Writing Tips

How Myers Briggs Personality Types Can Help Writers

Last month, I posted about writing an female “INTJ” character, and this next month, I plan on posting about writing four other personality types in fiction. However, I realized that I have never explained why assigning Myers Briggs personality types to characters can be helpful for writers or the faults of the system. So, here is a brief overview of the system and why it can help writers create characters.

How the Myers Briggs Personality Types can help your writing

Overview of  the Myers Briggs personality system 

Myers Briggs is a set of sixteen personality types, and the theory is that every person is a variation of one of those sixteen types. Of course, these personalities are not all encompassing, and the system is imperfect, but I do think that it can be helpful. Many businesses and colleges encourage people to take the test and then use the result to help find careers for the people. However, it should be noted that no one fits a type perfectly and MBTI does not cover your entire personality. It is just a labeling tool.

Each type is abbreviated by a set of four letters. The first letter is always an I for introverted or an E for extroverted. The second letter is always an N for intuitive or an S for sensing. The next letter is an F for feeling or a T for thinking. The final letter is a J for judging or a P for perceiving. My type, for instance, is INTJ (introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging.)

Now, the letters actually don’t mean much; instead, the letters indicate the order of the cognitive functions of a personality type. Every type has a feeling, thinking, intuiting, and sensing function, and each function can be either extroverted or introverted (e.g. an INTJ has the functions introverted intuition, extroverted thinking, intuitive feeling, and extroverted sensing).

Many writers just use a test, like this one, to type their characters, but if are interested in learning about the functions so you can type your own characters, I would suggest looking at this website.

How a Writer can Use Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Many writers use MBTI for creating characters, and I have also found it helpful. Some writers assign the personality type to a character before they start figuring out other aspects of the character based on the personality type, but I prefer to explore my character first (goals, motivations, etc.) and then figure out the type. After all, the four letters are only a label for a part of a character’s personality. The most important aspect of MBTI to remember is that it is not all encompassing for anyone’s personality. We all have quirks, likes, dislikes, beliefs, goals, history, etc. and those are not part of the MBTI. Moreover, I think it is pretty safe to say that no one fits a type perfectly. So remember this if you type your characters. It is a tool and a piece of the character’s personality; it is not the entire character.

Why MBTI is Helpful for Character Creation

  1. It helps keep your character’s personality constant. By assigning personality types to characters, writers provide themselves with an objective standard for their characters. Sometimes, we try to force our character to do something that is completely against their personality; by knowing your characters Myers Briggs type, you look at that the test the authenticity of a character’s actions or words. This will keep your character acting “in character.”
  2. It can help develop your characters. MBTI also talks about how someone with that personality type develops and matures. Typically, the dominant function is developed first, and then the secondary function. Immature types don’t develop their lower functions, and you can use this information to inspire character arcs.
  3. It can reveal deeper things about your character. Sometimes, we can reduce our characters to caricatures, and since MBTI was created for real humans, it can make our characters more complex and developed. This can be especially helpful when developing villains! However, as noted above, you need to develop your characters beyond their personality type, too.
  4. It is a quick way to develop minor characters. Need to create a minor character really quickly? Find a personality type and run with it. For minor character, the only other thing you often (but not always) need is a name for the character. It is a super easy way to create interesting minor characters that are only seen for a scene or two.
  5. It encourages you to have a diverse cast of characters. If you type most of your characters, you might find that you have three of one type. Oops. However, you can fix this a create a more diverse cast by deliberately using different personality types for each of your main characters. MBTI helps point out when you have a bunch of really similar characters and can help you change it.

I hope this has been helpful for those of you who have had no idea what I have been posting about. I apologize that I did not post about this sooner.

I know that a lot of you do use MBTI for your characters, so what are some of your favorite types to write?

God bless,

Gabrielle

P. S. To all my followers: I apologize that all of you received e-mail yesterday saying that I had post about ESTPs. I was setting up formats for some posts, and I accidentally clicked “publish” instead of “save draft”. I am very sorry for wasting your time!

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18 thoughts on “How Myers Briggs Personality Types Can Help Writers”

  1. I type most of my characters, but this post really got me thinking of some new ways to apply the MBTI. I’ve never tried using the cognitive functions to drive character arcs, but now I really want to!

    I seem to have a thing for writing ISFJ main characters for some reason, though I broke out of that rut with my current WIP and am writing an ISTJ mc. *laughs awkwardly* Yeah, I’m still in a rut. :/ I enjoy writing about all the types, however. Even the ones that tend to rub me the wrong way in real life are still fun to explore on the page. 🙂

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    1. I have never actually written a character arc using the cognitive functions as inspiration, but I am about to write two arcs inspired that way (one for an INTJ and another for an ESTP).
      That is really cool, though! Strangely enough the first character I ever wrote (and one of my favorites) is an ESFP, but I often write INTJs. In my current work, I am working outside of my comfort zone and writing an INFP.
      I am sorry that you are in a rut! But Nano is over now. Did you ever get out of your rut?

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  2. This was really informative and interesting! I think I’ll try this with my own characters — it’s a fresh way of forming their personalities and ways of thinking!

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  3. Myers Briggs is my go-to for establishing core personalities for my characters as well, but I also use the Enneagram (i.e. the 9 motivation-based archetype system, or something of that nature–there’s 9 character archetypes) in conjunction with that, so that I don’t completely restrict my major characters’ personality traits with those listed in the MB types. And similar to your method, I tend to pick the MB type for a character based on that’s character’s most prominent trait(s) and motivations that I had already designated. But I’ve yet to use it for developing character arcs, which is still something I need to work on, so that’s great additional advice 🙂

    Since you mentioned ESTP, my main antagonist in my first book is an ESTP, which is fun to write because he is very witty and the life of the party, yet it also a self-centered d-bag. If you want to know more details regarding what I have of his personality so far, I would be happy to share what I’ve learned about this type.

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    1. Hum. I have never heard of “the Enneagram.” I may have to research that when I have time.
      Interesting! My ESTP is a supporting character in the first two books of my series and then becomes the main character in the third book. He also seems to be the most popular character among those who I have let read my books so far. Surprisingly, I have found it to be deeper than I had first expected (I originally created him as a mere bully to my main character).

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  4. I’m fairly certain my favorite type to write is either the ESFJ or the ENFJ, I can’t tell which. I tend to write them in as the super optimistic, caring, positive sidekick. My main characters, though, are usually more introverted, probably because that’s what comes naturally. xD

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