In my last post we talked about the most common character problems and one of the main ones was making them too flat. Using MBTI for your characters can really help you round them out by identifying their personality type and learning more about them.
What is MBTI?
MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It’s basically a fancy personality test. But it is one that is tried and true. If you haven’t already heard of MBTI, I’m sure you’ve seen it all over the internet without knowing. Personality types are shown with four letters (ex: INFJ) each letter identifies which way you sway in a certain category (ex: the first letter can be an ‘E’ for extroverted or and ‘I’ for introverted). So, you’ll often see on Pinterest or whatnot ‘How to understand your INTJ girlfriend’ or ‘How you deal with stress if you’re an ESTP.’
How can MBTI help you with your Characters?
If it isn’t already obvious, since it’s a personality test, you can identify the personality of your characters! Yaaaay. And since this is a “fancy” personality test, they have pages of information on each type. The sections are as follows: Introduction, Strengths & Weaknesses, Romantic Relationships, Friendships, Parenthood, Career Paths, Workplace Habits, Conclusion.
How do you use this Resource?
I would suggest route 1 if you already know your character pretty well and you’re not looking to change them much but maybe find a couple more interesting traits or flaws to round them out. Or, perhaps, to see how they might deal with something like a new relationship, job, or child.
I would suggest route 2 if, perhaps, you have a character in mind that is a bit wishy-washy, or maybe you don’t have a character at all yet. Typically, when I go this route, I have 1 main characteristic in mind and I go from there. For example: I recently did this when I had a leader I wanted to create. And that was all that I had in mind, they needed to be a leader. So, I found around 3-4 personality types that were excellent leaders. I went through their other strengths and weaknesses and, by process of elimination, decided which would fit best for the character I wanted in that role.
My Favorite Resources
The two categories that I look at the most are ‘strengths and weaknesses’ and ‘relationships’.
Strengths and Weaknesses
We’ve talked about rounding out your characters and here is a bulleted list of exactly how to do just that. This can be immensily helpful with villains. I know so many people run into the problem of a villian who is just plain evil. Well, be flat no more! If you choose a personality type for your villian, you can find out their good traits too and work that into your story.
This can also really help with plot. I have had bland characters before and then I look at this page for their ‘type’ and all of a sudden ideas are flowing cause I see how their flaws (ex: selfishness and pride) can be implemented into the plot and cause grief for my main characters (how wonderful!).
I’m gonna be honest here, I don’t have much experience with relationships. I dated around a little. And by ‘dated around’ I mean, I went on 1-2 dates with a handful of guys and always went ‘eh’ until I met my husband. So, I can definitely draw from the relationship I have with my husband, but I never had a boyfriend aside from him, so I really don’t have a good range of experience with different kinds of romantic relationship.
So, being able to read up on my character’s ‘type’ to see how they deal with relationships and what they look for is an invaluable resource.
Keep it your Own
Just because you choose a Myers-Briggs personality type for your character, doesn’t mean you have to follow it to a T. Your character’s personality type could be considered very trusting, but if they’ve been scarred by being emotionally/psychologically/physically abused, then they probably aren’t going to be. The Myers-Briggs types are to be used as a guide and a helper, not a definitive character map.
Why I use it
My biggest issue when writing characters is not giving them enough flaws. I (an INFJ) naturally shy away from conflict and so I shy my characters away from it too. They are all very pleasant (unless I purposefully make them very very mean). And so, what I often use Myers-Briggs for is to look up my characters weaknesses and be sure to incorporate them so that not all of my characters are unrealistic little goody-goodies 🙂
I highly recommend using MBTI for your characters but also if you haven’t personally used it, you should give it a go! It can take a couple times taking the test to get the right type (unless you’re really good at answering the questions as how you are and not how you want to be), but once you find the right one it can be very enlightening. Reading about my personality type has definitely helped me feel less alone because it gives me clarity on things that I thought were abnormal or confusing that are just particular to my type.