A Tool For Understanding your Characters : The Myers & Briggs Personality Types

This is one of those rare times when being sucked into the vortex of the internet led me to something that will actually be helpful in the future, specifically in relation to understanding character. So, I thought I’d share.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this Tumblr image of Harry Potter characters broken down by Myers & Briggs personality types, and naturally I wanted to  know which character I was. So I took the test—with no real interest in the answer other than to find out who I was (Luna Lovegood, by the way)—but was really interested and impressed with the results. My family members all proceeded to take the test as well and we had a fine ol’ morning, laughing at surprisingly accurate profiles for each of us.

Here is a basic breakdown of how the Myers & Biggs types work:

Each personality type is determined by four different factors: favorite world, information, decisions, and structure.

Favorite World: People either prefer to focus on the outer world [Extrovert] or their own inner world [Introvert].

Information: Some people focus on the information presented in the moment [Sensing], others interpret and add meaning [iNtuition]

Decisions: Some make choices based more on logic and consistency [Thinking], some on feeling, people, and circumstance [Feeling].

Structure: In dealing with the world, some like structure and firm decisions [Judging], others are more open and adaptable [Perceiving].

In this way, a person’s personality type is made up of four parts based on each respective category. So, for example, I was deemed Extrovert, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving, so my type would be INTP. There are 16 types.

ISTJ

Inspector / Duty Fulfillers

ISFJ

Protector / Nurturers

INFJ

Counselors / Protectors

INTJ

Masterminds / Scientists

ISTP

Operator / Mechanics

ISFP

Composers / Artists

INFP

Healers / Idealists

INTP

Architects / Thinkers

ESTP

Promoters / Doers

ESFP

Entertainers / Performers

ENFP

Champions / Inspirers

ENTP

Inventors / Visionaries

ESTJ

Supervisors / Guadians

ESFJ

Provider / Caregivers

ENFJ

Teachers / Givers

ENTJ

Field Marshall / Executives

All of this got me thinking about how these personality types might help me as an author. So, I took the test six times—once for each of my six primary characters. Each time I was blown away by how spot-on the results were. The personality type descriptions not only gave good general character profiles, but often even seemed to describe the behavior of characters in specific scenes of my book!

Character and Type Type Description Excerpt from book Others of the same type (supposedly)
Yarrow Lamhart

INTJ

This happens in part because many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals; for instance, they tend to have little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation “Well?” Bray asked, looking up at Yarrow with a sly smile.“Well what?” he asked.

“Aren’t you going to tell me how nice I look?” she asked.

“Putting a beautiful thing in a fancy wrapper cannot inherently improve it,” he said.

“So I look unimproved?”

“You look uncomfortable.”

“Yarrow Lamhart, you really know just what to say.” Bray laughed.

  • Jane Austen
  • C. S. Lewis
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Mr. Darcy
  • Gandalf the Grey
  • Professor Moriarty
Bray Marron

ESFJ

ESFJs are easily wounded. And when wounded, their emotions will not be contained.Their sense of right and wrong wrestles with an overwhelming rescuing, ‘mothering’ drive. This sometimes results in swift, immediate action taken upon a transgressor. Bray jumped up from the bed, her blood pumping and her face red. “My personal vendetta? And what of you, Adearre? Your obsession with coddling these murderous bastards? That isn’t personal for you?”She did not feel remorse for a one of them— they were child abductors, murderers, and rapists. They deserved far worse than the clean deaths she’d given them. It was not her problem if Adearre was too great an idealist for the office they performed.
  • Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Star Trek)
  • William J. Clinton
  • Nancy Kerrigan
  • Terry Bradshaw
  • Babbitt (Sinclair Lewis)
Sung Ko-Jin

ESFP

spontaneous, impulsive nature of this type is almost always entertaining…Some of the most colorful storytellers are ESFPs. Their down-to-earth, often homespun wit reflects a mischievous benevolence. Ko-Jin recounted to the group at large a humorous story of how he had accidentally offended the warriors of the Adourran flatlands by killing and eating several desert hares— an animal apparently highly prized and honored in that region. Peer and Adearre laughed raucously.
  • Bob Hope
  • Kathy Lee Gifford
  • Peter Griffin
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Goldie Hawn
Peer Gelson

ISFJ

ISFJs are driven by the conventional, by ‘should’s and ‘ought’s; ISFPs internalize their Feeling (by nature a judging function) which bursts out spontaneously and leaves as quickly and mysteriously as it came. Peer stood so quickly he knocked his chair to the floor, where it clattered. Bray’s brows drew up in surprise at the intensity of his expression, his face pink and his mouth downturned.

“Are we done here?” he asked.

“Certainly,” Bray said, eyeing her friend curiously.

Peer nodded curtly and departed. Bray and Adearre exchanged baffled expressions and followed in his wake.

  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • Fred Astaire
  • Yogi Berra
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Christopher Reeve
  • Dan Rather
  • Donald Trump
Arlow Bowlerham

ENTJ

ENTJs have a natural tendency to marshall and direct. This may be expressed with the charm and finesse of a world leader or with the insensitivity of a cult leader. Yarrow stared after him [Arlow], his shoulders slumping. Why did he always let Arlow dominate their conversations?“It’s strange.” She [Bray] stepped forward. “I remember him [Arlow] being just as obnoxious when I first met him. But somehow he grew on me. I can’t actually recall how that happened.”“He does that,” Yarrow said cautiously.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Richard M. Nixon
  • Harrison Ford
  • Steve Jobs
  • David Letterman
  • Jean Luc Picard

So what does this tell me? Well, several things.

First, and least significantly, it tells me that I know my characters well enough to answer a series of questions with enough accuracy to yield true results. Go me. But more importantly, it helps me to better understand why my characters are the way they are. Interestingly, none of my characters were the same type as I am—so each of them see and interact with the world differently than I do. Understanding, on an intellectual level, what makes my character, as a personality type, tick is certainly valuable.

I would occasionally feel frustrated with my characters for behaving in certain ways. I knew, because I have a good grasp on my characters, that their behavior was authentic and correct—but it did not necessarily jibe with me. That’s likely because I am a P (perceiving), and most my characters are Js (judging). It’s harder for them to overcome predispositions.

Of course, people do not fall tidily into 16 different categories. Human beings are not so neat as that. I, for example, was only 2% more likely to rely on feeling than thinking according to the test, which makes my categorization a bit iffy.  But, for the sake of characters, I think that these 16 categories are a pretty good guide. I thought that one of my characters (Adearre) would be too complex to fit comfortably into any, but his type was actually one of he most accurate of the bunch. They do seem to acknowledge conflicting parts and complexities.

 

Some other possible uses for Myer-Briggs:

  1. Verify that a cast of characters are not all the same type of person
  2. Learn more about a character’s nature, through answering questions previously not considered as well as reading profiles.
  3. Compare types to better understand character relationships (For example, Ts (thinkers) tend to be frustrated with Fs (feelers) for inconsistency in behavior).
  4. When creating a character, work backwards from type to character components.
  5. If unsure how a character would respond to a situation, look at each of the four components and examine the situation with each determinant in mind.

I’d be curious if other writers found the test to be as on-the-mark for their own characters.

unsplash-logoHello I'm Nik

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

Never miss a new book!

Instagram

Instagram has returned invalid data.

Follow Me!