Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Personality typing

I am religious about personality typing. Something about the structuring of something otherwise amorphous gets my blood pumping. I first discovered the Myer's Briggs in high school, through the counselor. When I saw the letters INTJ next to my name, with tiny bar graphs and paragraphs of explanation, I fell in love. I spent years pigeon holing everybody I knew by those sixteen combinations.

That was so ESFP of her to throw a party at the last minute.
How dare he ENTJ the rest of us into his minions on this class project?
Doesn't anybody know an ISTP who can fix my computer? Seriously. And an INFJ who could console me over my lost files?

Of course, everybody knows there are more than sixteen types of people in the world. Thank goodness there are alternative ways of typing them to complicate the personality matrix.

1. The color code: power loving reds, emotional blues, peacemaking whites and fun loving yellows.

2. Forgot the name of this alternate color coding version: orderly golds, intellectual greens, adventurous oranges, and, once again emotional blues (why is blue the key color for emotional people? It makes them sound like depression is their natural state, when it is sooo not).

3. Animal codes! Like this one: dependable squirrels, brainstorming rabbits, critiquing turtles and overseer owls.

4. More animal coding! like this: peaceful golden retrievers, leading lions, playful otters, and methodical beavers?

I love using personality typing to create characters. I know my characters' types from every one of these structures. My main character is and INTP, White, gold-green, turtle, and golden retriever. And knowing that, I do my best to make sure the other characters are the clashy opposite on the personality grid. I've got otters and lions and beavers, squirrels and owls and rabbits, ENTJs confronting, and ISTPs miring in details.

And me? I can't really tell you if I'm still an INTJ at heart, because I'm so bent on mastering and understanding the skills of ESFPs that sometimes I'm a different person. For instance, this blog showed up as ISTP in a Meyer's Briggs typing engine for blogs. (Thank you Shrinking Violet Promotions for the link). All I'm missing is the extroversion and I'd be completely exploring the opposites of my roots.

It's a good thing, too. I always feared I wouldn't make a good writer because of my personality type. Introversion worked in my favor, but intuition left me with no eye for detail. Thinking left me with no way to make characters worth caring about. And judging meant nobody would have any fun reading what I wrote.

Knowing how to be yourself and the opposite of yourself sets the stage for the best fiction, both for characters and the gambit of what you can include in the story. Interaction and introspection.   Details and themes. Logic and emotion. Serious and fun. Not to mention all those colors and animals.

I'm a introspective, thematic, logical and serious person who is trying out interactive, detailed and emotional fun. Thank goodness for all that real life experience to show me the other side of the fence with human nature.

The best books have all these things, don't you think? Thank you, Myers and Briggs for showing me how to round out my fiction by means of a personality grid.


  1. Great idea for figuring out characters, I'll have to borrow it! I'm an ISTJ and I married an ESTJ, usually it's differences that make people work together better but for us the similarities have worked

  2. I am an INFJ. Besides being able to console you over your lost files, I can also write, think, strategize, deduce, feel, and still find a way to function.

    Okay, the functioning bit is a stretch.

    Great post, because I'm addicted to personality testing/typing, too.

  3. My main character is a concrete-sequential who is strongly attracted to an abstract-random. I'm anxious to see how this pairing works out.