Monday, April 29, 2013

MBTI #6: Sketching characters

The sixteen MBTI types fall into four groups of generally similar temperaments. When you have a vague sketch of a new character, these can help narrow down which type the character might be.

Intellectuals: the NTs
INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP. Kiersey's overview of the group.

Up side: NTs are idea- and logic-driven. Concepts, structure, and rationalizing come easy to them, and they apply their ideas practically to the world around them.

Down side: They can be socially inept, angsty, and arrogant. Often come across as chilly and indifferent. The more socially adept ones can be very manipulative of those around them. For women of this type, there's the extra challenge of being seen as a "cold-hearted bitch" because our culture expects women to be warm and nurturing.

Dreamers: the NFs
INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, ENFP. Kiersey's overview of the group.

Up side: The combination of Intuition and Feeling makes the NFs a sensitive and idealistic group. They want to communicate, understand, and empathize -- which can be difficult in an ugly world.

Down side: They can fall into their deep interior world of thoughts and feelings, and come across as spineless and out of touch. Men of this type can have an especially rough time, since our culture still frowns on men showing emotions, and they'll be told to "man up" and ignore their natural sensitivities.

Managers: the SJs
ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ESFJ, aka "the Guardians." Kiersey's overview of the group.

Up side: SJs are solid, reliable, ordinary folks. They get stuff done, they keep their promises, they don't rock the boat unless they feel they must.

Down side: They can be boring, boring, boring. At the extremes, they can be stiflingly straight-laced and dedicated to enforcing their brand of conformity on everyone.

Artisans: the SPs
ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ESFP. Kiersey's overview of the group.

Up side: In general, the four SP types are people who like to work with their hands, do things, create things. They're practical, but they seek new ideas and fun. Lots of fun.

Down side: SPs can become shallow show-offs and thrill-seekers, either annoying the heck out of people or  leaving a swath of broken hearts in their wake -- because all that matters is their own pleasure.

Fleshing out
Most character-generating systems start with the surface appearance and behaviors -- their favorite things, their personal experiences, and such -- and works their way into the character from the outside. Using MBTI takes you in the opposite direction.

We're starting with what makes the character tick, here, and once that's been established you can start working out how a character's MBTI shaped how he experienced his personal history -- what parts of those events shaped him more than others -- why his favorite things are his favorite things.

In fleshing out my characters, I bring world-building and story plot into play here, weighing what the character needs to be with what my creative gut is telling me will be interesting. I try not to "assign" characters an MBTI, especially not major characters, but I narrow it down to two or three most likely and feel my way from there. As the character becomes real, they'll tell me what they are.

MBTI is innate. It's influenced by one's upbringing and maturity level, and if one doesn't have a strong preference in more than one dichotomy, one can be difficult to type -- but in general, your type sticks.

Age and function mastery 
As stated earlier, a character's two dominant functions will be the easiest, most comfortable modes of being for him. They are also the functions that manifest at a young age. There's a fair amount of discussion about how children "figure out" what type they are, but in general it's thought that the dominant function has settled in by the time you get to your teenage years.

The secondary function develops over the teen years, which then determines which are the tertiary and inferior functions. Since those two don't come easily to a person, how well they will be developed depends on what effort is put into them -- or not.

Twenty-somethings and those who don't develop further can be stereotypes of their MBTI. NTs, the fumbling nerds. SPs, the party animals. NFs, the starry-eyed idealists. SJs, the goody two-shoes.

The other two functions develop "later in life" (most sources say) which is deliberately vague because there's an element of voluntary effort in there. But as a 41-year-old who has put in some effort, I think I can say I'm comfortable with my lesser functions as an INTJ, and that it happened over the course of my thirties.

Friday, April 26, 2013

MBTI #5: Judgers and Percievers

Judgers vs. Perceivers is the trickiest dichotomy, IMO, to explain. It could be argued that it has the least impact of the four letters. Generally, it's another directional pair, like Introvert vs. Extrovert, but it has to structure vs. spontenaiety.

Judgers are organized, efficient and get stuff done. Perceivers... well... stuff gets done eventually...

"You know you're a judger when..."
"You know you're a perceiver when..."

Judgers have an internal need for goals, deadlines, organization, are uncomfortable having something incomplete, and like to have decisions made rather than keep their options open. Sure, everyone likes to have a goal in mind, even perceivers, but judgers have a need to create structure.

Perceivers like unstructured environments, tend to be more disorganized, sit on ideas until they are sure they've reached the correct decision, and like keeping their options open, often feeling unsettled by the idea that they may have come to a conclusion too early.

Further thoughts
J/P indicates which of the top two functions is dominant, of the middle two letters. For example, for an INTJ it indicates the N is dominant. For an INTP, the T. Exactly why Intuition is a "judging" function and Thinking is a "perceiving" function -- it seems to me that should be the other way around -- I'm not entirely clear on. It seems to me that my Ni is exactly what keeps me from being an organized, goal-driven J. My Ni keeps me noodling around and it's my Te that keeps me focused.

But that is just my experience. I test as a Judger, but it's not a strong preference. This thread at PersonalityCafe talks about some J/P stereotypes vs. reality.

In the general population, Judgers (54%) are on fairly equal footing with Percievers (46%).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MBTI #4: Introverts and Extroverts

It's important to point out that Introvert vs. Extrovert has nothing to do with shyness, confidence, or social skills. Introvert/Extrovert, here, refers to what energizes a person. Extroverts can be shy. Introverts can be great at parties. Read on...

Introverts "recharge their batteries" by being alone. Extroverts "recharge" by being around other people.

"You know you're an introvert when..."
"You know you're an extrovert when..."

Introverted attitudes view the outer world in terms of the self's subjective ideal, so they attempt to make the outer world more like the inner self. Their focus is deeper but less expansive--they can see all the implications of one idea at a time.

Extroverted attitudes view the inner world in terms of the non-self's objective ideal, so they attempt to make the inner self more like the outer world. Their focus is broader but more shallow--they can see a wide range of different information at once, but in less detail.

At a glance, those might not seem like they're talking about the same thing as my "over-simplification" above, but it's the same inward/outward dichotomy.

Further thoughts
Everybody needs a certain amount of socializing. We all want companionship, attention, and love. Some people need a lot. For others, a little goes a long way.

Introverts can be confident, bold, they can get up on stage and perform, spend hours at a party talking to strangers -- but at some point, they need alone time to recuperate. To recharge.

Extroverts can be shy and private. They can work alone, even enjoy solitude, but at some point they need people time to recuperate and recharge.

This is a heavy influence on one's dominant function, which is why the I/E in the MBTI label tells you which direction the dominant function points. Looking at the definitions in the T/F and N/S posts, you can see that the "e" versions all focus on the outside world and the "i" versions are inward-focused.

Your secondary function is always pointed in the opposite direction. However introverted you are, you still need to interact with the outside world. However extroverted, you're still an individual and not a collective.

The general population is just about evenly split between Extroverts (49%) and Introverts (51%).

Monday, April 22, 2013

MBTI #3: Feelers and Thinkers

Today, a closer look at the second of the dichotomies in the MBTI types: feeler vs. thinker. These two control the third slot in a four-letter type. To continue using myself as an example, this is the T in my INTJ designation.

Thinkers apply impersonal logic and analysis. Feelers prioritize relationships and connections. Spock-types vs. the hippy-dippies, at the extremes.

"You know you're a thinker when..."
"You know you're a feeler when..."

These are short descriptions. Longer ones in the first post here below the first "-------" line.

Extroverted Thinking (Te): Segmenting; organizing for efficiency; systematizing; applying logic; structuring; checking for consequences; monitoring for standards or specifications being met; setting boundaries, guidelines, and parameters; deciding if something is working or not. Sorting out different colors and styles; thinking about the consequences.

Introverted Thinking (Ti): Analyzing; categorizing; evaluating according to principles and whether something fits the framework or model; figuring out the principles on which something works; checking for inconsistencies; clarifying definitions to get more precision. Analyzing your options using principles.

Extroverted Feeling (Fe): Connecting, considering others and the group, organizing to meet their needs and honor their values and feelings, maintaining societal, organizational, or group values, adjusting to and accommodating others, deciding if something is appropriate or acceptable to others. Considering what would be appropriate for the situation

Introverted Feeling (Fi): Valuing; considering importance and worth; reviewing for incongruity; evaluating something based on the truths on which it is based; clarifying values to achieve accord; deciding if something is of significance and worth standing up for.

Further thoughts 
Spocks vs. hippies -- this is a dichotomy that can easily turn contentious. Because of our cultural biases, it's easy to paint logical Thinkers as reasonable and connective Feelers as silly, but that's not accurate. Everyone uses reason; it's their priorities that vary. Both approaches are valuable.

T and F illustrate the priorities applied to the information that N/S brought in. T/F also gets into how a person interacts with the outside world, especially in the Extroverted versions of T and F.

Feeling-dominant people are very in tune with emotions and can seem to pull information from nowhere, to Thinkers who have trouble reading body language and other social cues. On the other hand, Thinkers are great at organizing and analyzing -- which Feelers can find cold and impersonal, but it does get stuff done.

In the general population, there's a closer parity between Thinkers (40%) and Feelers (60%) than in the S/N dichotomy.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

MBTI #2: Intuitives and Sensors

Today, a closer look at the first of the dichotomies in the MBTI types: intuitive vs. sensor. These two control the second slot in a four-letter type. To continue using myself as an example, this is the N in my INTJ designation. My main character in Disciple, Kate, tests as an ISTJ.

Sensors deal in collected data: things they see and feel, or memories of things they've seen and felt. Intuitors deal in abstractions: ideas from within, or seeing the conceptual connections between things around them.

"You know you're an intuitive when..."
"You know you're a sensor when..."

These are short descriptions. Longer ones in the first post here below the first "-------" line.

Extroverted Sensing (Se): Experiencing the immediate context; taking action in the physical world; noticing changes and opportunities for action; accumulating experiences; scanning for visible reactions and relevant data; recognizing what is relevant.

Introverted Sensing (Si): Reviewing past experiences, evoking what was, seeking detailed information and links to what is known, recalling stored impressions; accumulating data, recognizing the way things have always been. Connecting current experiences to past experiences and emotions.

Extroverted iNtuiting (Ne): Interpreting situations and relationships; picking up meanings and interconnections; being drawn to change what is and what could possibly be, noticing what is not said and threads of meaning emerging across multiple contexts.

Introverted iNtuiting (Ni): Foreseeing implications and likely effects without external data, conceptualizing new ways of seeing things, envisioning transformations, getting an image of profound meaning or far-reaching symbols.

Further thoughts
These two functions deal with "incoming information" for a person, both in what form that information takes (data or abstractions) and what direction it comes from (introverted or extroverted.)

Sensor-dominants come across as very "grounded" people, because they're completely in touch with reality, whereas intuitives are more distracted, dreamy, or cerebral. It's the intuitives who accidentally walk into doors because they were thinking about something. Sensors are the ones who sigh and shake their heads every time that happens.

In the general population, Sensors (73%) greatly outnumber Intuitives (27%).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MBTI #1: the basics

I wrote a brief intro to using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicatior (MBTI) in character development for my April blog tour. It's available at Sharon Bayliss' blog.

This series of posts will try to introduce the basics of Myers-Briggs functions and personality types, with an eye toward using them to develop characters for fiction. Bear in mind that while two people may be the same MBTI type, their upbringing, experiences, culture, etc., will make them express their type in different ways. Maybe they'll get along famously. Maybe they'll just get on each other's nerves.

What they will have in common is what sorts of information they gather most easily, what they prioritize, how they make decisions, and the easiest ways for them to interact with other people.

There are many tests available online, but I'm recommending this one.

Four basic functions
Myers-Briggs defines four basic functions human use to gather, process, and act on information. "Information" can be anything -- data, sensory input, emotions -- and "process" and "act on" can take many different forms as well.

Important point: everyone uses all of their functions. There are no "better" or "worse" functions. What separates the personality types is which functions come naturally, and which are difficult for an individual to work with.

The four functions are: thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition. Abbreviated as: T, F, S, N.

Two orientations
Functions can be Introverted (i) or Extroverted (e), which indicates whether the function looks inward to the self or outward toward other people and the world. Therefore, the four functions become eight: Ti, Te, Fi, Fe, Si, Se, Ni, Ne.

Each of these has a specific definition, which I will go into more detail about in later posts.

Arrays by preference
If everyone uses four functions in a specific order from most preferred (coming the most naturally to that person) to least (those functions that don't come easy) then there are sixteen personality types. Chart of all sixteen and their preferences.

There are four dichotomies in this system -- you're either an I or E, an N or S, an F or T, a J or P. Each of those is actually a continuum between the two extremes. For example, I test as a strong Introvert with very little Extroversion. It's entirely possible to be "borderline" in any of the dichotomies and not have a strong preference for one or the other.

Dominant, secondary, tertiary and inferior
One's dominant function is the one that comes easiest. You're very comfortable using that function, you trust it. It's rarely "wrong." The secondary function supports and reinforces the dominant -- it's also very comfortable and reliable, for you.

For example, as an INTJ (hi, I'm an INTJ) I am very comfortable with my Ni and Te -- working with the abstract ideas that well up inside and translating them into external reality.

The third and fourth functions in one's array -- the tertiary and inferior functions -- don't come so easy. You don't feel so sure about what they bring you, they can be confusing, and you need to work at mastering them.

For INTJs like me, that's my Fi and Se. Since I'm a bit older and I've put in the practice working with my two inferior functions (so that I can use them in writing stories) I am more comfortable with my roiling internal feelings (Fi) and the wealth of sensory details (Se) I can tap into. When I was younger, I was much more angsty and timid in situations full of sensory overload.

What about the other four? 
If there are four-times-two functions and each type is an array of four, what about the other four? Definitions vary, but IMO those missing four functions make up what's called the shadow. Some theories call those your "demons," especially the opposite of your most inferior function. The missing four functions do not come easy to a given personality type, but they can still be used.

As an INTJ, for me those four are Ne, Ti, Fe and Si. This is a good place to repeat: everyone uses all the functions. I have been known to glean things using Ne and Ti, though I have to work at it. I'm still not so good at Fe (tend to use my Se and Ni to approximate.) And I agree, my Si is very much my "demon." Wrestling with that is never a happy thing.

This will all make more sense when I explain the eight functions in more detail. I will also lay out some of the theories about the shadow when I talk about stress.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Indie Life, here on the frontier

Since I'm living the self-publishing life, I joined the once-a-month Indie Life group. It's held on the second Wednesday of the month (since the first belongs to Mr. Cavanaugh) and it's all about being an indie author.

So, for my first Indie Life post, my stats.
  • Self-published my first book, Disciple, Part I, in November, 2012.
  • Disciple, Part II, followed April 1, 2013.
  • Next up: Disciple, Part III. I haven't set a release date yet.

I want to put down a few thoughts about pricing. Initially, I was asking 4.99 for Disciple, Part I. A few got sold at that price.

Then Part I was featured in's December offering and I moved a heck of a lot more -- at about 75 cents apiece.

I dropped its price down to 1.99 for Valentine's day, then briefly to 99 cents for the Equinox sale and Tolkein Reading Day. Currently, Part I is 1.99 and it has sold a bit (since Part II was released, which may be why.)

Pricing a self-published book is an interesting thing. You've got one side of your brain arguing that a lower price will be more attractive to customers. Another side of your brain is hoping to get a paycheck at some point. Your dark side is arguing that nobody's going to want to pay money for this and you should just give it away -- maybe they'll pay for the next one.

I had a friend, in high school, who took the advice of a fellow artist and added a zero to the asking price of his watercolor paintings. My friend was just another young painter producing nice stuff and asking $20 or so for them. Bump that up to $200 and... people started paying more attention to his work.

99 cents, nowadays, is a risky price for a book -- any book, from what I've heard. It's a good sale price, for a limited time, but as a standard price it implies the book's not worth much. And while it can be argued that 99 cents makes it an impulse buy, I don't know if books follow the same rules as those cheap little trinkets clustered around a store's cash register. If a book's sample isn't up to my par, I'm not downloading it at any price.

On the other hand, major publishing houses can slap a $12 price tag on an ebook and what are you going to do about it?

What's a good book worth? Trick question: it's priceless. I've settled on 1.99 for Part I and 4.99 for Part II -- economical, but not cheap. What have your experiences with self-pricing been?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Index of blog tour posts, April 2013

During my last few blog tours, I've written guest posts about aspects of Disciple's world, a few character interviews, a bunch of interviews... some of the interviews were fairly good, I thought (like Kiefan's interview over at COP,) but I've always figured that the world-building posts were primarily for writers. If that.

In all the recent talk about blogging as a writer, I expected someone to mention the "ghetto" aspect. We're a niche, with our specialized interests and jargon. Readers don't have the same interests as writers, so why would they come in here looking for books? But writers are readers, people answer -- which is true. Maybe most writers recommend stuff they like to non-writer-friends, and it's just me that's too asocial for that.

But anyway. Here's an index of world-building and other writerly posts from my April, 2013 blog tour.  I will update it as I go.

Hair Symbolism
MBTI and character development (this is an intro-level post for that MBTI series I've been meaning to do.)
Pop culture vs. historical medieval culture
Inheritance in Wodenberg (similar to what's in the appendix of Disciple, Part II)
Pre-industrial first aid kid
Magic for the saints of war
3 tips for realistic dialogue
Butt In Chair
Deliberate structure choices

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blogging: a waste of time?

This question has been making its way around the writing blogosphere -- since Google announced it was shutting down Reader, it seems. I've also read about how RSS feeds are, apparently, a service that only we Gen-Xers who got online before the mid 90s care about. (shrugs) I still like my RSS feeds, thank you very much. I moved all of mine over to Feedly with a minimum of fuss and muss.

But the question of whether blogging is useful to writers is a valid one. I've been doing this since... huh, it's been two years now. Shows you how good I am at tracking anniversaries. Jody Hedlund wrote about her thoughts most recently, and she refers to both Jane Friedman's advice to new writers and L.L. Barkat's advice to experienced writers.

By "experienced" I assume they mean "published through traditional channels" (or trade published, or industrial, or whatever we're calling the big conglomerates now.) I am neither a new writer nor traditionally published, so here's a third POV.

In the two years I've been blogging, I've written over 280 posts. I've read hundreds more and commented when I had something to say. Memes, the A-to-Z Challenge, and Rach Writes' Platform-Building Crusade have all appeared here. Here's why I don't think it was wasted time.

Improved my discipline
One argument is that new writers should focus on their craft instead of on blogging. New writers should always focus on their craft -- I think that goes without saying -- but part of that craft is discipline. My butt-in-chair habit is one of the most powerful tools I have. Let me bold that and point neon arrows at it. Blogging contributed to my discipline. It never interfered with my creative writing, but I have more free time than most people do.

Established an identity
I started this blog with zero identity. Do you know what it's like to self-publish with zero identity? I've done it, back when I was involved in tabletop RPGs -- it's a soul-crushing disaster. I'm no big voice in the blogosphere, I know that, but my name is out there and there's a body of work attached to it. Over the two years I've blogged, I built that body up and made sure it was a reasonably accurate portrait of me. (Yes, I really am this boring. :D)

Met friends and crit partners
I started this blog with no writing friends, real or online, and no critique partners. If the value of those needs to be explained... I trust it doesn't.

But: the more I know, the less I have to say
I've heard the blogosphere called the "world's biggest writing convention" -- well, a disorganized, repetitive one, maybe. For new writers, there is value in reading the blogosphere's posts and in wrestling with their own writing challenges through blogging about them. After a while, the new writer is going to notice that a lot of it is the same advice, in slightly different form, over and over. There's nothing wrong with that, but new writers don't stay new.

I came into blogging late in my writing apprenticeship. Maybe I was already over my first million words mark, maybe I wasn't -- I don't know the word counts on the stuff I wrote in high school -- but I'm well into my second million now. One's perspective changes, with time and experience. And I've been finding that the more I know about writing, the less I have to say.

I just want to sit and stare at the unicorn, not try to publicly dissect it. On a related note, I may be moving to blogging once a week...

To wrap up: I think blogging has a value for the new and/or self-publishing author. There's a community here, and networking opportunities. Those can be difficult to find, especially for shy writers and those living in small towns. As one progresses in one's writing career, the usefulness of blogging may fade. Maybe it will shift into promotions for one's publications. Maybe one will move into a cave to devote oneself to The Art. But writing is never a waste of time, if you're striving to improve.

What has your experience been?

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