Creative Writing · Writing Resources

Writing With Myers-Briggs

Icy Sedgwick, quote from "He was a man of good character"
Icy Sedgwick, quote from He was a man of good character

As a writer, I value precision of language. So when I tell you I’m obsessed with personality psychology, know that I’m not exaggerating very much. It’s a perfect hobby for a writer. After all, aren’t we in the business of studying people and revealing their innermost beings to our readers?

Whenever I’m planning a new novel and working on character sketches, one of the key pieces of information I write down is each important character’s Myers-Briggs type. Though no personality test is perfect, once you get beyond treating the test as four dichotomies and dive into the science behind it the MBTI is one of the more nuanced and useful ways to categorize type. Here’s some quick links for a crash-course in function stacks:

Perhaps the easiest way to use MBTI in writing is to take a personality test as your character. I usually have a pretty good idea of who my character is and how they’re going to act in at least a few different situations before I start thinking about their personality type. I’d rather get to know them a little and let them develop organically before trying to categorize them. Then I use the type they’re most like to learn more about how they perceive the world, make decisions and interact with other people.

Lauren Sapala, quote from Peel Back the Mask of Your Protagonist
Lauren Sapala, quote from Peel Back the Mask of Your Protagonist

I recommend taking more than one test, then reading descriptions about they type(s) you got for your character. If you take the 25 Quiz test linked above, it will give you several probably types.  Pick the one that fits your character best.

Now you can Google things like “do INTP and ESTJ relationships work?” or “How do ISFJs react to stress?” to get more specific information. I like browsing MBTI forums and getting perspectives from many different people with the same type. That’s a great way to see how similar, and different, people who share a personality type can be.

Your Turn: What are your go-to resources for crafting well-rounded characters?

For more great quotes about writing characters, check out 99 Essential Quotes on Character Creation by MJ Bush. That’s where I found the ones I’ve used in this post.

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