If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a Ravenclaw. Or, if I were a dog breed, I’d be a Dachshund. Or, my personality type is INFJ. Maybe the one thing you should actually know is that I live for online quizzes.
Let’s be honest. Writing? Hard. Opening up another tab and taking a Buzzfeed quiz titled “What International Street Food City Matches Your Personality?” Easy. (I was Palermo, Italy, by the way.)
But what if you could take quizzes and strengthen your writing at the same time? Since I am a master of productive procrastination, I’ve combined my two life passions* by using the MBTI test to develop my characters.
*Okay, I have more than two life passions. I also enjoy Project Runway, knitting, and cookies. I haven’t figured out how to use these in my writing. Yet.
What is MBTI?
For those of you new to the online quiz world, welcome. You’ll never be able to get out now. Just kidding.
MBTI, or the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator, sorts people into sixteen different categories based off of how they see the world and how they make decisions. The official test takes around $50 to take, so if you’re interested in taking the test for yourself, I’d go for it, but since I’m using it to develop multiple characters, I use a free site called 16 Personalities. (All the images in this post are from that website.)
The test determines whether someone is:
- Extroverted (E) or Introverted (I)
- Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Then, those four letters are combined, and you have your “type.” For reference, here’s a chart of the sixteen possibilities:
So, is it accurate? In my experience, yes. When I took the exam for myself, I felt weirdly validated because of how much of the INFJ description seemed to match me. However, at its core, it’s still separating humans into different boxes based off of personality, and if you’ve read any dystopian novel ever, you’d know that’s just asking for trouble. Below, I have made you an incredibly detailed and scientific graph based off of surveys on how helpful MBTI actually is.
Okay so I actually just surveyed myself, but in my opinion, MBTI is helpful when used correctly. For example: Basing your entire social, dating, and work life on an internet quiz? Probably not that great of an idea. Using a personality test to learn more about your characters and figure out how they might respond in plot scenarios? Pretty cool! Here are five ways I use MBTI in my writing.
1. Make Decisions As Your Character
A common critique in writing groups that I hear is, “I’m not sure your character would actually do that.” Plot keeps a story moving, but you have to make sure that the decisions in the book are actually decisions your character would make. But how do you do that when you’re creating plot and character at the same time?
Taking the MBTI test as my character forces me to get inside their head and start making decisions as if I were them. Instead of thinking what my character might do, I think as my character.
How you answer and what you answer are both great ways to develop a character.
2. Get Tips On Character Relationships
After you take the quiz, 16 Personalities has articles on romantic relationships, friendships, and even parenting styles. This helps me create authentic family dynamics, and I feel like I’m getting to know my characters even better.
3. Gain Greater Insight Into Your Character’s Personality
Creating people out of thin air is hard. MBTI personality descriptions are great molds that you can base your characters off of. It helps you make realistic decisions for your character, too – maybe somebody who’s totally reserved and guarded with their feelings wouldn’t be the most likely to fall in love at first sight. 16 Personalities also offers an “insight of the day” that you can use to create character quirks and habits.
4. Make Sure Your Character Cast is Diverse
Just like you wouldn’t want everybody in your book to look or sound the same, you also don’t want them to all act the same. Make sure you have a wide variety of personalities, and you can also check to see if your different characters have foils. You can also verify that your characters don’t have the same personality as you…#guilty.
5. Compare Your Character to Celebrities or Other Characters in Fiction
I started doing research into query letters today, and I was surprised to see that many literary agents asked what books were similar to your own. During my writing process, I was always worried about being unique, but when it comes to marketing, having comparisons that have already sold well is helpful. Writing is an art, but publishing is a business.
One of my favorite things about MBTI types is that you get to see what celebrities and characters share your type. Most of this seems to be speculation, but speculation comes from their personalities – you might be able to draw comparisons between the people in your work to published books. That’s wicked cool. One site that sorts fictional characters by type is Funky MBTI.
Plus, if you know what celebs are similar to your characters, you can cast them in the movie version of your book. Sure, the movie may only be playing in your head, but maybe in your imagination they’ll actually say yes.
Thanks so much for reading.What’s your MBTI type? What’s your character’s? Any other INFJs out there? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, you can find me on Pinterest , Etsy, and Instagram.