How Myers-Briggs Personality Traits Can Help You Develop Your Characters

When I write a novel, I make my characters take a test. It’s the Myers-Briggs Personality test. It’s a series of questions that determine if you fall on this side or that side of four different continua.

  • Extroverted or Introverted – are you the life of the party or a wallflower?
  • Sensing or Intuition – can only see what is in front of you or can you plan ahead several steps?
  • Thinking or Feeling – are you ruled by your head or ruled by your heart?
  • Perceiving or Judging – which of these last two is your dominant quality?

Based on this assessment anyone can be in any one of a possible sixteen categories. Each of these sixteen categories has their own particular personality description. For example, I’m ESTJ, which means I’m Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging.

That is based upon how I answered the questions. But try it with your characters. Do your best to get in their head and think like they do, almost like a method actor (which is a handy trick to learn for many aspects of character development, such as writing dialogue). Make your characters take the test and determine their Myers-Brigg personality.

Or you can do it backwards by looking at the personality assessment and deciding which one you want to go with each character. Either way, the Myers-Briggs system can really help you create specific and unique characters.

You can find the test on many websites, as well as the breakdown of the sixteen personality grades. Here is an overly simplistic reduction just to give you some idea.

  • ISTJQuiet, serious, earn success by thoroughness and dependability.
  • ISFJ – Quiet, friendly, responsible, and conscientious.
  • INFJ – Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions.
  • INTJ – Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals.
  • ISTP – Tolerant and flexible, quiet observers until a problem appears, then act quickly to find workable solutions.
  • ISFP – Quiet, friendly, sensitive, and kind. Enjoy the present moment, what’s going on around them.
  • INFP – Idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them.
  • INTP – Seek to develop logical explanations for everything that interests them.
  • ESTP – Flexible and tolerant, they take a pragmatic approach focused on immediate results.
  • ESFP – Outgoing, friendly, and accepting. Exuberant lovers of life, people, and material comforts.
  • ENFP – Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative.
  • ENTP – Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken.
  • ESTJ – Practical, realistic, matter-of-fact.
  • ESFJ – Warmhearted, conscientious, and cooperative.
  • ENFJ – Warm, empathetic, responsive, and responsible.
  • ENTJ – Frank, decisive, assume leadership readily.

The Myers-Briggs may or may not be accurate. That’s not the point. It is a tool Creative Writers can use to specify the attitude and worldview of their characters and help them become real. The Author can use these assessments as either an anchor or a launching point to give the people in their stories consistency that sometimes may be lacking. Personally, I like the Myers-Briggs system because it is practical, realistic, and quite matter-of-fact – but that may be the ESTJ in me.

Do you know your personality type? Let me know in the Comment section below, or say whatever is on your mind.

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1 Comment

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One response to “How Myers-Briggs Personality Traits Can Help You Develop Your Characters

  1. I agree it could be a good way to create characters. I would add that people tend to be in tune with some emotions and ideas more than others. This can make for a lot of variation within a single type and can be used to give more depth to the characters.

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