories--by no means comprise all story possibilities. In fact, story genres are basically formulas that succeed because they fulfill the audience's expectations through conforming to certain unwritten rules. Great literature and great films transcend genre, even though their roots may lie in a particular genre.

Because certain common story genre combinations relate to the inner lines of the Enneagram diagram, I am presenting the nine types and their associated genres here in the order of the arrows in the direction of stress, beginning with the inner triangle.


The basic Six genre is the thriller, a suspense story centered around pursuer and pursued. Examples include North by Northwest, Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, Cape Fear, and The Fugitive

The spy story, a suspense story centered around espionage, is also related to Six, and examples include The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; and Our Man in Havana.

The labor drama--told from the point of view of a blue-collar worker protagonist--is another Six genre. Such stories as Norma Rae, Silkwood, Blue Collar, and F.I.S.T. fall into this category.

Finally, Six stories include the "fear" comedy, in which the humor comes out of the protagonist's anxieties and preoccupation with issues of trust and betrayal. This group includes the comedies of Woody Allen and such films as What About Bob--

North by Northwest

Typical of the thriller genre is Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, with Cary Grant (a Seven in real life) playing a Six with a Seven wing. As the story opens, we see Grant caught up by accident in a situation in which he is mistaken for a man named Kaplan. In order to clear himself of ever-escalating involvement (a drunk-driving charge, a murder), he starts out pursuing the man he was mistaken for, while being pursued himself by the police and also by nameless bad guys who are somehow involved in international intrigue and espionage. 

During his flight from the police, Grant links ups with Eva Marie Saint, finds evidence that she is allied with the bad guys, then discovers that she is really a government agent whose life his behavior has put in jeopardy. Given the Six's code of loyalty (and the fact that by now Grant is in love with her), he has no choice but to agree to the government man's request that he continue impersonating the nonexistent "Kaplan." 

Grant and Saint end up literally hanging from the edge of a cliff on Mount Rushmore with one of the bad guys ready to put his foot on Grant's hand and send them to their deaths. Just in the nick of time a shot is fired, the bad guy falls, and Grant pulls Saint to safety.

The elements of the Six world view are clear in North by Northwest. The question of who is to be trusted is central to the story. The rules of the thriller genre demand that the protagonist be placed in ever-escalating danger and that he escape from it by his wits and determination with the timely support of allies.

Unlike the Eight, a phobic Six (like Grant) never looks for a fight. His ego is not invested in seeking out physical confrontations and winning them. He much prefers to avoid conflict, but if forced into it will acquit himself honorably. A Six protagonist is always aware of the risks involved in any confrontation (while the Eight tends to be more physically confident, more aware of the potential glory). The counterphobic Six (such as Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment or Demi Moore in G.I. Jane) is more likely to seek action as a way of proving that he or she is not afraid. But the rule for all Six genres is that the protagonist does not get killed.

Rules of Six Story Genres

We might sum up as follows the unwritten rules of all Six genres, including the thriller, the spy story, the labor drama , and the Six brand of "fear" comedy:

• A Six protagonist may appear personally insecure and vulnerable (phobic) or rebellious and confrontative (counterphobic). In either case, the person is driven by fear. 

• Phobic Six protagonists get drawn into danger despite strong efforts to avoid it.

• Counterphobic Six protagonists provoke confrontation as a way of proving their courage: "The best defense is a good offense."

• A Six protagonist's courage must be tested in the course of the story.

• Six protagonists survive ever-escalating dangers primarily through their alertness, resourcefulness, and ability to engage others as allies.

• Allies play a crucial role in Six stories, either through their support or their betrayal of the protagonist. 

• "Whom can I trust--" is a central issue for the Six protagonist.

• The Six protagonist has an ambivalent relationship with Authority.

• The most important virtue for a Six is loyalty.


The basic Three genre is the success story, in which the protagonist goes from rags to riches through hard work, alertness, ambition, honesty, and timely help from powerful patrons. Examples of this genre include the Horatio Alger stories, such as Struggling Upward, and such films as Jerry Maguire and Top Gun

The Three genre also includes the imposter story, in which the protagonist, doubting the adequacy of his real self to gain the approval of the people he needs to survive, creates a false image. Such stories as Glengarry Glen Ross, Sommersby, White Men Can't Jump, and The Great Imposter exemplify this category. 

Combinations of these two aspects can be seen in such stories as The Great Gatsby and Working Girl.

Working Girl

The film Working Girl is a particularly interesting example because it features Threes as both protagonist and antagonist. Heroine Melanie Griffith (a Three with a Two wing) rises from her job as secretary to Wall Street player Sigourney Weaver (a Three with a Four wing) to achieve the executive position she deserves.

When Griffith takes a job as Weaver's secretary, Weaver says that she will support Griffith's efforts to gain an entry level position on the executive track. When Griffith brings Weaver a brilliant idea for a merger between two companies, Weaver pooh-poohs it while planning to steal it.

A skiing accident puts Weaver out of commission for several weeks, and she asks Griffith to look after her parents' elegant townhouse and also to reply to various personal invitations. While doing the work Weaver requested, Griffith finds evidence that Weaver has stolen her merger idea without giving her credit. 

From this point on, the way is clear for Griffith to create an image of herself as an executive, borrow Weaver's wardrobe, and use her invitations to make the kind of connections a Three secretary needs to rise to the executive level. Griffith enlists the help of Harrison Ford to propose her merger idea to Philip Bosco, the chairman of the company for whom she is trying to arrange a major acquisition. 

She persuades Ford to go with her to Bosco's daughter's wedding (to which Weaver had been invited), and Ford helps her maneuver the situation so that she gets to dance with Bosco. She pitches her idea to him and flatters him on his business acumen in previous deals, whereupon he agrees to meet with her the following week.

Griffith and Ford's meeting with Bosco's underlings is successful and she and Ford become lovers afterward. 

Weaver returns home from the hospital and arranges to see Ford, who is the boyfriend she has been angling to marry. When she attempts to bulldoze him into a proposal, he backs away, and Griffith overhears the conversation. Griffith, in her hurry to get to the crucial meeting involving the big merger, leaves her datebook behind, and Weaver discovers what she has been up to.

As Griffith and Ford sit at the big merger meeting, Weaver appears, on crutches; she announces that Griffith has stolen her idea and is an impostor. Under questioning, Griffith admits she is Weaver's secretary. Realizing that no one will believe the idea was hers, she excuses herself and leaves the field to Weaver. 

Later, as Griffith is leaving the office building where she worked, carrying a big box with her personal files, all the parties to the merger appear in the lobby, including Weaver and Ford. With Ford's help, Griffith manages to prove to Bosco that the idea for the merger was hers. Bosco turns on Weaver, dresses her down, and says he'll do everything he can to get her fired. He invites Griffith to work for him.

In the end, Griffith not only gets the entry-level executive job she has been working for, she also gets the prize male (Harrison Ford). (In stories focused on female Threes, the heroine is usually rewarded not only with success in work but also with marriage or connection to an alpha male.) 

Rules of Three Story Genres

We might sum up as follows the unwritten rules of Three success stories and imposter stories: 

• The Three protagonist is driven by the need to be seen as successful.

• The Three protagonist has clear goals and is willing to work hard to achieve them.

• The Three protagonist is a star performer, one who rarely thinks of giving others credit for their contributions.

• In the course of the story, the Three protagonist pretends to be something she is not in order to achieve her goal.

• At a crucial point the Three protagonist receives help from a powerful mentor. 

• The Three's problems with intimate relationships must be acknowledged at some point in the story. 

• The Three protagonist's definition of what constitutes success changes in the course of the story. 

• By the end of the story, the Three protagonist finds a new balance between love and work.


The basic Nine story genre is the fantasy, which is involved with the supernatural, the representation of imaginary animals, and/or the visualization of dreams. Examples include The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, It's a Wonderful Life, ET: The Extraterrestrial, Harvey, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Magical realism, another Nine genre, includes stories involved with marvelous and impossible events that occur in what otherwise purports to be a realistic narrative. This category is exemplified by the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Sword-and-sorcery stories (such as The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Excalibur) also fall into the Nine genre, as do most fairy tales (such as "Sleeping Beauty").

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz, originally a book by L. Frank Baum, is best known in the film version starring Judy Garland. At the beginning of this beloved fantasy story, we see Dorothy living on a farm in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. No one has much time for the young girl, and she is left to her own devices. She daydreams about a fantasy place "over the rainbow." A big twister comes up, and she is knocked unconscious by a window frame blown into her bedroom. She dreams the house is lifted from its foundation by the wind and lands in Oz. 

Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, appears and says Dorothy has freed the Munchkins from the Wicked Witch of the East, who was crushed under Dorothy's house when it landed.

The Wicked Witch of the West appears and wants her dead sister's ruby slippers. When Glinda arranges for the slippers, which have magical powers, to go to Dorothy, the Wicked Witch vows revenge.

Dorothy wants to get home, and Glinda advises her to walk to Oz and consult the Wizard. On the road Dorothy acquires three companions: a Scarecrow (Seven) who hopes the Wizard will be able to give him some brains, a Tin Woodsman (Two) who wants the Wizard to give him a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Six), who hopes to acquire some courage. 

They survive several attempts by the Wicked Witch to destroy them, arrive at the Emerald City, and finally get into the chamber of the Wizard, whom no one has ever seen. There is a big stage effect of smoke, and they hear the impressive voice of the Wizard telling them that before he will grant their wishes they must prove their worthiness by bringing him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch. 

They go into the enchanted forest, and the Wicked Witch instructs her army of winged monkeys to bring back Dorothy and her dog. The Witch still wants the ruby slippers. But they won't come off Dorothy's feet, and the witch decides she'll have to kill Dorothy to get them.

Toto escapes, finds the others in Dorothy's group, and leads them back to the Witch's castle and the room where Dorothy is being held. The Woodsman breaks open the locked door with his ax. But the Witch corners them before they can get out the front door and sets fire to the Scarecrow. Dorothy grabs a bucket of water and throws it on him. In the process, some of the water gets on the Wicked Witch, who melts away. 

The four of them go back to the Wizard with her broomstick, and he tells them to come back tomorrow. But Toto pulls aside a curtain, and they see a man running all the machinery that creates the impressive stage effects. They realize the whole thing is an illusion (the Wizard being a Three), and they won't get the things they seek, after all.

But the Wizard gives the Scarecrow a diploma, which attests to his brains, and once he believes he has brains, he does. The Lion, says the Wizard, is suffering from disordered thinking. All he needs to attest to his courage is a medal, and the Wizard produces one. The Tin Woodsman, who needs a heart, is given a testimonial: "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." (Which might be the Two's motto.)

The Wizard plans to take Dorothy back to Kansas in the balloon he arrived in years ago. But once they are ready to go, Toto jumps out of the balloon basket, Dorothy runs after him, and the balloon takes off without her. 

Dorothy is in despair of ever getting home, but Glinda appears and tells her she has always had the power to go home. All she needs to do is close her eyes, click the heels of her ruby slippers together three times and think three times, "There's no place like home."

She wakes up in her bedroom, thrilled to be home, and vows never to leave again. 

Rules of Nine story genres

Here, in summary, are the unwritten rules of Nine story genres, including fantasy, magical realism, sword-and-sorcery stories and fairy tales: 

• The Nine protagonist is driven by the need to be connected with familiar people in familiar surroundings.

• The Nine protagonist is underappreciated by herself and by loved ones. 

• The Nine protagonist has little ambition beyond survival and "getting home."

• The Nine protagonist never seeks adventure or risk in real life, but has a vivid imagination and enjoys daydreaming. 

• Supernatural, magic and/or mystical elements are often important in Nine stories. 

• The Nine protagonist responds to events rather than initiating action. • The Nine protagonist's will is tested in the course of the story. Events force her into action and she acquits herself well. 

• By the end of the story, the Nine protagonist comes to a new appreciation of home and family. And the Nine is appreciated more fully by others. 


The basic One story genre is the "moral hero" drama, in which the protagonist risks his reputation, his status, and even his life to ally himself with an ethical principle. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, A Man for All Seasons, The Crucible, Gandhi, and An Enemy of the People.

Related One genres are the lawyer story, in the which the protagonist is a lawyer (such as The Verdict, Witness for the Prosecution, Anatomy of a Murder, The Accused, and the novels of Richard North Patterson) and the police story, in which the law enforcement professional is the hero who tries to restore the moral order to society. Examples of the police story include The Silence of the Lambs, The French Connection, Serpico, and Prince of the City

To Kill a Mockingbird

A prime example of the "moral hero" story is To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel by Harper Lee that was made into a classic film starring Gregory Peck. The story begins in 1932 in Macon, Georgia, with the Great Depression in full swing. The story is told mostly from the point of view of Atticus Finch's six-year-old daughter Scout. She and her brother Jem, who is about ten, tell Dil, a boy visiting their neighbor, about another neighbor who has a crazy son named Boo, who only comes out at night. When Scout asks her father about Boo, he tells her to stay away and "not torment those people."

Atticus is a principled lawyer, a widower who loves his two kids and does his best to be a good parent--reading them stories, patiently answering their questions, offering help and guidance in a gentle and loving manner.

During this summer there is an especially memorable trial in the town, in which Atticus defends Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman.

Scout has just started school, and she keeps getting into fights. When Atticus tries to talk to her about it she asks him, "Do you defend niggers--" He says he is defending a negro--she shouldn't say that word. She asks why he's defending the man, and Atticus tries to explain, but finally says she's too young to understand. He asks her to promise not to get into fights over it, no matter what the kids say to her.

Now school is over for the summer, and Tom Robinson's trial is due to begin. Tom has been brought from the neighboring town jail (where he had been taken for his safety) and is now in the town jail. The sheriff visits Atticus one evening, says he has heard there might be trouble that night from a "certain element" in town.

Atticus gathers a standing lamp and a chair and drives away in his car. Jem, who has overheard his father's conversation with the sheriff, takes Scout and Dil, who is staying the night with them, over to the jail to investigate. They find Atticus sitting in front. When a mob arrives, obviously intent on lynching the black man, the kids make their presence known. Atticus tries to get Jem to take the others home, but the boy refuses. Scout addresses one of the men whose son she knows. Her friendly and calm talk shames him, and he suggests the men all leave, which they do. 

At the trial, it becomes clear that Tom Robinson could not have caused Mae Ella's injuries, since they were all on the right side of her face and his left hand had been crippled earlier in an accident. It becomes clear that Mae Ella's redneck father is the one who beat her up and forced her to lie about having been raped. Atticus handles Tom's defense superbly, but the jury comes back with a guilty verdict.

Later, as the deputies are taking Tom to another town for safe-keeping, Tom tries to escape and is killed. Atticus goes with Jem to tell Tom's family that he is dead. Bob Ewell, Mae Ella's redneck father, appears and tells one of the black men to go inside and get Atticus. Ewell spits in his face, and Atticus, though clearly furious, simply wipes off the spit with his handkerchief, gets into his car and drives away.

By October things have settled down, and Scout and Jem are walking home through the woods one night after a school agricultural pageant, when they are attacked by someone, and Jem is knocked unconscious. They are rescued by a shadowy figure who subdues the attacker, picks up Jem and carries him home, followed by Scout.

Atticus calls the sheriff, and when the lawman arrives he tells Atticus that Bob Ewell is dead, a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. Boo Radley, the shy and perhaps crazy neighbor who is now standing in the shadows in the corner of Jem's bedroom, is the one who saved the kids. 

The sheriff tells Atticus that Bob Ewell must have fallen on his own knife. It would be a sin, he says, to drag shy Boo Radley into the limelight.

Rules of One story genres

Here, in summary are the unwritten rules of one "moral hero" dramas, including lawyer stories, and police stories: 

• The One protagonist is driven by the need to restore the moral order to society through his actions and example.

• The One protagonist is unpretentious, serious, concerned with what is right.

• The One protagonist trusts his inner compass as a gauge of right action and will stand up for what he believes even if everyone else is against him.

• The One protagonist makes every effort to avoid conflict, but if he feels his cause is just he will put his body on the line in protest and even die for the cause if necessary.

• The One protagonist, once engaged in a crusade, cannot be deterred.

• The One protagonist, while critical of others, holds himself to the highest standard of all.

• The One protagonist expects his loved ones to adhere to his standards and is capable of severing his ties with them if they fail to do this.

• The One protagonist sees the realities of life clearly, feels deeply about moral questions and struggles to communicate to others the importance of ethical standards in society.


The basic Four story genre is the melodrama, in which there is a clear-cut division between good and evil, heroes and villains. The main object of the melodrama is to arouse emotions in the most direct way possible. Such films as Casablanca, Rebecca, Rain, The Letter, Back Street, and Mildred Pierce are clear examples.

Stories of love and loss are also part of the Four genre, and may overlap, as Casablanca does, with the basic melodrama category. Other examples of the love-and-loss story include The Bridges of Madison County; Brief Encounter; Wuthering Heights; Now, Voyager; and Waterloo Bridge.

Stories of doomed love--love and death--also exemplify the Four attitude to life, and examples include Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Camille, Sophie's Choice, Interview with the Vampire, and Jules and Jim.

Stories of artists who give their lives for their art (as in 

Lust for Life and The Fountainhead) also belong in the Four category.


Casablanca is the quintessential melodrama of love and loss. Though the story is not presented in chronological order, its real beginning is the meeting between Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an antifascist freedom fighter, and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), a Norwegian expatriate, in Paris in 1940. They fall in love and begin an affair. Rich (a Four) asks Ilsa (a Two) to marry him, but she avoids giving him an answer. Rick is on the Gestapo arrest list, and on the eve of the Nazi invasion he and Ilsa agree to meet at the train station and escape the city together. But Ilsa fails to appear. Instead, she sends a note saying she loves Rick but will never see him again.

A year later, Rick is running a cafe in Casablanca. He has become a loner, determinedly neutral, uninvolved in all matters personal and political. As he says, "I stick my neck out for no man." He drinks too much and feels as if he has killed his former self. Then Ilsa walks in on the arm of Victor Laszlo, a renowned resistance leader. The lovers meet again. Behind their cocktail chat their passion is palpable. Ilsa leaves with Laszlo, but Rick sits in the dark cafe drinking through the night, waiting.

Hours after midnight she reappears. By now Rick is maudlin and drunk. Ilsa tells him guardedly that she admires but doesn't love Laszlo. Then, before she can tell him that she loves him, Rick, in drunken bitterness, belittles her story by comparing it to one told in a brothel. This slur, implying she's a whore, sends her out the door as he collapses in drunken tears.

The next day Ilsa and Laszlo go in search of black market exit visas. While he tries to make a deal in a cafe, she waits at a linen stall on the street. Seeing her alone, Rick approaches, apologizes for his behavior the previous night. He clearly wants to win her back, and she wants to keep her affair with him in the past and move on with her life. When he again becomes insulting, she tells him that she was already married to Laszlo when she and Rick were lovers in Paris (but she doesn't tell him she then thought Laszlo was dead). Rick is crushed. 

When Ilsa and Laszlo are unable to get exit visas, Laszlo tries to buy the letters of transit he has heard Rick has, documents that will allow two people to leave Casablanca. But Rick refuses to sell at any price. When Laszlo asks why, Rick says he should ask his wife. Ilsa visits Rick again in his office that night and begs him to sell them the letters of transit. When he refuses, she holds a gun on him and demands them. He tells her to go ahead and shoot, she'll be doing him a favor. She confesses her love, tells him the truth about thinking Laszlo was dead when they had their affair in Paris, and surrenders to Rick saying he must make the decisions for everyone. 

Rick makes a selfless decision to put wife and husband on the plane to America, rededicate himself to the cause he originally believed in, and choose duty over love (behaving like a One, his security point). It is a perfect Four outcome, one which will leave Rick and Ilsa longing for each other for the rest of their lives

Rules of Four story genres

We might sum up as follows the unwritten rules of Four story genres such as melodramas, love-and-loss stories, and love-and-death stories:

• The Four protagonist is driven by a need to focus on his deep and authentic feelings.

• The Four protagonist is self-aware, self-absorbed, passionate, and unhappy.

• The Four protagonist is dominated by his feelings and driven to express them in love and/or art.

• The Four protagonist is comfortable with longing and seeks to maneuver his life situation so as to perpetuate this state.

• The Four protagonist is uncomfortable with lengthy periods of contentment or love affairs that threaten to end happily. 

• Four stories generally have unhappy endings involving loss and/or death.

• The Four protagonist is the most likely of all Enneagram types to commit suicide over love.


Romance, the basic Two genre, is constructed around the ups and downs of a couple's relationship, with the story generally ending in marriage.

The romantic comedy is a staple among film genres, and examples include When Harry Met Sally, Bull Durham, Much Ado About Nothing, Sleepless in Seattle, It Happened One Night, Emma, and Cold Comfort Farm

Romance novels--stories of love and romance that end in marriage--are a perennially successful category in bookstores. 

Two genres also include the battle-of-the-sexes story: a black version of the romantic comedy in which the struggle for power between the partners may end with one or both of them dead. The link to Eight is obvious in such films as Body Heat and War of the Roses.

When Harry Met Sally . . . 

The classic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally . . . begins in 1977, with Harry (Billy Crystal) in love with the best friend of Sally (Meg Ryan). Harry (a Two) and Sally (a One) have just graduated from University of Chicago and are driving to New York together. They argue the whole way about life, death, sex, and Casablanca (note the links in both types to Four). 

Five years later, in an airport, Harry sees Sally kissing Joe, a guy he knows. She gets on the plane, and Harry is in the seat behind her. He moves up, tells her he's getting married, and invites her to dinner. She says no. 

Five years later, Sally has just broken up with the guy she was kissing in the airport when she last saw Harry. Her girlfriends want to fix her up, but she declines.

Harry, at a football game with a male friend, says his wife has asked for a separation, told him she didn't know if she ever loved him. It turns out she was in love with someone else, is going to live with the other man.

Harry and Sally run into each other in a bookstore and commiserate about relationships. She tells him she wanted a family and Joe didn't--that's why they broke up. Harry and Sally become friends, talk frequently on the phone, start dating other people, and compare dating horror stores. She is shocked that he goes to bed even with his "bad" dates. 

They go out together on New Year's Eve, since neither one has a date. They try to fix each other up with their best friends, double dating, but the friends fall in love with each other and decide to get married. 

While Harry and Sally are shopping for a wedding present for their friends, he runs into his ex-wife and is upset to learn she is about to remarry. Soon afterward, Sally calls Harry, distraught that Joe, her ex-boyfriend, is getting married. Harry comes over immediately, and in the process of comforting her he makes love to her. The next day they both feel this was a mistake, and having sex seems to have destroyed their friendship.

At their friends' wedding, Harry and Sally are the attendants, and they keep eyeing each other during the ceremony, make conversation awkwardly afterward at the reception, and end up fighting with each other.

At Christmastime he leaves several messages on her answering machine, and when she finally answers he asks her out for New Year's Eve. She says no.

On New Year's Eve she's at a party with their now-married friends. He is walking alone aimlessly through the city. Then suddenly he starts running. Midnight is rapidly approaching. Sally has no one to kiss and wants to leave the party, but her girlfriend warns that she'll never get a taxi. Harry arrives at the party, tells Sally he loves her, and says he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. They kiss as the band plays "Auld Lang Syne." Three months later they get married. 

Rules of Two story genres

We might sum up as follows the unwritten rules for Two story genres including romantic comedies, romance novels, and battle-of-the-sexes stories:

• The Two protagonist is driven by a need to be loved and appreciated.

• The Two protagonist is empathetic, helpful, and outgoing.

• The Two is extremely skillful at nurturing friendships as well as more intimate connections.

• Sexual attraction is a strong component of Two stories.

• The Two takes pride in his power to seduce others, and his seductiveness sometimes makes others feel used and/or manipulated.

• Two stories reveal the power struggle underlying the search for romance. (Note the link to Eight.)

• In Two stories there are many obstacles to the romance, beginning with the lovers' initial dislike of each other.

• The Two story is concerned with the lovers' struggle to maintain individuality while becoming deeply attached to another person.

• Two stories generally have happy endings: the lovers commit to each other.


Eight genres all involve a strong element of action, with the western exemplifying this type's basic story. Classic films in this genre include Red River, The Searchers, Stagecoach, High Noon, Shane, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence

The war story (Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, Platoon) is another basic Eight genre.

Other Eight genres include the action-adventure story (Rambo, Dirty Harry, Eraser, Die Hard) and the Mafia story (The Godfather; GoodFellas)

Red River

The western Red River offers an excellent example of the Eight story genres. The film tells the story of Thomas Dunston (John Wayne) and his protégé Matthew Chase (Montgomery Clift) and their conflicts and trials on the first successful cattle drive from Texas to Kansas. 

The story begins with Wayne's character (an Eight, as Wayne was in life and in all his films) leaving a wagon train heading west across the prairie to strike out on his own for Texas. Walter Brennan, driving a wagon with supplies, leaves with Wayne, and the two are preparing to pitch camp for the night when they see in the distance smoke that indicates an Indian attack on the wagon train. But they are too far away to help. 

The next day a confused and dazed boy appears leading a cow; he had left the wagon train to search for the cow and so missed the attack. When he returned, everyone was dead. The boy threatens Wayne with a gun. Wayne calmly takes it away, but obviously respects the boy's spirit and agrees to let him join them. 

As the three move on into Texas, Wayne chooses a place that looks right and decides this is the spot for the cattle ranch he envisions. He kills a man who challenges his right to the land. 

Ten years later, the boy has grown into Montgomery Clift (a Six), who is now clearly like a son to Wayne. Though Wayne has now achieved his dream of owning the biggest cattle ranch in Texas, times are bad. There is no market for cattle in Texas, and Wayne sees that the only solution is to drive the herd to Missouri. Wayne has taught Clift everything he knows--and Clift is now a faster draw than Wayne.

They start the drive with 10,000 head of cattle. No other cattle drive has ever made it the thousand miles to Missouri--Wayne insists that every man who signs on must agree to finish the drive, and he tells them they will be paid at the end. 

At camp the first night, one of the men tells them he's heard there is a railroad at Abilene, Kansas and suggests driving the cattle there instead--a much easier route. But he has no proof the railroad exists, and Wayne insists they're going to Missouri.

As the pressures on Wayne increase, he becomes more and more of a tyrant: short-tempered, drinking too much, driving his men too hard, even killing some when they try to leave the drive. 

The story reaches a crucial turning point when Clift defies Wayne and takes away his ammunition. Wayne vows to come after Clift and kill him. The group moves on, minus Wayne, with Clift in charge. They find a wagon train being attacked by Indians, and Clift orders his men to leave the herd behind and help the besieged people. 

In the circle of wagons, shooting at the Indians, Clift meets and is attracted to Joanne Dru. He tells her the whole story. 

Under the threat of heavy rains, Clift decides to take the herd across the river immediately. Eight days later, Wayne arrives at the wagon train and tells Dru he plans to kill Clift. He says Clift was like a son, but betrayed him.

Clift continues to drive toward Abilene, and they spot a train heading for Abilene (the railroad is there, as they were told), and they ride into town in triumph. A local trader offers to buy all the cattle and guarantees Clift a good price.

The trader makes out the check for the cattle to Wayne (at Clift's direction). When Clift returns to his hotel room, he finds Dru there. She tells him Wayne will be in town just after sunup and intends to kill him. 

Clift's men are worried, knowing Clift won't use his gun on Wayne. When the big confrontation comes, Wayne tries to get Clift to draw, but Clift refuses, and they end up fighting hand to hand. 

We hear gunfire. Dru has a gun, and is shooting to get their attention. She rants at both men that they're crazy, it's clear they love each other. Both are so shocked at her passion they stop fighting. Wayne says, "You'd better marry that girl." Clift says, "Yes, I think I . . .when are you going to stop telling people what to do--" Wayne says, "Right now. At least as soon as I tell you one thing more. As soon as we get back to the ranch, I want you to change the brand. It'll be like this: the Red River D--we'll add an M to it. You don't mind that, do you--" Clift says, "No," and Wayne says, "You've earned it."

Rules of Eight story genres

We might sum up as follows the rules for Eight story genres such as westerns, war stories, action-adventure stories, and Mafia stories:

• The Eight protagonist is driven by a need to be dominant over others.

• The Eight protagonist must demonstrate an appetite for physical confrontation.

• The Eight is basically a loner, uncomfortable with close relationships. 

• The Eight's courage must be tested in the course of the story through situations that put him in extreme physical jeopardy. 

• The Eight protagonist never retreats from a fight with a strong opponent.

• The soft heart under the Eight's tough exterior must be revealed at some point during the story. 

• The goal or cause for which the Eight protagonist risks his life must be worthwhile; he must not become sidetracked in trivial conflicts.

• The Eight protagonist's personal passion and tendency to excess are restrained by his sense of justice and his good heart.

• The Eight never inflicts damage on those obviously weaker than himself.


The basic Five story genre is horror--a vast field in which all sorts of monsters and creatures lurk in the dark, spring up from murky waters and steamy swamps, are summoned from beyond the grave, or arrive from outer space. Examples include The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Last House on the Left, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Wolf Man.

Science fiction, another Five genre, deals with imaginary journeys, imaginary worlds and societies presented in rational scientific terms. Examples include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fantastic Voyage , War of the Worlds, Planet of the Apes, and Blade Runner.

Sci-fi/horror is a common combination of Five genres, exemplified by Alien, Godzilla, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly, , and The Terminator.

Five genres also include such black comedies as Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange


The sci fi/horror film Alien--like most science fiction stories--takes place sometime in the future. The commercial towing vehicle Nostromo with a crew of seven and a cargo of metal ore is returning to earth when it picks up a signal of unknown origin that suggests intelligent life. The crew is directed to investigate, and the team sent out to explore the unknown terrain transmits images of oddly-shaped forms to science officer Ian Holm (a Five) back on the mother ship. Sigourney Weaver (another Five), also back on the ship, says she has deciphered some information on the transmission that looks like a warning. She wants to go out after the team, but Holm says no. A weird life form with tentacles attacks John Hurt, one of the exploration team. They bring him back to the mother ship, and Weaver doesn't want to open the hatch because of quarantine procedures, but Holm opens it anyway. When Holm and Tom Skerritt, the crew's commander, cut into the creature, it releases a "molecular acid" that eats through the vehicle's hull.

The creature has now disappeared from Hurt's face, and they can find no sign of it in the room. It suddenly comes down from above onto Weaver's head, and she fights it off. They think it's dead. Weaver wants to jettison the thing, but Skerritt leaves the decision to science officer Holm, who vetoes Weaver's idea.

Hurt wakes up, hungry and seemingly normal, and they all settle down to their meal. In the midst of it, Hurt begins choking, has a seizure, and something explodes from inside his abdomen: a snake-like creature with teeth. One of the crew wants to kill it, but Holm says, "Don't touch it."

It gets away, and is somewhere on the ship. Two teams are sent to search for it. The alien, now huge, kills Skerritt, which puts Weaver in charge. She says they need to continue Skerritt's plan, go after the alien in pairs, corner it, get it into an airlock and blow it into space. 

When Weaver checks the computer (now as commander), she finds a directive to return the organism for analysis, the crew's lives being expendable. It's evident that she is reluctant to follow this order. Holm suddenly attacks her, and it turns out that he is a robot, assigned to his position as science officer so that he will follow orders to gather scientific data with no qualms about putting the crew in danger. He is pulled off Weaver by two crew members, and after his head is separated from his body they plug directly into the robot's brain to find out if he knows how to kill the alien. He says it's the perfect organism, there's no way to kill it. 

By now, four of the crew are dead, and Weaver decides to blow up the ship and attempt to escape in the shuttle with the two other surviving crew members. But as they make preparations to leave, the alien attacks the two crew people, and Weaver finds them dead. She runs away, sets in motion the system to destroy the ship, tries to get into the shuttle but finds her exit blocked by the alien. She tries to turn off the self-destruct mechanism but is unable to do it.

She makes her way into the shuttle just in time, and the main ship self-destructs, sending huge shock waves through the shuttle. But the alien has found its way into the shuttle too. Weaver gets into a space suit, presses some buttons, hears the alien screaming, blows it out of the ship. Systematically, coolly, she prepares her final report: the cargo and ship are destroyed, the crew is dead; she expects to reach "the frontier" in six weeks. Then she goes into her "pod" to hibernate for that period, and we see her sleeping.

Rules of Five story genres

We might sum up as follows the unwritten rules of Five story genres such as horror, science fiction, sci-fi/horror and black comedy:

• The Five protagonist uses her mental faculties to cope with an irrational and threatening world.

• The Five protagonist is intelligent, observant, and unemotional.

• The Five protagonist is brilliant at solving scientific problems.

• The Five protagonist keeps a cool head when others are hysterical.

• The Five protagonist mistrusts emotions and is basically a loner.

• Through her brainpower the Five destroys or controls the irrational force or being that is threatening everyone.

• The Five does not seek leadership but can be decisive and commanding when forced by circumstances to take over the role.

• Five stories are basically survival stories; the Five protagonist survives through her intelligence and coolheadedness.


The basic Seven genre is the adventure story. This Seven genre is distinct from the Eight action-adventure genre because Seven stories emphasize the enjoyable and exciting aspect of physical challenge. Examples of the Seven adventure story include the James Bond films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (and most other "buddy movies"), Peter Pan, Tom Jones, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

The sci-fi/adventure composite, which is also a Seven genre, includes such films as Star Wars, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Cocoon, and Back to the Future

Travel stories such as Around the World in 80 Days and Gulliver's Travels also belong in the Seven category. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark

In the classic adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark, the year is 1936. Harrison Ford, a Seven archeologist in search of ancient artifacts, relishes danger and adventure. At the beginning of the film we see one of his escapades in a South American jungle, in which a valuable pre-Columbian statue is stolen from him by a treacherous French archeologist and Ford narrowly escapes with his life.

Back at the university where Ford teaches, a group of government men come to see him, tell him Hitler has a team of archeologists searching around Cairo. Ford deduces they're searching for the original lost Ark of the Covenant with the stone tablets Moses brought down from the mountain. The city where the Ark was kept has been reclaimed by the desert, and no one knows exactly where it is.

The Nazis want the Ark because "the army that carries the Ark before it is invincible." The government men ask Ford to search for the Ark, and he is delighted. 

Ford, on his way to Cairo, stops in Nepal to see Karen Allen, whose father was his old professor. In order to find the Ark Ford needs one of the pieces her late father collected. He offers her money to help him, and she tells him to come back tomorrow. After he goes, she takes from around her neck the medallion Ford is looking for.

The Germans also want the medallion, and they first try to bribe her and then threaten her. After a struggle, Ford comes to her rescue, the two escape, and she announces she will be Ford's partner on his quest for the Ark. 

They fly to Cairo, where they learn from Jonathan Rys-Davies, an expert on archeological digs, that the Germans are near to discovering the repository of the Ark.

Ford and Allen fight off various attacks by Germans who are allied with the evil French archeologist who is Ford's old nemesis. Allen is riding in a truck that explodes, and Ford assumes she's dead. Rhys-Davies tells Ford the French archeologist's group has a copy of the medallion but with writing on only one side. So the Germans are digging in the wrong place.

Ford and Rhys-Davies dress as Arabs and go to the German dig.

In a tent, Ford finds Allen tied up. She is alive, after all, but Ford decides to leave her tied up rather than expose his presence to the Germans.

Using the medallion and surveying tools, Ford pinpoints the spot where they need to dig. He hires a crew, unearths a subterranean room whose floor is crawling with poisonous snakes (the one thing he is terrified of). 

The evil French archeologist is now with Allen, trying to get information that will help the Germans.

Meanwhile, Ford is being let down into the snake pit on a rope. He pumps gasoline onto the snakes, lights a fire that gives him and Rhys-Davies a corridor in which to move. They find the Ark, crate it, get their workers to lift it up.

The French archeologist sees Ford's dig, and he and the Germans capture Rhys-Davies and the Ark and throw Allen down into the pit with Ford. Ford uses his whip to climb the wall. He topples a big idol, and they climb up on the debris. They push out a stone block, find their way out. They see a German plane ready to take off with the Ark.

At this point Ford and Allen are involved in several fight sequences: in the plane, in a truck, and on a ship, all of which are being used to transport the Ark.

In the climactic sequence, Ford and Allen are tied to a post within viewing distance of the place where the Germans are planning to open the Ark. When they do open it, all it contains is sand. But a radioactive glow comes from within, and sparks are being emitted.

Ford tells Allen to shut her eyes--not to look. Spirits emerge, turn menacing, and all the bad guys are consumed by fire. When the conflagration is over, Ford and Allen are alive, their bonds loosened. The Ark is sitting where it was, and all the Germans have disappeared.

Back in Washington, the government men tell Ford they've got the Ark, that it's safe and "top men" are working on it. We see the Ark being wheeled into a storage facility containing thousands of crates--where it is sure to be lost.

Rules of Seven story genres

We might sum up as follows the unwritten rules for Seven story genres such as adventure, sci-fi/adventure, and travel stories:

• The Seven protagonist is driven by an appetite for adventure which insures that his life remains constantly challenging and exciting.

• The Seven protagonist is reckless, imaginative, bold, and charming.

• The Seven protagonist takes pride in his "bad boy" (or "bad girl") image. 

• The Seven protagonist is generally a highly intelligent bon vivant who enjoys good food, good drink, good companionship and numerous lovers.

• The Seven's tendency toward self-indulgence limits his capacity for commitment to either a person or a principle.

• To the Seven protagonist motion equals progress and danger equals fun/excitement. 

• The Seven protagonist's recklessness never leads to death, maiming, or even serious injury. 

• The Seven story moves episodically from one adventure to the next with little change in the protagonist's character over the course of the story. Seven genres generally lack a distinct character arc.

Aspects of genre stories

Many stories feature combinations of genres, and the combinations are frequently along the interior lines of the Enneagram diagram. For example, the sci-fi action adventure (which combines Five, Eight and Seven elements) is a common combination in many contemporary films. 

Another way genres are combined is through a main plot set in one genre (for example, a detective story) and a subplot set in another genre (for example, a love story). We see this One-Four combination, for example, in the films Witness and Chinatown.

Great stories transcend genre, just as the healthiest individuals seem to move beyond the limitations of their Enneagram fixation. 

The tragedies of Shakespeare, for example, feature heroes of many Enneagram types: Hamlet is a Six, Othello an Eight, Lear a Two, Macbeth a Nine, Romeo a Four. In each of these plays we can observe a character "arc" that moves along the stress and security lines of the protagonist's type.

Comedy and genre

Like tragedy, comedies may involve a protagonist of any type, and we see different varieties of comedy related to each type. For example, Two comedy is related to romance, while Five "black" comedy has a strong connection to horror.

The key to comedy that arises out of character--the most enduring and sophisticated form of comedy--is a shift from behavior characteristic of the character's Enneagram fixation to behavior characteristic of the stress point or security point. The basis of the humor is often the abruptness of the shift. 

For example, in a classic television commercial for "Dreyer's Ice Cream" we see a "Miss Manners"-type One coaching a school girl in the correct way to eat ice cream. But Miss Manners becomes so excited about this particular ice cream that she forgets her responsibility as role-model, moves to her Seven security point and plunges her face into the ice cream carton. After her gluttonous orgy, she lifts her head from the carton and we see that her face is covered with ice cream. Snapping back to her One mode, she delicately dabs at her lips with a handkerchief. This entire "trap door"-One episode takes place in thirty seconds.

One can observe similar rapid shifts from home type to stress or security point in comedies related to all Enneagram types.


The above article was published in the October and November 1998 issues of Enneagram Monthly. It is adapted from Judith Searle's forthcoming book Using the Enneagram to Create Characters: A Guide for Writers and Actors.