Writing Tips

INFP Characters: Writing Tips

An overview of INFP Characters: cognitive functions, motivations, goals, character interactions, and immature and mature INFPs

The Functions of the INFP

  1. Introverted Feeling (Fi):INFPs tend to be trusting of other people and yet very sensitive to criticism (one INFP that I spoke to remarked that “It is hard to say what could not hurt an INFP.”) However, typically, they are quick to forgive, very loving, and enjoy helping other people because of their personal convictions. Drawing from their own experiences (Si), INFPs tend to empathize with anyone who is hurting. One of the primary focuses and concerns of an INFP is morality: discovering, defining, and living according to what is good and what is evil. They tend to be concerned with morality on the grand, theoretical scale and applying it directly in their own personal lives. Often, the INFP’s sense of morality is a conclusion drawn from their memories or comes from tradition (Si). Most times, INFPs “sense” what is good or evil rather than through reasoning or observation, but INFPs are not opposed to thinking about or discussing morality. Typically, INFPs believe in an ultimate, absolute good and evil which is experienced subjectively and individually. So they tend to emphasize that morality cannot be logically reasoned through but must be subjectively felt. In a more general area of life, INFPs tend to differentiate between what is meaningful and not meaningful in certain situations. INFP severely dislike being demeaned by others, disbelieved, or being overlooked. Often INFPs do not voice their resentment or negative thoughts towards a person or topic (because, in their mind, the conflict would not be worthwhile or meaningful), so they can appear passive and accepting. However, typically, after a long build up of negative thoughts, an INFP will suddenly voice them and can be very confrontational about it (Te). Interestingly enough, INFPs don’t like to display their emotions publicly but have not problem making their ideas public.
  2. Extroverted Intuition (Ne): INFPs love to explore and invent new methods, possibilities, and approaches to different topics. Generally, they have a “big picture” view of life (though they tend to emphasize the small things) and their personal interactions and have large dreams and goals for their life, though they can become distracted and often daydream. Notably, most INFPs don’t plan for the future– they simply enjoy thinking about the possibilities (though the most mature INFPs do set practical goals.) They are known for being extremely creative, imaginative, and artistic and focusing on how these new methods or their art could affect the perspectives and feelings of others. Ne encourages INFPs to communicate their passions and goals other people, and INFPs love trying to understand other people and helping them if possible as they love to look for potential in everyone/everything. INFPs also tend to be concerned with how other people perceive and judge them. Because of the FiNe combination, INFPs can appear complacent for a period of time before their complaints and anger bursts out (Te). Moreover, INFPs are known for being astute at understanding patterns and seeing symbolism and tend to be masterful (though often quiet) speakers and effective leaders who portray an encouraging vision. Many times, INFPs will appear very open minded on the surface but their ethics and goals are truly steadfast and almost unchangeable. Though INFPs are normally very hopefull, they are also prone to moods of depression when the struggle to make their goals or connect with other people. INFPs are also known for being spontaneous and happy people.
  3. Introverted Sensing (Si): For the INFP, Si is more of a subconscious rather than deliberate part of their thought process. INFPs draw heavily from personal experience when empathizing with other, forming their ethical code, setting goals, and interacting with other people. INFPs are prone to panic and fear when subjected to a situation in which they have experience pain or betrayal in the past and tend to quickly leave and avoid the situation in the future. On the other hand, they often chase after recreating happy memories and cling to them. Se also adds to the steadfastness of Fi, and often INFPs resist change and tend to favor tradition. Also Se is manifested in “common sense,” though immature INFPs often lacks this and are wrapped up in their ideals. In more mature INFPs, they are a bit more cautious and wary of the dangers of the world; some even become cynical.
  4. Extroverted Thinking (Te): Very mature INFPs learn to cooperate with the systems of the world and set practical goals to achieve their ideals. However, many younger INFPs struggle with this cooperation and view it as compromising their individualistic values. Almost all INFPs are prone to “exploding” after holding in resentment for a long time and bluntly explaining the how and why the other person has been doing them or someone else wrong. Also INFPs can be very structured and orderly when the mood strikes them. Since thinking is the inferior function, INFPs are not prone to be logical and often scorn logical attempts to understand the world and the human race.

*Personality types are not as simple as picking between two letters four times. The mixture of letters actually determines four cognitive functions as listed above. The dominant function is listed first and drives the type, while the inferior function is listed last and is often unused in immature types.

How to Manifest this Personality Type in Fictional Characters

Goals: FiNe often is manifested in INFPs as the goal of communicating their sense of morality or personal passions in a way that is understandable and sympathetic to other people (often using an artistic medium.) INFPs often have the goals of helping a people or having fruitful relationships with others.

Motivations: INFPs are often motivated by their personal, idealistic sense of Good vs. Evil and personal and ultimate morality. They also are very driven by their desire to help and connect with other people. Most INFPs have a strong desire for a peaceful life, and this is often reflected in their goals. One of the INFPs I spoke to said that she believes that everyone has a “right” to artistic expression and that art should not be a competition but all art appreciated. From what I’ve read, this sounds like a typical motivation of the INFP type.

Interaction with Other Characters: INFPs tend to be people pleasers, but strangely enough, INFP can often become the rebels of a group when their sense of morality clashes with orders or society. Though they are not confrontation in their rebellion, they have no problem voicing their dissent but often feel deeply hurt or betrayed by the people they are rebelling against. In general, they are one of the most idealistic and optimistic in a group of people and often try to help everyone around them. However, because of their Fi dominant function, they are easy to take advantage of and are often ignored because of their quiet nature. INFPs struggle to say “no” to other people and occasionally put up with abuse rather than confront anyone.

Young/Immature Characters: Most immature INFPs scorn logic and do not care about the evidence but insist on doing what “feels” right and can often focus on instant gratification rather than looking to the big picture (though if they have a well-developed Ne, it can help this.) Young INFPs can become frustrated and struggle with communicating their ideas/morality/sense of truth in a way that resonates with and helps other people. Also younger INFPs are known to elevate other people, in thier minds, and see people they admire/love as ideals rather than real, fallible humans. This can make the INFP’s relationship with that person difficult, and the INFP will feel disappointed or betrayed when the other person does not live up to the INFP’s ideal.

Matured Characters: The most mature INFPs learn that sometimes individual freedom must be sacrificed to achieve a greater goal, but it is typically a huge struggle for the INFP to reach this conclusion. As INFPs mature, they tend to develop more common sense, better organization, and more focus for achieving their goals.

Examples of INFP Characters: Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia), Sybil Crawley and Matthew Crawley (Downton Abby), Faramir and Frodo Baggins (The Lord of the Rings), Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet (Romeo and Juliet)

If you’d like to look into INFPs more, I would suggest checking out this website and this article (please note that you have to scroll down to find the INFP type). I used many of them for my research and go into more detail on this personality type.

Or if you would like to read about how Myers Briggs Personality Typing can help writers, you can check out on post by clicking on this link.

Also when writing this post, I talked with two INFPs who answered a bunch of really help questions for us writers. I could not include all of them in this post, so I have posted their thoughts in the comments.

A special thanks to Tiffany W. and Katherine M. for all their help with this post! You guys were a huge help to an INTJ who had no idea what was going on in your heads.

So have you ever written an INFP character? What do you think about this personality type in fiction? I’ve been struggling a lot with my INFP character, but after my research and pestering my INFP volunteers with questions, I understand her better.

Have a wonderful week. God bless,

Gabrielle

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Disclaimer: I am an INTJ not an INFP and an amateur with Myers Briggs Personality Typing. So I am not speaking from personal or professional experience in this post. However, I believe that I was objective in how I portrayed INFPs in this post, and I strive to understand and empathize with the personality type. Also I had several INFPs approve this post before I put it on my blog. Moreover, this analysis of the INFP personality type is not meant to help INFPs understand themselves better. This is an amateur analysis meant to help writers create characters.

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10 thoughts on “INFP Characters: Writing Tips”

  1. INFP #1 (Katherine M.) Answers: “I’ll try to give a personal and general view of INFP’s, both from my own experiences and from general info I’ve read about them that I felt was accurate.

    What matters most to us?

    This is a hard question and can generally vary from INFP to INFP but I will list what I think is at the top of a typical INFP’s list. I would start by saying that fruitful relationships are pretty important to us, as these are essentially opportunities to express the deep kindness, caring and support that characterise us. Next would be morality and what we firmly believe in; INFP’s tend to look for the good in every situation and opinion (in essence focusing on what is common between themselves and who they are relating with and considering other viewpoints) but when it comes to what INFP’s firmly believe in, a defensive barrier is immediately put up that can come off as assertive (which is good) or aggressive (which is bad). I am personally pretty open when to comes to talking about many opinion-based things, but when our conversation treads the grounds of what I believe to be fundamental truth, my uncompromising hard-headedness can surface. However, if I had to pick absolutely one thing as an INFP, I would pick a peaceful inner life. INFP’s essentially live inside of themselves and the tranquillity of one’s own thoughts and dreams can become an escape from the harsh outer world. When I’m not at peace with my thoughts, every other part of my life is corrupted as I very much value the time I get to spend with myself in my heart and my head.

    What hurts us most emotionally?

    Because INFP’s care so much about other people, when their kindness is not reciprocated, appreciated, or at worst, abused emotional pain can result. Taking the time to be kind and supportive, something that comes naturally to INFP’s (especially those raised in a good environment) becomes painful when these traits are continuously taken advantage of. Its almost like someone repetitively reaching their hand out to stroke a cat but perpetually getting bitten or scratched. INFP’s may come to expect this after a while and put up shrewd defensive measures to enable a balance between kindness and assertiveness but if this is experienced at the hands of a close family member or friend-someone who should ideally be mutually kind and loving- then the emotional scar left behind will be great. The biggest emotional trauma I’ve experienced was in this exact situation and it has given me the biggest heartbreak to date (though I have forgiven the person) Generally speaking, being the idealists INFP’s are, if someone close to an INFP fails to reach their often positive but unrealistic ideal , they will suffer emotional trauma.

    How do we view the world?

    If an INFP is raised in a positive and somewhat sheltered environment, their view will often contain the untainted and concentrated optimism and idealism that can characterise the personality type. Even INFP’s that have ‘experienced the world’ rarely delve into full scale cynicism: they retain their optimism concerning people (and their ability for good and evil.) One of the biggest things I have found myself struggling with as an INFP is continuously reminding myself that if don’t live in a world that is governed by love, peace and justice. When I first meet people, I have the tendency to assume they have good intentions and desire fruitful discourse based on mutual friendship and respect like I do. I assume the best rather than waiting for someone to prove whether they are good intentioned or ill intentioned. Often times though, people are ill-intentioned, or are at least much more wiling to take than give, so INFP’s are continuously disappointed by their naive world view, or everyone else’s inability to live up to it. Of course INFP’s are in no way perfect and this isn’t a war between the pure INFP’s and the big bad world (my bias as an INFP may be making it seem that way). Though the strong intuition of the INFP allows us to escape the clasp of the ill-intentioned before it is too late, getting into situations where we are misused or controlled is a common problem that I as an INFP still deal with.

    What weaknesses do INFP’s struggle with?

    In addition to holding people to what can be unfairly high standards (something that results from idealism, perfectionism and personal high standards) INFP’s struggle with a variety of smaller issues, such as disorganization, assertiveness (we hate conflict and try to avoid it which can result in passive aggression) procrastination, idle dreaming and self-control. I read an article about how INFP’s struggle with temptation more than other introverts. The example given concerning money applies to me so much its scary. INFP’s seem to prefer instant gratification as opposed to the delayed (and often better) gratification even if they know the latter is better. So an INFP is much more likely to spend money on something they think they want now, than later. Concerning general temptation, INFP’s are more likely to give in to temptation if they think their sinful action will only affect themselves and not others. Something I can sadly attest to (especially when it comes to money, sleep and sweet things!)

    What do we enjoy and think about most of the time?

    INFP’s are the dreamers of the personality types, so naturally, we spend a lot of time imagining interesting and somewhat implausible scenarios (which is very helpful if you are a writer) . Often times the tendency is so inborn that we don’t notice; when I first took the test, I rejected the idea at first because I disliked the flighty, up in the clouds naivety that seemed to define INFP’s and refused to believe I was like that. As time passed, I realised that I was a dreamer by nature and there was nothing wrong with that. I try to keep that side of me from affecting the realistic view of life I have garnered through experience (as heartbreak often swiftly follows idealistic thought) but it is ever-present. I dream about how events may play out alternatively, how certain interesting moments, people or places would fit into a short story or novel, how I would be if I possessed different personality traits…the list is really endless. Naturally, a lot of INFP’s enjoy books, television series or movies as they allow us to explore what is essentially the world of dreams manifested. Writing, at least for me, gives my multitudinous thoughts form and meaning, which is satisfying to no end. Time alone to wallow in our thoughts is also generally enjoyable.
    One might say that INFP’s are what people call ‘hopeless romantics’, so the love and romance can be a common theme in some INFP’s thoughts. Due to their characteristic idealism and high ideals, the love INFP’s dream about is often pure : we are, in essence, in love with the idea of being in love and the idea of love in general. In the regards to myself, (though it’s embarrassing to admit) this very much applies to me. One would think that such sentiments would make INFP’s ‘boy/girl crazy’ but it’s usually the exact opposite: I have never dated and don’t think I will in the immediate future (I’m in my late teens) mostly because romantic relationships for me (and a lot of INFP’s) need to be commitment-based and between mature individuals.

    How do we view:

    The Past
    I don’t think the past is something that INFP’s focus much on. Being dreamers, we often look to the future or present. The past is often intriguing when it comes to considering past thoughts and beliefs. It’s for this reason I love reading my old writing even if it is embarassingly bad.

    The Present
    The present, I think, is something we INFP’s want to document and preserve when it eventually becomes the past. My thoughts, morals and beliefs are very important to me as an INFP, so I am naturally intrigued with the idea of a future me comparing my adolescent view of the world with my then present view. Will I think I was naive, impetuous, mature for my age?

    The future
    The future is in my opinion the most exciting time for INFP’s. We are dreamers so imagining all future possibilities is a daily pleasure, especially in relation to something we are doing now that will have developed in future.”

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  2. INFP #2 (Tiffany W.) Answers:

    “What matters most? Our core values, whatever we’ve accepted them to be. They’re carefully selected and adopted, according to what feels right.
    Mine include (but definitely aren’t limited to) my faith, close friends and family, artistic expression, honesty, and charity.
    I’m full-heartedly Christian, actively LDS. While I was raised in the faith, I’ve committed myself to it because any other choice feels so wrong. I know it’s right deep in my heart and nothing on earth has been able to convince me to abandon it. There was a time when I seriously considered it, but couldn’t bring myself to because I knew it was right, good, and true.
    My family situation is a bit complicated, so I personally devote more of myself to my close circle of friends (my inner circle consists of four people I trust most, whom I am blessed to call friends). Family as a concept is still a part of my values, as I hope to one day have a family and know I’d devote my entire life to them, and I know theologically that it is immensely important to mankind.
    One of my passionate beliefs, which I add as one of my values, is this; Everyone has a right to artistic expression, and the arts shouldn’t be made into competitions or looked down on for not being “as useful” as math or science… I could go on, but that’s my summed up view on the subject.
    The core values will be things that give life meaning and fulfillment to the INFP and with which we (at least do our best to) align ourselves. We’re generally very laid back, soft spoken, nonjudgmental people; until you cross or invalidate one or more of our core values. Depending on the individual, this may result in anything from lashing out to silently wishing they had the nerve to but ending up in emotional turmoil instead.

    What hurts us most: since we’re one of the more sensitive types, it’s hard to say what couldn’t hurt an INFP, if it happens on an off day. In general though, relationship troubles (familial, friends, SOs, etc.), being ignored/invalidated, and other more personal issues are pretty bad. Relationships are a common core value for INFPs, and so it has a lot of emotional impact, for good or bad.

    A weakness or struggle of the type: we’re far too easy to take advantage of, due to our idealistic, put-others-first nature. We often get a bit trampled in social settings; often interrupted and/or ignored when we do speak up, regardless of volume of voice. We just have quiet personalities. We’re the least likely type to be able to leave an abusive situation, stereotypically and from personal experience. We have a really hard time saying no, standing up for ourselves (we are a lot more likely to stand up for someone else), and will do just about anything to avoid conflict, even at our own cost.

    What we enjoy and think about: our two labels are the Idealist and the Healer. Obviously every individual will fall in a wide range of how much the labels fit, but for myself, it’s a good summary of both what I enjoy and what I think about. I said before that the INFPs are generally authors and humanitarians; I happen to strive to be both, simply because I love to dream and I love to help people. I dream about helping people, and devote myself to people who encourage and inspire me to dream. Making someone’s day, family member, friend, acquaintance, or complete stranger, is what I live for. My biggest regrets in life are the times I either hurt someone or when I didn’t stop to help when I saw an opportunity.
    I also love to write and imagine anything and everything that could be. It almost always involves people, and exploring human nature, eternal truths, and the meaning behind everything.
    Our sensitive, intuitive nature combined with our idealism creates a vision of the goodness of humanity and the ability and desire to “be the good [we] wish to see in the world”. Not every INFP turns out to be a humanitarian of course, but that’s why so many humanitarians are INFP, and every INFP has that vision and desire to a degree.

    How we see the past, present, and future:
    I’ll admit this one’s more difficult to answer. Being very sentimental and emotionally intense, I’d say we tend to put a lot of value on the past. Personally, I know I hold on to past hurts and favorite memories with an iron grip. I think myself very forgiving, but I never forget. I can’t. And past hurts still hurt from time to time, whether I’ve truly come to terms and forgiven it or not. It’s worse if I haven’t, but they can still move me to tears even if I have. On the other hand, I cherish good memories and some material things I have that represent those memories with the same intensity.
    The present may be the one we overlook the most. Being the dreamers we are, we’re hardly ever mentally present unless we’re emotionally invested in the goings-on around us, like being with those we love.
    The future, for us, is a blank slate on which could be written more possibilities than we can possibly imagine, but we try to imagine them all anyways. Different than the INTJ though, we don’t plan for the future or anticipate what will happen. We merely enjoy imagining what could.”

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  3. This could be due to the fact that you’re a Christian writer and may have interviewed other Christians, but not all INFPs believe in “absolute good” and “absolute evil.” In fact, as I mature I find that life has a lot more gray than black and white while absolutes are simply non-existent. Just my 2c on the matter. Otherwise, well-thought out article. 🙂

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    1. That could very well be true, but I was actually trying to emphasize the subjective nature of INFP morality in my post. It is highly possible that my own INTJ nature (we like absolute truths– even when we acknowledge grey areas, we like to acknowledge them in an absolute way :P) got in way, and I failed to make my point. I see what I can do to fix that.

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  4. INFP here. This was very accurate, thanks for taking the time to write it. I’ve read your INTJ post as well, as I have to admit that of all the 16 types, I am probably the most interested in INTJs. I feel like we are two sides of the same coin.

    One thing in particular that struck me are the differences between Ni and Ne. Ni seems to be focused on one specific future goal. As an Ne user, I tend to have one specific, future goal that I am working towards as well. i DO plan for the future. The difference is that, if something comes up and throws me off course and I have to change goals, it doesn’t phase me at all. I don’t mind switching tracks or taking a different path to get to a goal I had. There’s more than one way to reach a destination. If something doesn’t work out like I originally planned, I just recalculate. I think Ni users have a much harder time doing that. They are very focused and don’t want to take an alternative path or get derailed.

    I could say more but the other INFPs you’ve written about here have done a great job covering everything already.

    Hope to see more posts like this from you in the future!

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