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Myers-Briggs and Writing: My Characters’ Personalities

This is exciting news: I have a hobby! In the past, when asked if I had any hobbies, my response was always along the lines of, “Err… hobby?” (Because writing as a hobby? Life’s pursuit, passive, obsession? Yes. But hobby? Definitely no, positively no, uh-huh.) But it struck me (with disproportionate delight) not too long ago that I now have a legitimate hobby: Myers-Briggs Personality Typing. And lucky for me, Myers-Briggs and writing go hand in hand!

For those who don’t know, Myers-Briggs is the personality typing system. I’ve always been interested in personalities, focusing mostly on the Four Temperaments (choleric, melancholy, sanguine, and phlegmatic) as popularized by Tom LaHaye. But Myers-Briggs takes everything to a whole new level. This is more than just labels; this is legimate psychology straight from Jung himself. But would you be surprised to learn that the Myers of Myers-Briggs actually refined Jung’s theories into the sixteen MBTI personality types because (*drumroll*) she was a writer wanting to write more realistic characters. No kidding!

Although my interest in Myers-Briggs goes far beyond my writing, naturally I apply it to every character I come up with these days. One of my favorite sites to browse is fellow writer Charity Bishop’s Tumblr Funky MBTI in Fiction. Aside from weighing in on all kinds of MBTI questions and thoughts, she goes so far as to “type” popular characters from TV and movies.

Today, I thought I’d share the Myers-Briggs types of the main characters from my novels. Why? Mostly, because this is the type of post I would die to read from my favorite authors. I love insights into my favorite characters straight from the source. So for those of you who are into Myers-Briggs, this is for you. And for those of you who aren’t–well, get into it! It’ll change your life.

The Characters of A Man Called Outlaw

outlaw_cover_165Shane: ISFJ

(Introverted Sensor, Extroverted Feeler, Introverted Thinker, Extroverted Intuitive)

Who Is He?

The adopted son of wealthy and ruthless Wyoming rancher Nathaniel Wilcock, Shane is trapped between his respect and obligation to his adopted father and his love for his childhood sweetheart Anna Cassidy, whom Wilcock is trying to force off her ranch.

What Is an ISFJ?

ISFJs are interested in maintaining order and harmony in every aspect of their lives. They are steadfast and meticulous in handling their responsibilities. Although quiet, they are people-oriented and very observant. Not only do they remember details about others, but they observe and respect others’ feelings. Friends and family are likely to describe them as thoughtful and trustworthy. (As per Wikipedia.)

 Other ISFJs in Fiction:

Anna: ISTJ

(Introverted Sensor, Extroverted Thinker, Introverted Feeler, Extroverted Intuitive)

Who Is She?

Anna owns the only substantial ranch in the valley that Wilcock hasn’t been able to get his hands on. She has loved Shane all her life, but won’t marry him because Wilcock was responsible for her father’s death and she refuses to give in to him.

What Is an ISTJ?

ISTJs are logical, organized, sensible, and earnest traditionalists who enjoy keeping their lives and environments well-regulated. Typically reserved and serious individuals, they earn success through their thoroughness and extraordinary dependability. They are capable of shutting out distractions in order to take a practical, logical approach to their endeavors, and are able to make the tough decisions that other types avoid. (As per Wikipedia.)

 Other ISTJs in Fiction

Other Characters in A Man Called Outlaw:

Andrew: ISTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ISTJs)

Wilcock: ENTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ENTJs)

Èmile: ESTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESTJs)

Lane: ESTP (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESTPs)

The Characters of Behold the Dawn

Behold the Dawn by K.M. WeilandAnnan: ISTP

(Introverted Thinker, Extroverted Sensor, Introverted Intuitive, Extroverted Feeler)

Who Is He?

Aside from being my favorite character ever (ssh, don’t tell the other kids), Annan is a wandering knight who competes in the forbidden tourney battles. Haunted by his past sins, he has a bit of a death wish–but unluckily for him, he also has a reputation for being nearly unbeatable on the battlefield. He’s taciturn and a little caustic, but his deep sense of compassion is always getting him into trouble.

What Is an ISTP?

ISTPs may sometimes seem to act without regard for procedures, directions, protocol, or even their own safety. But while their approach may seem haphazard, it is in fact based on a broad store of knowledge developed over time through action and keen observation. ISTPs enjoy self-sufficiency and take pride in developing their own solutions to problems. (As per Wikipedia.)

 Other ISTPs in Fiction

Mairead: ISFJ

(Introverted Sensor, Extroverted Feeler, Introverted Thinker, Extroverted Intuitive)

Who Is She?

Mairead is a young Scottish noblewoman, widowed in the midst of the Third Crusade and beleaguered by the same enemies from Annan’s past. She accepts Annan’s protection via a marriage (in name only), while he escorts her to a convent in France. Naturally, she turns out to balm to his wounded soul.

What Is an ISFJ?

See the description in Shane’s section above.

Other ISFJs in Fiction

Other Characters in Behold the Dawn

Marek: ESFP (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESFPs)

Hugh: ESTP (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESTPs)

Gethin: ENFP (Wikipedia | More Fictional ENFPs)

Roderic: ISTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ISTJs)

The Characters of Dreamlander

Dreamlander NIEA FinalistChris: ESFJ

(Extroverted Feeler, Introverted Sensor, Extroverted Intuitive, Introverted Thinker)

Who Is He?

Chris is the Gifted–although he doesn’t know it at first. The Gifted is the only person in a generation who is able to move consciously between the two worlds: the world in which we live while awake and the world of our dreams. When first summoned across the worlds, he thinks he’s going crazy and ends up in deep trouble by accidentally “resurrecting” a vengeful warlord. He teams up with the intense Searcher, the Princess Allara, to win the war and save both worlds from destruction.

What Is an ESFJ?

ESFJs project warmth through a genuine interest in the well-being of others. They are often skilled at bringing out the best in people, and they want to understand other points of view. They are serious about their responsibilities, seeing what needs to be done and then doing it. Generally proficient at detailed tasks, they enjoy doing little things that make life easier for others. They value tradition and the security it offers. (As per Wikipedia.)

 Other ESFJs in Fiction

Allara: INTJ

(Introverted Intuitive, Extroverted Thinker, Introverted Feeler, Extroverted Sensor)

Who Is She?

Allara is the crown princess of Lael and the Searcher–the person destined, via a mental bond, to find and guide the Gifted. Scarred by a bad experience with her first treasonous Gifted, when she was just a child, Allara is consumed with fulfilling her duty, protecting her country, and making sure her new Gifted doesn’t mess everything up. Fearless but also deeply conflicted, she struggles to understand faith and peace.

What Is an INTJ?

INTJs are analytical. They are most comfortable working alone and tend to be less sociable than other types. Nevertheless, INTJs are prepared to lead if no one else seems up to the task, or if they see a major weakness in the current leadership. They tend to be pragmatic, logical, and creative. They have a low tolerance for spin or rampant emotionalism. They are not generally susceptible to catchphrases and do not readily accept authority based on tradition, rank, or title. (As per Wikipedia.)

 Other INTJs in Fiction

Other Characters in Dreamlander

Orias: ISTP (Wikipedia | Other Fictional ISTPs)

Pitch: ESFJ (Wikipedia | Other Ficitonal ESFJs)

Raz: ISTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ISTJs)

Mactalde: ESTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESTJs)

Quinnon: ISTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ISTJs)

Eroll: ESFP  (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESFPs)

The Characters of Storming (Coming This December!)

Hitch: ESFP

(Extroverted Sensor, Introverted Feeler, Extroverted Thinker, Introverted Intuitive)

Who Is He?

Hitch is a freewheeling barnstorming biplane pilot, who roves around the country with his little circus, giving shows. He’s footloose and headstrong, skilled but reckless. He struggles with the expectations of people (mostly family) that dictate he should settle down and be “responsible,” but he is tremendously good-hearted, generous, and kind.

What Is an ESFP?

ESFPs live in the moment, experiencing life to the fullest. They enjoy people, as well as material comforts. Rarely allowing conventions to interfere with their lives, they find creative ways to meet human needs. ESFPs are excellent team players, focused on completing the task at hand with maximum fun and minimum discord. Active types, they find pleasure in new experiences. (As per Wikipedia.)

 Other ESFPs in Fiction

Jael: INFJ

(Introverted Intuitive, Extroverted Feeler, Introverted Thinker, Extroverted Sensor)

Who Is She?

That’s a bit of a mystery! Jael literally drops out of the sky in front of Hitch’s plane and proves herself very determined in getting back home, despite a rather challenging language barrier. Feisty and fearless as well as a little naïve, she’s also deeply insightful with a huge heart and the ability to connect with almost almost anyone.

What Is an INFJ?

INFJs tend to have rich inner lives that they may be reluctant to share with others. They form strong friendships, but tend to be guarded around new acquaintances and build relationships slowly. INFJs tend to be sensitive and quiet. They prefer order and organization in their external environments, which they tend to comprehend through abstract arrangements and categories. They often have an affinity for the arts and creative pursuits. (As per Wikipedia.)

 Other INFJs in Fiction

Other Characters in Storming

Walter: ISFJ (Wikipedia | Other Fictional ISFJs)

Campbell: ESTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESTJs)

Zlo: ESTP (Wikipedia | More Fictional ESTPs)

Nan: ISTJ (Wikipedia | More Fictional ISTJs)

Griff: ISFJ (Wikipedia | Other Fictional ISFJs)

Postscript 1: I actually starting typing all my existing characters way back because I was curious if they would all end up being the same type (please no) or maybe even all the same type as me (definitely no)! As you can see, there’s a fun variety, and only one character–Allara from Dreamlander–turned out to share my type as an INTJ. I did, however, discover I have a huge weakness for SPs–which is interesting, since Extroverted Sensing is the INTJ’s weakest function.

Postscript 2: It actually turned out to be ridiculously hard to type my own characters–waaaay harder than typing other people’s characters! So I’m still second-guessing myself on a few of these. If you think I’m wrong on any of these typings, I’d love to hear your take!

Postscript 3: The science of Myers-Briggs is much more intricate than most people realize. This isn’t just a labeling system for sixteen different types. It’s really an exploration of the cognitive functions (Feeling, Thinking, Sensing, Intuiting), all of which have both an introverted and extroverted dynamic.

Where this gets tricky is in the fact that all of us possess two introverted and two extroverted functions, regardless of whether we are, in fact, introverts and extroverts. Further, the introverted and extroverted sides of a function are very different from one another. For example, introverted Sensing (Si) and extroverted Sensing (Se) manifest in personality traits that are almost polar opposites. Introverted Sensors tend to be calmly rational, traditional, and cautious, while extroverted Sensors are all about having experiences, relying on their instincts, and living in the moment.

Was That Really Me Naomi QuenkIf you’re interested in getting under the hood of Myers-Briggs and learning about the cognitive functions, I recommend starting here. The book Was That Really Me?: How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality by Naomi Quenk was also instrumental for me in finally getting it all figured out.

Let’s chat! If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs, do you know your own personality type? If you’re also a writer, what are the types of your main characters? Tell me in the comments!

Myers-Briggs and Writing: My Characters’ Personalities

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47 Comments

  1. No Love for the ENTJs? Sheesh ;). In all actuality, I don’t know if I’ve ever sat down to either think through my character’s personality types, and I certainly wouldn’t build a character AROUND a personality types. Good post though – probably would be worth the 45mins – 1 hour to dive in and see how my characters truly are on the inside. Might lend a hand to the credibility factor.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      No, I definitely wouldn’t *start* with the type. But once you have an idea of the character, figuring out his type is really helpful in fleshing out his strengths and weaknesses. Plus, it’s just fun.

      And not to worry: my pickpocket sidekick in my historical superhero WIP is a very awesome ENTJ!

  2. Katie, I have spent literally hours researching Meyers Briggs, so I’m so glad you wrote this article! And I’m an INTP, so we’re only one off. 16Personalities.com is my favorite site so far for taking the test and reading articles about the different types.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      My brother is an INTP. They’re cool people. 🙂 There are a lot of similarities between INTJs and INTPs, but we actually share zero cognitive functions, so it also means we have almost as much that’s *not* in common as we do. It definitely makes for an interesting dynamic. I thought humorous the description that talked about how INTPs make being aloof come off as mysterious and cool–and INTJs just unintentionally end up looking like jerks. :p

      • Haha well I’m not sure if I’ve nailed down the “mysterious and cool” yet, but that’s interesting that INTJ and INTPs are actually very different!

        • K.M. Weiland says:

          If you haven’t dug into cognitive functions (see the link in the third postcript above), I definitely recommend it. It opens up a whole new MBTI world.

  3. I understand the science behind MBTI is suspect. I don’t care: I’ve found it useful at work and in my personal relationships. Never tried it as a writing tool but I will now. Thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Ultimately, MBTI remains a theory. But it’s one that I’ve found incredibly accurate and useful in my own life.

  4. Cool post! I’ve lately gotten into this. I’m an ENTJ…make what you will of that. LOL. But my characters definitely run the gamut. I do think that means I gravitate to preferring/writing a certain *type* of hero (now that you mentioned Bathsheba Everdene, above, my hero type is Farmer Oak). So as authors, I think we do have to observe and read up on different character types and be sure our characters fall for characters THEY would like, not just ones we might choose.

  5. It looks like my main character is an INTJ. I’ll def have to give this a look. Thanks as always!

  6. When I saw your message in my inbox, I got terribly excited because guess what? I am a HUGE Myers-Briggs fan and my favorite blog is Funky Mbti Fiction, too–the most useful tool for determining my type finally (ISTJ). Before getting to know this blog, I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as cognitive functions, and misyped myself for an INFJ, then an ISFJ and whatever the online tests told me. Now, I know better.

    Since diving into MBTI, I’ve started to type my own characters too. It is an invaluable help in understanding human psychology and applying it to our writing. And I totally agree with what zklimczak said about first figuring out the character and THEN their myers briggs type.

    Heck, MBTI is so entrenched in my subconscious that I tend to type real life people all the time!

    Awesome to see that your characters have variations in their personalities. That’s always a good thing. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Hey, great minds think alike! 😉 I don’t know how long you’ve been following Charity on Funky MBTI, but it was fascinating to watch *her* (and she knows way more about MBTI than I ever will) work through the process of figuring out her own type. I originally started following her way back when she thought she was an INTJ, since that’s what I am, but she had to work through thinking she was an INTP as well before finally understanding she was an ISFJ. Very enlightening.

      • I’ve only been following her for a few months but I’ve dug around her older posts and they were indeed very enlightening.

        I hope this won’t sound creepy but… I assumed you were an INTJ. I sat down one day and posed this question to myself: what would this wonderful lady be from among the 16 types? After some thought, I concluded you are an INTJ but of course, I didn’t have at all confidence in my assumption. And now here it is! :O

        Anyway, sorry for the rambling. Have a nice day!

        • K.M. Weiland says:

          Is it that obvious? :p Actually, I’m curious: do you remember what made you think that?

          • Oh, that sounded creepy, didn’t it? I am extremely sorry! What I thought was: she has said a lot of times that she is huge planner so let’s say she uses high Te. She has also said in a comment that she is a highly unemotional person, which hints at lower Fi. And the rest was a wild guess (she seems to like sports, so why not inferior Se?). As you can see, my method of reasoning was very unsupported and quite stereotypical. But it turned out to be right, haha 🙂

          • K.M. Weiland says:

            Nah, it didn’t sound creepy at all! I’m always fascinated in outside perspectives on my personality.

  7. I loved this post! I’ve been a fan of the Myers-Briggs personality type system for years. The first thing I do after getting an idea for my characters when plotting a new story is take a free test and see which type my characters are. the test results alone often give me great ideas for my story. In my current WIP, my hero is an ISTJ, while my heroine is an ESTP. I myself am a ESFP. I love finding out which personality types some of my favorite characters are. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I suppose having a favorite personality type is sort of on the same no-no list as having a favorite kid. But I have to admit, I have a huge fondness for SPs. 😉

  8. Yay, an INFJ! I feel like INFJs are incredibly rare in fiction, especially as central characters, so it’s really neat to find one. (Yes, I’m an INFJ, in case it wasn’t obvious. :P)

    Typing your characters is such a fun exercise, and also really helpful. I love doing it. (:

  9. One of the rare female INTJs here! I love using MBTI as a way to shelve my various characters, as well as helping with interpersonal situations. My favorite site is actually “A Little Bit of Personality,” because it goes deep into cognitive functions and how they influence character development. They don’t have all of their data up yet, but their in-depth typing emails are priceless! It’s interesting, considering that the esteemed Jeff Gerke is also an INTJ and also uses the MBTI as his characterization help. 😉 Maybe it’s a thing.

    I like featuring a variety of types in my stories, although I sometimes slant towards portraying Ts and especially NTs as females because you just don’t see them in fiction that much. The main characters in my urban fantasy are an INTJ-ENTP duo, which is a fun dynamic. In the fairy tale fantasy series, the first book leads with an ESFP (INTP love interest) and the second leads with an ISFJ (ISTP love interest). In the horror series, the lead is an INFJ-ESFP duo, then an ENFP, ENTJ, INTJ, and ESTJ tossed into the supporting cast for good measure.

  10. Catherine H. says:

    Yes!! Someone else who does this besides me! This system is so useful for developing characters. My main character is an ENTJ. I myself am a INFJ. (I’ve typed everyone in my family and all my characters. It’s fun. :)) It also helps you realize why exactly you sometimes clash with your ESFP brother.

  11. Another INFJ here. I’ve been using this system for my characters, too. My protagonist is an ISTJ — a highly conscientious guy who has to act less T and J to solve his dilemma. Thanks for this fun article. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      ISTJs are fun to write: they’re totally solid characters who always know what’s what and are always there for other people, but they also have an edge to them that makes them interesting.

  12. I’m an ISFJ. I’ve used the Myers-Briggs personality typing for my character. I also you Enneagrams as well. They do deep into 9 distinctive personality profiles. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I recently heard about the Myersbriggs test and when I took it I also made my mom, nana and seven younger siblings take it too 🙂 And it didn’t even stop there… I did take the test for my characters and it was most definitely a relief to find out that they didn’t all have the same personality as me lol 😀

  14. This is a really useful writing tool to use! Fun to look into as well. 🙂 And what’s strange is that note of my characters have my type (ISFJ).
    I have an ISTJ spy girl, a clumsy ESFP cyborg and an ENTP villain in one book. And an ENFP cowgirl and ESTJ villain in another.
    I must say, the ESFP is my favorite to write, though. Which one to you think is the easiest type to work with?

  15. It’s cool to learn you’re into MBTI as well! If you ever have the time, you should try out The Enneagram as well, the two go together well.

    As for me, I write caper stories. The mastermind/narrator is an ENTJ, her right-hand man is an ISTJ, her mentor is an ENFJ, her girlfriend an ENFP, and her enemy turned ally is an ISTP.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I actually discovered the Enneagram back before MBTI. But I’ve never explored it in depth. I definitely want to though! Any books you’d recommend?

      • A couple come to mind for recommendations. The first is Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso. That one is brimming with information, especially regarding the different health levels within The Enneagram. Enneagram Pop! Fictional Characters by James Russo I find handy to reference towards other character’s in fiction and the interpretations as to why they are. The Wisdom of The Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson is likely my favorite of all of these, it’s the first one I got when I took an interest in it a couple of years back and I still consider it really useful, especially when plotting character arcs. Finally, I would recommend The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective to you as I think it might interest you.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) isn’t just for figuring out who you are. Katie shows how you can use it to analyze your characters. BTW, I’m an INTJ, if you wanted to […]

  2. […] can help you write depth into your characters. K.M. Weiland discusses this in her article, “Myers-Briggs and Writing: My Characters’ Personalities.” Over here, she points out that INTJ’s are archetypal evil geniuses, but Batman is […]

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