Do you know the Myers-Briggs type indicator? Carl Gustav Jung, who was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, defined different character types to categorize peoples inner workings. According to him each person has certain natural tendencies, which define how a person acts. For example, some people are more introverted, others more extroverted. Some are more guided by their feelings than their thinking, while others are more observant than intuitive.
The Myers-Briggs type indicator, MBTI for short, is a set of questions developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers to find out which type a person represents. Over the years a ton of different questions developed and some of them are free to use, here is one to try.
Note that the results vary depending on the test and also depending on where you are at this moment of your life.
The Different Traits
There are 16 different types which are the possible combinations of 4 different ‘traits’.
MIND – the interaction with the environment
The mind is divided into introverted and extroverted.
ENERGY – where mental energy is directed
The opposing forces are intuitive and observant.
NATURE – decision making and coping with emotions
Nature is split into thinking and feeling types.
TACTICS – the approach to work and decisions
Tactics consists of judging and prospecting.
Authenticity is one of the most important points when we are creating a new character. If not THE most important one. In my opinion this is what makes or breaks a good story. It is that important. One of the ways to build a character that makes sense and acts consistent, is to fill out the Myers-Briggs type indicator questions. It pushes you to actively think about your character and how he or she will behave in different situations. This in itself helps enormously to get to know this person and I would highly recommend to save your answers (make a screen shot or something). You can use this as future reference whenever you need action from this character.
If you know that your character is an extremely introverted person who likes to stick to the walls in rooms full of people, then this person won’t just stride into the middle of the room, draw everyones attention and start reciting a poem. That would seem pretty weird and out of character, right?
Or another person who jumps into action without much thinking and loves their flexibility won’t suddenly sit down and plan out every single next step and execute it with utmost rigor. Just won’t happen.
There are different ways to actually do this. If you already have some character traits defined and you know this person quite good already, then filling out the questions is a little more intuitive. If you know that you want an introverted person, then it’s clear that this person won’t draw much attention to himself for example.
If you don’t know anything about your character yet, then you can think about what kind of person you want to have. Do you need someone full of energy, the center of the party? Do you want someone who is very strategic and always has a backup plan? Think about this before you answer the questions.
Sometimes those questions can be quite challenging anyway. They are often vague and leave room for interpretation. I try to actually think of a specific situation and imagine the reaction of my new character.
For example I found this statement:
You rarely worry about how your actions affect other people.
This is so random and vague. So I thought about a situation my character could be in. My protagonist would actually love to live with his grandmother. Would he sneak away without telling his parents? And without worrying about the consequences? In this case, no, he wouldn’t want to worry his parents. He knows that his mother would be sick worrying what could have happened to him. He also imagines his father hurrying around in desparate search for him. He couldn’t bear that.
But given the situation that he has to leave to help someone in dire need, though he cannot tell anyone? He would still worry a lot and I guess he would leave some kind of note to at least tell them not to worry. He would go, because he knows that his actions affect this person in need.
In each situation he did worry about the affects his actions have on other people. So no, the statement is incorrect. Since my person is still a boy though, he still has a childish recklessness, I don’t disagree completely. If that makes sense.
The answering of the questions will give you clarity about your persons motivations and actions, but the result is also worth analyzing. Most sites provide detailed analysis of the different types which give you a lot more insight and inspiration.
You can use those natural tendencies to influence every action your character is going to take.
Which leads me to the second approach: Setting the MB type yourself! You could skip those questions entirely and define the traits the way you seem fit. I especially like that each type has some kind of archetype or avatar that describe their position, like architect, commander, debater, mediator, defender and entertainer. So depending on the type of person you want you could kind of reverse-engineer your character through defining the type.
If you make your person an entertainer then you know that this person is extroverted, observant, feeling and prospecting. She will probably be open and full of energy.
Though you could also set the traits and get to know the type this way. Say you want an introvert who is observant, feeling and judging. Tadaa, you’ve got a defender. Someone dedicated and warm hearted who will help and defend the people he loves.
Creating a character can be a daunting task and with the help of the Myers-Briggs type indicator you have a good start to build a consistent personality. Of course you don’t have to inlcude each and every trait exactly. The world isn’t black and white and depending on the situation, the predominant emotions and the persons experience, decisions and even habitual actions change. But knowing those basic tendencies will help you on the way of building an authentic character.
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