5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for Characters

5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for Characters

5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for CharactersI must now put my foot in my mouth. Once upon a time, I rather publicly said a big fat “NO” to the idea of personality-typing, particularly when it came to using Myers-Briggs for characters.

Some of you may even remember this gem from my book Outlining Your Novel:

In general, I’m not a fan of using personality tests (such as the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) to flesh out characters. Trying to force a character to fit a personality framework, rather than allowing him to evolve organically, can leave you with a cardboard cutout, instead of a unique and compelling character.

The irony today is that I have two great passions: writing and . . . Myers-Briggs.

Some of you are now cheering wildly, since you share these intermingled passions. Others of you are crinkling your noses and going: “Huh?” And still others might be ready to hang up the phone, insisting Myers-Briggs is a pseudo-science, little better than zodiac descriptions.

So . . .

What Is Myers-Briggs and How Can It Help You Write Better?

In its simplest iteration, Myers-Briggs is a system of sixteen personality types, based on formative analytical psychologist Carl Jung’s idea of cognitive functions. The system assigns each personality type a label of four letters based on eight possible choices (which I was very excited to get to include in our new Outlining Your Novel Workbook software).

Myers-Briggs Character Personalities Outlining Your Novel Workbook software

Introvert (I) or Extrovert (E)

Sensor (S) or Intuitive (N)

Feeler (F) or Thinker (T)

Judger (J) or Perceiver (P)

From these choices, a “type” emerges (for example, my type is INTJ). Each of the resultant sixteen types can be given a general label or personality description which is basically true. Take any MBTI test online (even the one on the official MBTI site), and that’s what you’re likely to get.

That’s all fun and good, but if that’s as far as you’re taking the possibilities of Myers-Briggs for characters, then it really is kinda like the zodiac. Hence, my initial rejection of the system’s usefulness for typing my characters

But Myers-Briggs is so much more than just descriptions of sixteen different “types” of people. The true beauty of Myers-Briggs arises from its analysis of the cognitive functions–Sensing, Intuition, Feeling, and Thinking—which can then be expanded yet again into introverted and extroverted versions of each function.

For example—and not to totally blow your minds or anything—but all types include both introverted and extroverted functions, as well as judging and perceiving functions. The Introvert/Extrovert and Judging/Perceiving labels merely exist to tell us which functions a specific type extroverts (for example, as Judgers, INTJs like me extrovert our Judging function of Thinking) and which function is dominant (for example, as Introverts, INTJs like me lead with our dominant introverted function of Intuition).

If you’re new to these ideas, then your eyes are probably crossing right now, and that’s okay, because a full-on discussion of cognitive functions is far beyond the scope of this blog. Indeed, it took me several years to really get my head around the underlying psychology.

Suffice it that Myers-Briggs is far more than the simple fill-in-the-blanks personality quiz I initially assumed when I wrote that misguided passage in Outlining Your Novel. If you’re interested in learning more about Myers-Briggs for characters, I recommend:

1. This amazing Tumblr account, which types popular characters and offers insightful discussions on the functions.

2. The book Was That Really Me? by Naomi Quenk, which specifically addresses our weaker functions (i.e., the ones not visible in your type’s name, which, for me, as an INTJ, would be Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Sensing).

3. Play very carefully with online Myers-Briggs tests. They’re a good place to start to help you figure out the basics, but they’re only accurate perhaps 50% of the time. Most of them do not take into account the introverted/extroverted cognitive functions and often skew results toward Intuitives over Sensors.

5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for Characters

Interestingly, Myers-Briggs was created by author Katherine Cook Briggs, who was searching for a way to better explore and understand her characters. Writing good fiction must always arise out of a quest for meaning and understanding in life. We cannot write comprehensive and complex people until we first are able to recognize and understand the complexities we find in ourselves and those around us. Indeed, the key to writing great characters is psychology itself.

Here are five ways I now use my understanding of Myers-Briggs for characters that are bigger, better, and more realistic.

1. Keeping Characters in Character

Perhaps the most obvious advantage of any personality-typing system—but especially one as intricate as Myers-Briggs—is that it gives us a basis against which to test our characters’ consistency. An understanding of the personality types, and especially the cognitive functions, will give you a litmus test for your character’s actions.

What would someone like this do in a situation like this? How will his brain work to provide him options and solutions? It’s not just about saying “oh, yes, this personality type would be impulsive, while this type would be more calculated.” It’s about understanding the actual thought patterns that create these visible actions.

2. Creating a Variety of Personalities

My entry point into using Myers-Briggs for characters was a curiosity about whether my characters might all share the same personality (please, no), or perhaps even whether they might all share my personality. So I started doing basic typings on all my characters, just to see what I’d find.

I did find some patterns (I tend to favor SP characters, and I hardly ever write characters of my own type), but what was most fascinating was the realization that I was instinctively creating varied casts. Now that I consciously understand what I’m doing, I’m able to use Myers-Briggs to help me write even more diverse personalities, which in turn creates more colorful and complex story possibilities.

3. Creating Inter-Personality Conflict

Once you’ve peopled your story with a cast of varied personality types, you can then take advantage of the inherent conflict that arises between types who share no or few cognitive functions—and who therefore often struggle to understand one another’s motives and choices.

This is a fabulous way to create interpersonal conflict even between characters who are allies. In fact, this is one of the reasons Marvel’s The Avengers and Civil War ended up working so well.

Tony Stark (ESFP) and Steve Rogers (ISFJ) share zero cognitive functions and consistently clash with each other’s values and methods as a result. Even better, it sets up their stories with the ability to explore more personal issues of relationships and contrasting character arcs—born not arbitrarily, but of consistently realized personalities.

captain-america-civil-war-robert-downey-jr-chris-evans

4. Brainstorming Character Motives and Actions

Ever get yourself and your character stuck in a plot corner, in which you’re uncertain how your character will get himself out? You can use an understanding of the cognitive functions to figure out how your character’s brain works. And, unless he’s the same type as you, his brain probably wouldn’t come up with the same first option as you would.

For example, in writing my ISTP protagonist in my historical-superhero work-in-progress Wayfarer, I repeatedly returned to his dominant functions (Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Sensing) to help me determine his actions and mindset, as well as the way in which he interacted with characters around him. This was particularly useful when playing him against the main relationship character, a nine-year-old girl, who was an ENTJ (whose dominant functions are Extroverted Thinking and Introverted Intuition).

Their contrasting views of life (the protagonist’s ability to live and react in the moment; the girl’s skills for thinking about long-term consequences) not only created fun opportunities for some of that interpersonal conflict, it also allowed their skill sets to nicely complement each other’s.

5. Learning More About Your Characters

Our characters provide neverending depths for us to explore. Just as with any complex human being, there is always more to discover about them. Myers-Briggs can provide a framework for helping us dig ever deeper.

Dreamlander NIEA Finalist

Currently, I’m working on the sequel to my portal fantasy Dreamlander. I’ve already written an entire book about these characters, so I know them very well. And yet, I’m still discovering new things. In considering how best to keep the characters consistent with their cognitive functions, I’ve opened up new areas of understanding and possibility.

For example, just yesterday as I worked on a scene in the POV of my female lead Allara (one of my few INTJ characters), my growing understanding of my own Introverted Intuition led me to a deeper and more realized understanding of how her brain must work and how this would have influenced her entire backstory—and thus her future story as well. The new possibilities for making this character better, more realistic, and more thematically potent are incredibly exciting. And I would never have found them without the insights Myers-Briggs has provided me into my own life.

***

Myers-Briggs offers a theoretical framework through which we can interpret our own lives and the world around us. Seeking a greater understanding of life is worthwhile whether you want to use it in your writing or not. Be warned, it is a deep rabbit hole, every bit as complex as (more than?) story theory itself. But the deeper you delve into both personality-typing and story theory, the more insight they’re able to bring to one another.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! How would you describe your protagonist’s personality? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. This was a great post! I’ve used Myers-Briggs for a while to type my characters and found it really useful for understanding what their motivations and reactions might be. I’m an INFJ myself, but my most recent project featured an ISTJ time-traveler taking on an ENFP apprentice. I got a lot of conflict over their clashing personalities, which was great and resulted in character growth for both of them.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      ISTJ/ENFP is a fun match. They have some functions in common, but are so different.

  2. Joe Long says:

    I recall you discussing this a year or two ago and that was my introduction to Briggs-Meyers. I took an online test that said I was INTP and when I read the description said, “Well, I could have told you that!”

    I haven’t used it extensively in the story except for my two romantically linked leads. The MC is semi-autobiographical, so he’s also an INTP. I confess, it was easier to write about myself in a fictional setting. I then wanted to make sure his love interest was of a type that would be a good match for an INTP (I’ve read that an INTJ can be a good friend, but if they get too close they might drive each other crazy.)

    Then I was ready to work on your points 1 and 3. Letting them interact and keeping a personality type I wasn’t as familiar with consistent in the emotions and actions. Intuitively I could come up with a general description of the various characters, but knowing their personality type would allow me to flesh out details that don’t contradict.

    I forget at this moment what her exact type was, but my biggest take-away was that she’d be a pleaser. I wanted my character to be insecure – afraid of losing her relationship, but that gave it something extra. She’s afraid she’s not doing enough to make him happy and someone else might come along without all her baggage. Right now I’m outlining the details of the climax and this piece reminded me to note that he needs to tell her that he loved her for more than simply how happy she was able to make him.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      My brother is an INTP. As an INTJ, I share much in common with him, but it’s often like looking in the mirror–we’re *so* similar and yet completely opposite.

      • I am an INFP. The ex was an INFJ, or so I have decided. It was like meeting a member of my species for the first time. But wait! Her timetables… It felt like she wanted to go ‘a decade twice over a day’ in progress. Very different, indeed.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Yep, it’s like looking into a funhouse mirror! On the other hand, my other brother is an INFP, and he and I understand each other surprisingly well. We share Te/Fi (though not in the same order), which gives us enough common ground to really make the most of our differences.

      • Joe Long says:

        To clarify, after find the love interest’s type, the thing I picked up about her personality that I need to remember when writing her is that her first instinct is to blame herself.

        For example – she catches him looking at another girl and her first comment is, “Am I that ugly?” Later, when he apologizes for all the stuff she’s endured because of him, she says “I wasn’t ready. I need to be a fifteen year old.”

        I think it’s a bad trait, but that’s what I picked for her and I torture all my characters.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Yes! MBTI is fabulous for helping us find our characters’ very specific and realistic weaknesses.

  3. Aha! You’ve come to the light. lol

    I’m on an online writer’s forum and about half the people on there are /obsessed/ with mbti, and the others at least use it.

    I like to know the types of all my main characters and read their general descriptions and I’ve used myers-briggs once or twice to help me figure out a character that was totally all over the place and poorly characterized.

    Reading this article though, I think you’ve inspired me to study the cognitive functions for my characters more. I can certainly see how that would help you get inside their head.

    One fun story, because I’m crazy and can’t get over it, but I had this villainous character who was out to see the downfall of my MC. He was super twisted and kinda creepy. Basically, he was the exact opposite of every ENFJ stereotype out there. But, of course, that’s exactly what he was. As an ENFJ myself, one day it hit me that his and my brains work exactly the same. I never would have guessed he was an ENFJ from the outside, but it was his mind that counted.

    By the way, I’ve heard that the villain of your upcoming book is an ENFJ. Can I just say I’m super excited? I’ve been dying for more villains of my type. Like, why not people? The very fact that it goes against our mold will just make us all the more complex in that role.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Well, let’s just say that *I* view Wayfarer‘s villain as an INTJ.

      But, hey, Loki’s an ENFJ. 😀

      • Oh, well, I guess INTJs can be villains too. *shrug* 😉 I’ll have to examine him closely when I get a chance to meet him.

        Oh, Loki’s an ENFJ? I guess that makes sense. Heh. Well, he’s a pretty decent villain, so I’m happy.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          ENFJs actually made awesome bad guys. They’re really good an manipulating emotions, being self-righteous, and falling into dangerous messianic complexes. 😉

        • *pokes her head up cautiously* As I stand on your turf I must defer to you, O sage INTJ of villainous repute. *whispers* But I still think he’s an ENFJ. Shshshssshhhh, don’t tell anyone.

          XD

          Great post, Katie. I’m getting the book you recommended and I’m really looking forward to it. Especially as I have this one character who it took me forever to figure out, and when I did, I thought he must be bipolar or something because there were two extremely distinct sides of his personality, but now I’m wondering whether that’s simply the flip side of the cognitive functions coming out more strongly than usual.

  4. I got into MBTI for writing… but now it’s a separate interest, mostly because I have a hard time typing my own characters. That being said, my main characters are generally NJs, since I’m an INFJ.

    Are you familiar with Hamilton? Aaron Burr and Hamilton are an excellent example of interpersonality conflict- Burr is the ‘wait for it’ INTJ and Hamilton is the ‘nonstop’ ENFP. You have Ni/Ne conflict, and Fi stubbornness in both.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      It *is* hard to type our own characters. I often question whether a writer with specific cognitive functions is *truly* able to write a character with differing functions.

  5. Yes! I got quite excited when I saw the title of this post, since, as a psych nerd, I’m also slightly obsessed with Myers-Briggs. I’m an INFP, and I love trying to guess what types my friends and family are.

    In regards to writing, so far I’ve only typed three characters in my WIP: the MC is an INTJ (pretty close to the stereotypes, too), her love interest is an ENFP (I love exploring how their different thinking patterns work in the relationship) and another character is an ENTP.

    Added to today’s to-do list: take an online test as the MC’s sister 🙂

  6. Interesting to see your evolving attitude towards MBTI, Katey!

    For those still unclear, the Myers-Briggs personality tests don’t actually test your cognitive functions. They test your opinion about your cognitive functions. It takes a lot of self-awareness to get your opinion on your cognitive functions right. Lots of sensing-dominants for instance would love to think their intuition is strong. Doesn’t mean it is true. They do have it, but seem to only use it to project their fears.

    The cognitive functions have a preference hierarchy that don’t change within a person. Just because a test gives you a different result does not mean you are a different personality type. That just means your opinion about your preferences has changed, or one of those times you took the test your opinion was not considering the difference between stressed and unstressed uses of the functions. We use all cognitive functions — it’s just that half of them are subconscious and we use them under stress conditions. If you are stressed and take the test, you probably will get a different result. It does not mean you’ve changed personalities.

    No one is “on the border” between two personality types. That’s impossible. Similar sounding labels like INFP and INFJ types have completely opposite cognitive functions. The orientation of the functions are important. The ambiguity you see in the test is due to the lack of distinguishing between stressed-induced behavior and normal preferences.

    And of course, characters in stories are typically under stress, so their instinctual reactions will resemble their lower cognitive functions.

    We can use these interactions between types in interesting ways.

    I borrowed a few interaction style labels from Socionics (which is the Russian version of MBTI), but created some of my own to make it clear to myself how these types interact in stories due to their cognitive functions:

    The Shadow pairs are two personality types with opposite and inverted functions. For instance, an INFJ and ISTJ. The INFJ is Ni/Fe/Ti/Se/Ne/Fi/Te/Si while the ISTJ is Si/Te/Fi/Ne/Se/Ti/Fe/Ni. These types are each other’s Shadows, always clashing, bringing out the worst in each other, and have a terrible time communicating.

    The Mirror pairs are personality types with functions flipped from introverted to extroverted and vice versa, but not inverted like a Shadow pair. ENFP and INFJ would be Mirrors. ENFP is Ne/Fi/Te/Si/Ni/Fe/Ti/Se. Mirrors have a fascination with the mystery of each other, but can easily feel disconnected too.

    The Twin pairs have all the same functions but shifted in order slightly. Their MBTI type labels only differ in the first letter, so ENFJs and INFJs are Twins. ENFJs are Fe/Ni/Se/Ti/Fi/Ne/Si/Te. 1st and 2nd functions switch order. 3rd and 4th switch order. 5th and 6th switch order. etc.

    The Illusion pairs have their perception functions mirrored, but their judging functions twinned. For the INFJ, the Illusion type is ENTP, who is Ne/Ti/Fe/Si/Ni/Te/Fi/Se. Illusion type pairing are frequently involved in mutual infatuations.

    The Spirit pairs have their judging functions mirrored, but their perception functions twinned. For the INFJ, the Spirit type is ESFP, who is Se/Fi/Te/Ni/Si/Fe/Ti/Ne. A Spirit type is a best friend and cheerleader who no matter how much you fight you just can’t stay mad at them.

    One type’s Spirit will be the Shadow to their Illusion.

    The Dual pairs have the same conscious functions but inverted in order (while subconscious functions also inverted). They can work well together when they can get over their communication barrier. A Dual type for the INFJ is an ESTP, who have preferences of Se/Ti/Fe/Ni/Si/Te/Fi/Ne.

    One type’s Dual will be the Shadow to their Mirror.

    The Doppelganger pairs have shadowed perception functions (opposite and inverted order) and identical judging functions. An INFJ is in a Doppelganger relationship to ISFJs, who have Si/Fe/Ti/Ne/Se/Fi/Te/Ni preferences.

    The Double pairs have identical perception functions and shadowed judging functions. INTJs and INFJs are Doubles. INTJs are Ni/Te/Fi/Se/Ne/Ti/Fe/Si.

    One type’s Double will be the Shadow to their Doppelganger.

    For the other relationships between the remaining types, we have to relate them through comparing them to the reference type’s Twin.

    An INFJ has a Twin of ENFJ. The Mirror of the ENFJ is the INFP. So an INFP is the Twin’s Mirror to the INFJ. It’s clumsy but it works.

    So to our reference type, there are relationships of: Twin’s Mirror, Twin’s Shadow, Twin’s Illusion, Twin’s Spirit, Twin’s Double, Twin’s Doppelganger, and Twin’s Dual.

    For these last 7 type relationships, I decided they’re probably best just used as similar alternatives to the non-Twin versions. But I’ll have to think about that some more.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Great thoughts, Rocky! And thank you for iterating that people can’t be caught between two types. That misconception drives me nuts. Excellent point about the tests being based on our own current “opinion” of our functions.

      Honestly, every single perceiving function is going to perceive the questions in a test a little differently from another type of function. I remember one test that included *nothing* pertinent to Introverted Intuition. Every single intuitive question applied only to Extroverted Intuition. Needless to say, it wrongly typed me as an ISTJ.

  7. I knew nothing about this. Now I MUST back test my characters. I’m scared. Have to test myself, too! Thank you for another super-informative post.

  8. Great post! I can definitely see the problem with putting a character through the MBTI test too early — I think you were right in your initial opinion that it would be easy to just turn them into a cardboard cutout. I actually never even thought about putting all of mine through the test until I was 3 books into my series. I had a lot of source material to base my answers on, and it was really fun to see what results they got. It was ESPECIALLY interesting to read the descriptions provided by the site (I was using one called 16 Personalities https://www.16personalities.com/) because they include some cool graphs and detailed write-ups about the different types. Some of the descriptions talked about actual things that have happened in my plot! For example, my ISTJ protagonist often blames herself for things, even when they were totally out of her control, and that was one of the qualities listed in the write-up.

    So now that I know about all of that, I’ve been using the information to help keep my characters IN character, per your Point #1, as I continue the series. Since I’m 3 books in, it’s pretty easy to keep them in character just from a familiarity standpoint, but understanding some of the psychology behind their actions is super helpful.

    My other protagonist is a strong ESFJ, and while he and my ISTJ have clashed about things since the beginning, I’ve now been putting conscious effort into writing their clashing in ways that reflect their personality differences (per your Point #3). The difference between his E / her I and between his F / her T have made for some interesting conflict, whether it be in their actions or just in their dialogue. For example, they’re both in forms of law enforcement, and he’s always going with his gut while she’s constantly seeking facts and trying to be logical. That 16 Personalities test also says that people who share the S trait — as these two do — are the best fit for ISTJs when it comes to romantic partners, and that someone who’s extroverted will help balance out their introversion. I find THAT particularly interesting, since there are some hints at romance between these two 😉

    Anyway, here I am rambling — I just get kind of excited about all of this. I ended up writing a whole blog post about it a little over a year ago (https://www.ejfisch.com/blog/2016/3/22/fpcy67idfbyc1xnnft3pryeqpbmkks) and had a lot of fun with my little experiment.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, even now, I still don’t use the MBTI system to *assign* personalities to characters. I let their personalities emerge organically, then try to identify the cognitive functions I see evolving.

  9. I’m glad you said it’s not 100% accurate. A lot of psychologists have said the same thing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Mostly, because our attempts at applying it remain as flawed as our own perceptions. :p

  10. Great ideas Katie. I need to be brought up to speed! Shakespeare had full knowledge of the four humours, Sanguine (blood), Chloreric,(yellow bile) Phlegmatic (phlegm)and Melancholie (black bile)when he designed his characters(Hamlet was melancholic). Each of the ‘humours’ gave off vapors which ascended to the brain, an individual’s personal characteristics (physical, mental, moral) were explained by his or her temperament. Knowledge of the humours was essential in understanding and interpreting Elizabethan drama. Seriously, we need to use every modern tool we can to be better writers.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I like the Four Temperaments approach as well. However, it’s not nearly as in-depth as MBTI, nor does it entertain the same degree of psychology.

  11. Ingrid B. says:

    If I could’ve requested a specific subject for you to delve into and apply to the world of writing THIS is it, Katie!

    The MBTI was an entire new discovery to me about a year ago. I’ve been smitten with it’s fascinating self since. More than once I’d seriously wished I’d known about MBTI and personality types decades ago. Both for character development / interaction and myself personally! As well, I recently found out about enneagrams which are also interesting stuff. Thank you so much for your timely perspective which will definitely improve my writing, to be sure.

    p.s. ~ When I’d read your paragraph in Outlining Your Novel, I’d already ‘researched’ the MBTI, Jung, and others. I’ll admit I was somewhat crestfallen that my Jedi Master had found it lacking. I’d excused my fascination (read: obsession) but still found it interesting and useful to a much less intense level. I’m so very happy you modified your opinion, I can obsess freely now! Great post!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, that’ll teach me to make generalizations about things I really don’t anything about. :p

  12. This is very interesting. I didn’t read before about the cognitive functions. So MBTI is much more than I thought it was. That Tumblr blog is very helpful, thank you for the link!

    I rook several tests some years ago and they all said I am An INFJ. The descriptions are so accurate that it is scary.

    My protagonist is an ISFJ and her love interest an ENFP. I didn’t think it through though, and I think your third point is especially worth some consideration. So thanks a lot 🙂

    Love from the Netherlands,

    M.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      NJs are the rarest types in the world, but they’re all over the place among writers. 🙂

  13. Speaking of MBTI, I find it lacking in describing people’s personalities. It only focuses on cognitive abilities and don’t tell us much about people’s motivation sources. There are many factors that can affect the accuracy of the tests. Like the mood of a person can change what they type. A personality test also says this:
    “It’s important to answer the questions honestly. Try not to answer them in terms of how you would like to see yourself, but in terms of how you actually are, or have tended to be in the past.

    Actually it is not so easy to answer the questions honestly, as we all want to see ourselves as better than we are, and we often have preconceived ideas about ourselves that are not really true.” https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test-2.php

    So I recently discovered Enneagram and it was like finding a missing part of the puzzle. Enneagram focuses basically on motivation sources and usually the test results are a blend of 2-3 of 9 personalities, while one of them is usually more dominant. What I find more useful is that Enneagram says that there are healthy and unhealthy spectrums of personalities and one can always move between those extremities. Like MBTI tests, Enneagram tests can be unbalanced, too. I find this one more accurate: https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test.php And this is a good source on Enneagram types: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions/

    Here is a comprehensive article exploring the relationship between MBTI and Enneagram types. I think combining them helps to see things in a whole new light. http://thoughtcatalog.com/heidi-priebe/2016/01/mbti-and-the-enneagram-2/18/

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I agree! The Enneagram is great. MBTI isn’t the *only* personality typing system of value. It’s just one of many that can help us better understand ourselves and others.

  14. HonestScribe says:

    Oddly, most of my main (heroic) characters tend to be feeling types (INFJ, ISFJ, INFP, in order of frequency) even though I’m an INTJ. Myers-Briggs also made me realize why villains tend to be some of my favorite characters; INTJ is the most common personality type for major villains, at least in Western film and fiction. Since we’re usually perceived as highly-intelligent, apparently “emotionless” beings who are one-step ahead, we fit the requirements for the popular image of overlords pretty well.

    Myers-Briggs has definitely been a helpful tool for both my writing. It’s a useful framework for understanding vastly different personality types, even with its flaws. I’ve had several characters whose personalities did not match their test results at all, and I’ve had to hunt until I found their actual classification. Of course, I also never take these tests without knowing my character pretty well to begin with. For me, it’s more a tool to generate new ideas and solutions to existing problems than a starting point. I don’t remember which writer said it, but when you start with a person, you wind up with a type, but if you start with a type, you wind up with a stereotype. Like so many tools for writing (and life), it’s not the tool itself that’s good or bad, but how one uses it.

    • HonestScribe says:

      Oops, I found a typo. I meant to say “Myers-Briggs has definitely been a helpful tool for my writing,” not “both my writing.” There’s that INTJ tendency to become wrapped up in the bigger plan and miss the details.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      As an INTJ myself, I still tend to want to write INTJ villains. It’s something I’m trying to move away from, just because there are so many other types to explore (and INTJs are so stereotyped). But, hey, sometimes you just gotta have an evil genius. :p

  15. I was so excited when I saw this post! I am completely obsessed with MBTI, and have been ever since I found out I was an INTP and gained such insight and conformation about my personality type, how I wasn’t alone in how I thought. I loved how you said that you can use MBTI to create a varied cast. Also, when I am testing a character of mine for a type, I benefit more from asking those questions for the first time about his/her character than I do from actually receiving a result. It makes you really think about their personality. However, I do agree that in many instances, you have to let the characters be themselves and not put them in a box.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Really, that’s the balance of all of writing: creating logical structures but not forcing creativity to confine to them if something just isn’t working.

  16. I usually don’t try to type my characters until after I’ve written them a fair bit. Sometimes they’re hard to figure out, and other times super easy. One MC’s sister was so stereotypically ISFJ that it hurt. I’ve actually had to tweak her to give her some strength while remaining in that framework. It’s fun. The MC is probably an ESFP, though she shows some intuitive tendencies.

    The worst I’ve done attempting to write a particular type was when a supposedly ESTJ MC, wasn’t sociable enough and turned into an ISTJ. I’m trying to pull her out of that, but it’s certainly interesting. She’s a Queen of sorts and all her advisors are trying to manipulate her. Her ENTJ friend is trying to make her push past tradition for the security of the nation, and her ENFP brother is trying to match her up with a handsome young soldier who can’t rule. Everything goes wrong and she’s so overwhelmed. It’s fun.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, sometimes my preconceptions about my characters change from outline to draft as well. One of my recent MCs went from ESTP to ISTP.

  17. So glad to take another look at MBTI myself. I don;t recall all four labels now, but I remember when I was unhappily tagged as a “J” after a cursory test in high school. I dismissed it as wrong and ignored it (hence, the J-LOL!) I’ve since learned to use that powerful “J” for good.

    This instructive article is now bookmarked in my reference folder. I am sure I will pull it out and revisit my characters in preparation for writing the second book in my cozy mystery series. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, one thing that’s important to understand about Myers-Briggs is that even the familiar-sounding labels don’t necessarily mean what we initially assume. A “Judger” is *not* a judgmental person, but rather someone who extroverts their judging function.

  18. Thanks for this, Katie. I use MBTI to round out ideas I already have about a character and it really helps me fill in the blanks, particularly about traits that don’t immediately come into play during the story, so I don’t give them the attention they deserve.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yep, the deeper I get into MBTI, the deeper I find myself being able to get into my characters. It’s awesomesauce!

  19. Amy Delmore says:

    Glad you finally came over to the light side. We may not have cookies, but we do have MBTI on our grounds.
    Personally, I’m an INFP (with some “T” and “J” traits). One thing I find useful with MBTI is that if I start questioning if my characters act too similar to me, I can compare my personality type to my characters’ type. Of course, this probably isn’t sufficient for an in depth analysis, but it is a nice and quick point of reference.

    The Tumblr page you linked to seems pretty interesting. Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      For me, one of the most mind-blowing discoveries about MBTI was that *all* types both Judge and Perceive and possess all of the cognitive functions–just in different orders. As an INFP, you actually lead with your Judging function of Introverted Feeling (Fi). And you do indeed have Extroverted Thinking, although it’s your fourth function, at the bottom of your cognitive stack.

  20. MBTI always gives me a basic start for my characters. Then I read a few descriptions for the temperament that I’ve chosen for them, asking a LOT of why’s…especially where the descriptions DON’T fit the character. Their upbringing and environment make a difference, after all. I get a lot of backstory and understanding this way.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Backstory is the key to understanding character. All their motivations come from there–plus some pretty fun mysteries sometimes!

  21. (in advance please forgive strange punctuation or typos. stuck with wonky phone with wonky autofill-correct until i can afford to replace the one i broke).

    omigish i’m about to fangirl all over the place now. several times i have wanted to comment on mb types in some of your blog’s, but i wasn’t certain how it would be received, and i figured I’d have to spend time clarifying what i was saying, etc. part of the difficulty discussing mbti is that so-called notion that mbti has been “debunked” when in reality the testing that was intended to debunk it was conducted entirely wrong, and im guessing some data might have been tortured, but ill leave that discussion for another time and place.

    I love using mbti for my characters, but only after building the character, then referencing for tweaking. especially for keeping them in character, which i struggled with for a while with one of mine until i typed her and learned the functions.

    I gotta bone to pick about the typing of the superheros. stark is a thinker over feeler for sure, so estp. rogers strikes me as an introverted feeler (shared with me, as well as my brother), so isfp (in fact, same as my brother… holy cow it just hit me hard how much that fits! wow!). (that being said, i’m typing comics cap, not necessarily movie cap. i’d have to watch again to type him.) in my experience/ observation, conflict between types tend to happen either when one type has thinking high in their stack and feeling in lower position when the other has feeling high (the bigger the gap, the bigger the conflict), or one is an fe user and one is fi (although seemingly less so, as I also tend to see both feelers being great at getting along).

    not sharing functions doesn’t necessarily mean constant conflict or not getting along. i wrote two characters before learning about mbti and made them romantic partners in a way that made me excited. I couldn’t have explained my reasoning why if i tried, it just seemed so right and natural to me. I later learned about cognitive functions and there’s a near-legendary pairing between enfp and infj. the more i learned about it, the more it looked familiar. i typed my characters and learned two things. 1) they were enfp and infj (that legendary couple), and 2) they were the same as my type (enfp) and my best friend whom i am so close with i call her my “little sister” (infj). different functions, same order (as with your sf example between the heros … which i still disagree with, lol).

    thats all my opinion, feel free.ti take it with a grain of salt.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Hah. Yes, welcome to the dark side of MBTI obsession. 😉

      Regarding Tony’s and Steve’s typings, did you click through the links and read about the arguments for ESFP and ISFJ, respectively? They’re pretty spot on, especially as regarding Tony’s choices and behaviors in Civil War.

  22. Nice discovery on your part. I have a psych background so I naturally adopt this type of character development tool when needed, though in practice I’ve only used it once thus far, for a novel that has five principle characters. Using Myers-Briggs during the character development phase ensured that I had five distinct characters from the get-go rather than getting well into the story only to find out two of the characters were very similar.

  23. Joe Nathan Scott says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I had read in one of your other posts that you are an INTJ. I had typed you in my head as an INFJ because you often have warm responses in your replies and because it’s much more common for females to be INFJ than INTJ, but I was happy to learn we share the same personality and I feel that’s part of the reason why I can understand your posts so easily. As for my characters, I do use the Myers-Briggs indicator to try to keep their personalities consistent. My main protagonist is an INFJ and his partner is an INTJ which makes for great conflict because their actions are dictated by opposing functions – Extroverted Thinking vs Extrovert Feeling. My third character is an ESFJ who grounds the two and helps alleviate some of the tension. The antagonist is an ENTJ with several complexes who takes an interest in the protagonist. I must admit I have a bias towards intuitive personalities and “Judging” personalities. I just feel that “J”s are more proactive and more likely to do something instead of just react to their environment. What are your thoughts about this? (I have a feeling you’re going to tell me having a “P” main character makes it even more worthwhile in the end because he/she has to fight his/her own tendency to be passive.)
    You mentioned writing an ISTP protagonist. What is that like? And oh my, an ENTJ 9 year old girl? She must be a handful! That does sound like an interest pair though.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I think most types have a certain prejudice toward their own “kind.” But all the functions/types are necessary. We end by balancing each other out–kinda like my ISTP/ENTJ characters. 😉

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