In my previous post, I suggested that the use of psychological typologies is a useful starting point for character creation or when you’re stuck in their development.
Today, we will have a closer look at the Myers-Briggs personality test (MBTI).
Personality tests are controversial to some people. Recently, I talked to a friend of mine about the MBTI. He questioned whether it is pseudoscience like horoscopes.
Or worse, like a Buzzfeed quiz about which Game of Thrones character you are.
(They are fun though, who are you? 😉 )
The MBTI is based on Carl Gustav Jung’s extensive research around what he called the ‘self’. His work suggests there are different parts of ourselves. The Self, representative of your inside world, and a persona we put on for the outside world. Test your Self and Persona here.
No one is going to match a personality type 100%. Results depend on mood, experiences and concentration. Instead, they give us an impression or a tendency.
In character development, personality types give us an overview of a character who starts out on his journey. Who will he be at the end of it? That depends on what you put him through and whether you want his weaknesses to become heightened or to turn into his strengths. Being aware of your characters’ flaws and strong points will make it easier to decide how they respond to various problems.
Problems like what?
Applied to fictional characters, tests like the MBTI can help us with a range of questions, such as:
How would a character approach a relationship problem? Would he openly talk about the issue with his significant other or dwell in silence until the small problem gets blown out of proportion?
How does your character act as a mom or dad? Does he play the good or bad cop when the little ones spread peanut butter all over mom’s new clothes?
Would the young woman in your story be able to manage a business, shoulder the responsibility with a charismatic smile, or would she buckle under the pressure?
Summary of Myers-Briggs personality types
Sourced from the 16 Personalities website.
INTJ – The Architect – strategy, planner, imaginative
INTP – The Logician – innovation, inventions, thirst for knowledge
ENTJ – The Commander – leadership, dominant, charisma
ENTP – The Debater – intellect, argumentative, rationality
INFJ – the Advocate – idealist, quiet, mystical
INFP – the Mediator – creativity, altruistic, secretive
ENFJ- the Protagonist- natural leaders, sensitive, reliable
ENFP- the Campaigner – communication, independent, popular
ISTJ – the Logistician – factual, effective, dutiful
ISFJ – the Defender – hard-working, perfectionism, emotional
ESTJ – the Executive – management, traditional, direct
ESFJ- the Consul – loyalty, caring, selfless
ISTP – the Virtuoso – energetic, practicality, stubborn
ISFP- the Adventurer- flexible, independent, passionate
ESTP- the Entrepreneur – energetic, original, perceptive
ESFP – the Entertainer – optimism, sensitive, dramatic
Examples of Types in Practice
ENTJ – Grumpy business owner
In one of my short stories, there is a business owner who could be identified as an ENTJ. He is ruthless and sickeningly confident to the point that he scares off everyone around him. His attitude problem lands him in troubled waters with his community. No one bothers to stand up for him. He is forced to either trust someone he doesn’t know or drown.
ISFJ – Soul of a community
In the same short story, there is a young community leader. Her innate need to protect the people of her hometown makes her go up against the grumpy business owner. While she teaches him to become more patient with other people, he reprimands her for taking on the burden of an entire community without regard for her own health. Their contrasting personalities actually help the other grow.
ISFP – Crazy auntie
This character type is one of my favourites to write. My crazy auntie character excels in life by pushing the social boundaries and embracing her status as a free-spirit who drinks too much wine during boring family dinners. Her open-mindedness and ability to make everyone feel welcome is a basis for a much-loved character. However, her over-reliance on herself and hatred of everything ‘conventional’ causes her to keep serious health issues a secret.
You have the basis of your character. What now?
Now comes the point where I tell you these personality types are archetypes, not real people. No one is 100% ISFP or 100% platinum blonde (congrats if you are!).
Traumatic events or challenges will force characters to face their core values and re-establish their personalities. Villains and antagonists will shatter the protagonist’s world view.
Your character may start out as a controlling ENTJ but, over time, and through many obstacles, he might learn that his focus on himself is hindering him from making true human connections. He will have to learn to trust people and respect their feelings. To make your characters progress, they will have to confront their weaknesses and deepest, gut-wrenching fears.
It takes time to create the perfect concoction of personality types, quirks and magic to make your character a three-dimensional person on the page.
If you have a soft-spoken, timid INFJ who is faced by a big, bad monster, she will need to step up to protect those around her. She might take on leadership qualities that have been dormant inside of her but never dared tap into.
Give your readers the chance to follow her journey of self-discovery so they, too, can evolve and grow in their own lives.