This is the first of four articles about character writing based on David Keirsey’s personality theories. Keirsey was an educational psychologist who invented the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a personality questionnaire that divides people into four groups with four sub-types in each group. It has much in common with the Myers-Brigs Type Indicator and uses the MBTI letters to designate each of the sixteen sub-types, though there are significant differences in underlying theory and type descriptions.
There is much in Keirsey’s temperament theory that can be useful for writers. For example, Artisans make up about 30 to 35 percent of the population. If you’re working with a large cast of characters, something will seem off if there are no Artisan-types in the mix. Here’s an article that talks about Keirsey types in literature, if you need more convincing.
According to the Artisan profile on David Keirsey’s website, this personality type shares the following core characteristics:
- Artisans tend to be fun-loving, optimistic, realistic, and focused on the here and now.
- Artisans pride themselves on being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.
- Artisans make playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders.
- Artisans are excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom, and dream of mastering action skills.
Artisans are the characters who like working with their hands. They are good with tools (anything they can manipulate hands-on in the real world) and make skilled artists, performers, fighters, and criminals. They are impulsive, quick to adapt, like to take risks, and hate being tied down or in a boring routine. Here’s a link to Keirsey’s guide to ideal careers for Artisans.
Keirsey describes this type as “men and women of action.” They thrive on challenge and seek out new thrills, through they will find a way to make even everyday events exciting. They are typically sophisticated with a taste for “the finer things in life.” Though they are charming and popular, they may have trouble making close friends.
Ideal careers (and fictional roles) for Promoters include sales positions, news reporters, the military, police officer, paramedic, and stockbroker. They may rise to leadership positions, and can be tough negotiators. In fiction, I could see them as con-men (like Neal Caffrey from White Collar) or a leader/warrior in a fantasy realm.
The crafter type is a master of any type of work involving tools. This includes woodworking, artistic endeavors, and mechanical work as well as “tools” like weapons, SCUBA gear, and fast vehicles. Thoroughly independent, they are likely to take risks as they seek to better their skills. They are people of few words, preferring to communicate through actions.
Crafters are uncomfortable with rules and authority and likely own, or want to own, their own business. They can be found in roles including chiropractor, IT worker, race car driver, spy, and various construction trades. Try casting one as an intelligence agent who doesn’t fit the sensual, charismatic stereotype.
A charismatic type, Keirsey describes Performers as “exciting and full of fun, and their great social interest lies in stimulating those around them to … lighten up and enjoy life.” They are talkative, clever, fun-loving, optimistic, and love to be the center of attention. They will try just about anything, but can carry their “eat, drink, and be merry” mentality to excess in their uninhibited pursuit of pleasures.
Good career fits for Performers include entertainment (singers, actors, etc.), sports, sales, emergency room nurse, and PR specialist. They like working with people in fast-paced jobs and can be effective leaders. One could make an excellent side-kick for a more serious main character.
Often tending to work alone absorbed in their latest project, the Composer type will throw themselves whole-heartedly into their work. In spite of their skill, they are not likely to seek recognition for their work. They can be warm and friendly when they socialize, though not highly verbal, and are deeply sympathetic towards other people. Many are good with animals and like to spend time in nature.
Medicine, veterinary science, social work, botany, dance, cooking, and chemistry can all be good job fits for a Composer type. I can see them as elves in a fantasy world, or as a pediatrician who weeps in private after sharing bad news with a parent.