Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Characters as Myers-Briggs types

So, I've put my characters in a complicated, emotionally challenging situation. I know exactly what I would do, if all of this happened to me. I'd find a cave and hide in it. Probably write a book while I'm in there.

Fortunately, my characters are not me and their responses are far more interesting than that. 

It's always a challenge to
bring characters into focus.
Photo by Holger Dieterich,

available at sxc.hu
I try to treat my characters as independent entities, even though they're inside my head and all contain elements of my personality. (I am legion, for I contain multitudes.) I try to predict how they will react in a situation, rather than tell them how they'll react. People are hard to understand, though, so naturally I go looking for real-people reactions to situations and use them to improve my predicting ability.

The Myers-Briggs personality types came up in two earlier blogs I wrote (first one, second one) and lately I've been using them some more to gauge my characters' responses.

Briefly, the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types group people by their internal workings -- the interplay of intuition, thinking, feeling and sensing, and how they interact with the outside world -- and describe them in four letters. It's not a perfect system. Nothing is. But it can be useful.

You can find free MBTI quizzes online, and you can find descriptions of each of the types in Wikipedia and elsewhere. Figuring out which type fits your character best is a challenging process in itself, and it's a good excuse to sit down and get to know him/her better.

Some descriptions geared toward workplace abilities, some toward romantic compatibilities. They all tend to use neutral language, though. They focus more on the positives than the negatives. And they're very much generalizations.

So I've been hanging out at the Personality Cafe, (they have free MB quizzes & descriptions there) where each MBTI has its own forum and chat about both MBTI issues and real-world situations. In reading through threads of particular types giving each other advice -- and trying to explain themselves to other types -- I picked up a lot of useful insight into what's important to my characters. Then I tried to translate those things into the context of the world they live in.

Because they're not like me. Which is good.

Bonus: A while back, The Character Therapist polled writers about their MB types and posted the intriguing results here.

4 comments:

Huntress said...

Thanks for the website suggestions. The brain is like every other body part, it needs exercise!

L. Blankenship said...

testing...

Francesca Zappia said...

Great post! This got me thinking a lot about my characters and what types they'd be--I took the test for them, and the evaluations of their results were so spot-on it hurt. this gave me a great idea for a blog post. ^_^

L. Blankenship said...

It always thrills me to be able to take a quiz for my characters and get it right :D

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