The Questioner is a generic title for several different character archetypes who take on the mantle of questioning – either as an investigation or to provide a moral reminder to other characters.
What do the defender, advocate, loyalist, loyal sceptic, devil’s advocate, debater, investigator, journalist, observer, detective, scientist, and even the Gemini zodiac archetype have in common?
Yes, that was a question, and yes, that was the answer.
They all work with a fundamental mentality to question.
The Questioner has a possible three roles within a story –
- To question and investigate something for themselves – either of the world or internally. These are the scientists, investigators, detectives and possibly heroes within a story.
- To question and remind another character of the rightness or wrongness or at least the repercussions of their actions, or to help them to make sense of their thoughts. These are the loyal sceptics or sidekick friends of a protagonist.
- As an antagonist.
- Consider the questioner historically – these were the inquisitionists who enforced – often by interrogation, death or torture – the morals and values of the times.
- Most people naturally don’t enjoy being questioned, so many questioners will be met with conflict, mistrust or negatively.
- The Questioner within some streams has become reviled, particularly if somebody is hogging somebody’s attention to show-off, to the detriment of a larger group. (See cartoon below).
Recognising the Questioner
- The questioner tries to remain objective at all times, even if they are a friend of another character and questioning or reminding them of something.
- The questioner explores further. They will not stop just with the first answer. In real life, questioners make good software testers (finding deep bugs), scientists, medical lab technicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, analysts or legal document and contract readers and risk mitigators.
- Questions will be reformed into more questions. The use of the word, “But…” may be an indication.
- Questioners have whirling minds, and may be afraid to speak their questions out loud for fear of being wrong. They will often be very indecisive, and require time to explore all the answers before deciding.
- Other characters who are hell-bent on taking action, may find the questioner annoying because of their slowness to action, need to question over and over, and then to think.
- A talent for humour and liking to stand up for causes is typical of Questioners. They’re good at sensing what will go over to an audience, they’re usually witty, and they’re loyal to people and causes they respect. Many questioners in real life take roles in the entertainment industry as talk show hosts.
Some Types of Questioners
Enneagram Personality Types – 5, 6 & 1
In the Enneagram Personality Type system there are three types of the nine who match some of the questioner traits.
Type 1’s are the Advocates, or reformers, often called perfectionists. These types of people can be highly rational and analytical which can be worked towards empowering and taking action to right some wrongs. Average 1s are driven by their “inner critic”, an inner set of standards that tends to be quite rigorous, and independent of what other people tell them.
TV Tropes says 1s are The Perfectionist, plain and simple. Their Basic Fear is to be corrupt. They have a little voice in the back of their heads which is constantly criticizing their behaviour; they use this to try and stay moral and ascend beyond the criticism of others.
Type 5’s are the Investigators, often referred to as the scientists or thinkers. These types of people can be socially withdrawn and prefer to work alone, on work which requires investigation, analysis and deep thinking. 5s are intensely interested in explaining the world and predicting what it will do next.
Type 6’s are the Loyalist, also called the sceptic, loyal sceptic , the security-seeker or the questioner. These types of people are engaging, staunchly loyal, but if burned by somebody else, will become very wary, anxious and suspicious. They can be very contradictory even in their own thoughts, both wanting to place their trust in others to keep them safe, but then questioning that trust to ensure it is well placed.
The ambivalent, reactive nature of the 6 often means they can oscillate between a wide range of behaviours, from compliance to aggression to withdrawal. TV Tropes say 6s are one of the more confusing types, being an uneasy compromise between a creature-comforts person and a devil’s advocate with an overactive Spider-Sense.
This can make them a worthy and undyingly loyal sidekick to a true hero, or a good questioning sceptic or devil’s advocate at least. On the antagonistic side, the loyal sceptic can become either very annoying, very flighty, or turned into a two-faced adversary.
Gretchen Rubin’s Questioner
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has 4 Categories of Personality, based on how each responds to internal or external rules –
Upholders respond to both inner and outer rules; Questioners question all rules, but can follow rules they endorse (effectively making all rules into inner rules); Rebels resist all rules; Obligers respond to outer rules but not to inner rules. To read more, go here.
These four also have different motivations, as explained by Rubin –
Upholders wake up and think, “What’s on the schedule and the to-do list for today?” They’re very motivated by execution, getting things accomplished. They really don’t like making mistakes, getting blamed, or failing to follow through (including doing so to themselves).
Questioners wake up and think, “What needs to get done today?” They’re very motivated by seeing good reasons for a particular course of action. They really don’t like spending time and effort on activities they don’t agree with.
Rebels wake up and think, “What do I want to do today?” They’re very motivated by a sense of freedom, of self-determination. (I used to think that Rebels were energizing by flouting rules, but I now I suspect that that’s a by-product of their desire to determine their own course of action. Though they do seem to enjoy flouting rules.) They really don’t like being told what to do.
Obligers wake up and think, “What must I do today?” They’re very motivated by accountability. They really don’t like being reprimanded or letting others down.
Note that in my opinion Rubin’s Rebel type is an outright rebel who breaks rules all the time, to remain free. I am currently characterising a rebel character who fits between Rubin’s rebel and questioner. For many, this would be an advocate.
Famous Questioners include Sigmund Freud, Woody Allen, Robert Kennedy, Erin Brockovich, Spike Lee, Don Rickles, Ellen de Generis, Richard Lewis, Lewis Black, and David Letterman.
Fictionally, Seinfeld’s George Costanza, and Lord of the Rings’ Frodo Baggins are both sidekick loyalists who question often. In Harry Potter Neville, Moody, Pettigrew, Dobby were all staunch loyalists, while Percy Weasley, Bellatrix, Sirius Black and sometimes Ron Weasley are examples of the loyalist with enthusiastic or the action-orientated traits of an adventure-seeker.
Obviously crime and detective fiction holds many examples of the questioner as investigator. But Sherlock Holmes is an interesting character who takes investigation and questioning to a whole higher level – Sherlock questions and investigates everything, as a knowledge-acquirement exercise, in case it is ever helpful in a crime investigation. And sidekick Watson is a good example of a loyalist friend who questions Sherlock’s moral and ethical codes to keep him honest.
Other Names, Associates and Origins
- Other names: devil’s advocate, debater, investigator, journalist, observer, detective, scientist, interrogator
- Associations: Enneagram Type 6: loyalist, loyal sceptic; Enneagram Type 1: advocate, defender, reformer; Enneagram Type 5: investigator, scientist; Zodiac Archetype – the Gemini or thinker
- Shadows: two-faced friend, corrupt investigator; the loyalist who becomes too much of an approval-seeker, obliger or Yes-Man; the enforcer as judge and jury.
Part of 2016’s Character Archetype Series (A-Z) @ Hunter is Writing.