I’m sure all of you have heard of the Myers-Briggs test. Some of you may already be using this test to really figure out who your characters are. Others have probably heard of this but haven’t applied it to their writing.
I’m here to tell you that you should, especially if you’re having trouble getting to know your characters.
Writing issues that are actually all about how well you know your characters:
Problems with dialogue? You might not understand your characters - and thus know what their reaction would be - well enough.
Readers confusing your characters. Besides the obvious reader mistakes, your characters might all be too similar or generic.
Your plot is choppy. Those gaps between plot points should be filled in with your character’s reaction and action. You want your plot to happen to your character and your character to affect the plot.
Take a few minutes to sit in your character’s shoes and take the Myers-Briggs test. Some questions may be a little more difficult than others, but they’ll also help you get a better feel for your character.
The results will not only tell you how your character feels about idealism, perfectionism or logic, but it will also tell you the types of relationships or friendships they have, or even what career choices they would make.
Disclaimer: not all characters fit into just one category - you’ll hear a few of my examples that can fall into two, maybe three different personality types.
This post is intended as a guide for inspiration. Each type of character brings something different to the table, which mirrors reality. In listing these personality types, I hope to inspire some character building that could benefit your novel.
First off, for those of you new to the theory behind Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI), let me explain what each letter means.
The first letter indicates whether or not the individual is Introverted or Extraverted, the next is Sensing or iNtuitive, then Thinking or Feeling, and lastly, Judging or Perceiving. Combinations of these characteristics allow for the 16 commonly known personality types.
So here we go: 16 rapid-fire MBTI types.
ISTJ - The Detective
Introverted. Sensing. Thinking. Judging.
Very responsible, honorable and dutiful. ISTJs follow the rules to a T and can be quite stubborn. Fact checkers and researchers, they place great value on honesty and despise laziness in others. Making friends commonly comes slowly as ISTJs find it difficult to allow their emotions to show through.
Black Widow, Professor Snape, George Washington, Jason Bourne
ISFJ - The Guardian
Introverted. Sensing. Feeling. Judging.
Reliable, loyal and humble. ISFJs will always come to the aid of a friend and find it easy to empathize with others. They rarely agree to burden someone else with their problems and can gradually overwhelm themselves. Their shyness hinders their relationship-building but once past that barrier, ISFJs are in it for the long haul.
Wolverine, Samwise Gamgee, Dr. Watson, Will Turner
INFJ - The Advocate
Introverted. Intuitive. Feeling. Judging.
Rescuers, inspirational leaders, and perfectionists. INFJs are very goal oriented and consistently have a cause or movement to focus on. With the keen ability to solve the problems of those they care about, INFJs take action on their ideas. Able to read people well, they are on high alert for dishonest people and seek to understand the true motivations of those around them.
Captain America, Rose Bukater, Martin Luther King, Jon Snow
INTJ - The Tactician
Introverted. Intuitive. Thinking. Judging.
Knowledgeable, rational, and confident. Often seeing no point to gossip, INTJs prefer intellectual conversation and hold steadfast to the right answer above all else.They are not easily swayed from rational answers and rarely give in to forms of bribery. Their confidence can come across as arrogant and snobby, which means they don’t often have large groups of friends, but prefer a few stronger friendships instead.
Littlefinger, Gandalf the Grey, Friedrich Nietzsche, Katniss Everdeen
ISTP - The Engineer
Introverted. Sensing. Thinking. Perceiving.
Creative, under control and calm. ISTPs do well under stress, able to make decisions even when risk is involved. These people are constantly doing something with their hands and learning new trades, often teaching others along the way. Depending on what the situation calls for, ISTPs can balance steadiness with spontaneity.
Arya Stark, Lisbeth Salander, Steve Jobs, James Bond
ISFP - The Composer
Introverted. Sensing. Feeling. Perceiving.
Artistic, charming and competitive. Although introverted, ISFPs are often quite popular - their laid-back, spontaneous lifestyle draws in those looking for uncomplicated fun. They’re action takers, not wasting time with theory or debate. Their opinion on something can make them either charitable and selfless, or self-centered and manipulative.