How to Create Characters Using the Meyer’s Briggs Personality Types
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I remember seeing it a few of years ago on Facebook, several of my friends posting about how they were an “INTJ” or “ESTP” and thinking “What the FUCK are you guys ON about this time?”
When I took the time to do the research, it turns out that everyone was taking a personality quiz and getting all of these letters to identify their personality with. I took the test, found out I was an “INTP”, read the description and thought “Well FUCK, I’m EXACTLY THAT.” Didn’t do a Facebook post on it, because I couldn’t be bothered and went back to writing my book and binge-watching Doctor Who for the fifteenth time.
Then, about a year and a half ago, I saw BoHo Berry put a Meyer’s Briggs Spread in her Writer’s Bullet Journal to help her develop characters and thought “HECK THAT’S A FRIGGIN’ GOOD IDEA!” So I put one in my journal, all colour coded and cross-referenced with the 12 character archetypes and thought it was pretty sick.
And I didn’t leave it there.
I started actually making characters off the personality test and all the stuff I could find on 16personalities.com, and the stuff I was making MADE SENSE.
When you take the test, you’re able to get a better sense of yourself and how you operate. The website has some good tips on how to work better with others and keep yourself in your best workflow for the best productivity you can.
But there’s SO MUCH MORE POSSIBILITY.
The more you read into the other personalities, the more character ideas you get and the more character ideas you get, the more you realize there is SO MUCH YOU CAN DO with these archetypes!
I realize that pigeon-holing oneself into a personality type can limit you and your potential. It also causes you to put limits on the people around you. And it could make your characters flat and one dimensional.
But that’s the whole point of these writing formulas, you use them a few times to just get used to them. You use them to lay the foundation for something and then you start TWEAKING.
Writing is rewriting.
You NEVER STOP TWEAKING.
So learn the basics and then TWIST.
So here are the steps of making characters based on the Meyer’s Briggs Personality Types.
Step 1: Do the Test For Yourself
You have probably already done this, but go to 16personalities.com right now, if you haven’t already, and take the test. If you have already, it might be worth taking it again, just to make sure you remember the type you got the first time.
Then READ THE WHOLE THING THEY GIVE YOU.
I know it’s a SHIT TON.
But it will help you understand yourself a little better and maybe identify behaviour patterns and thought patterns that you probably weren’t aware you had or maybe you didn’t want to admit that you had!
Once you have taken a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your personality type, make sure to write it down. Now we are going to explore the rest of the rest of the types.
Step 2: Read the Rest of the Types
When you read about the rest of the types on 16personalities.com, they have rather cleverly put them each into categories that look remarkably like the 12 Character Archetypes we talked about briefly in the last blog post.
Analysts are marked in Purple.
Diplomats are marked in Green.
Sentinels are marked in Blue.
Explorers are marked in Yellow.
Keep this colour code in mind, because it’s going to make it MUCH easier to when you put a spread in your bullet journal later.
Now, the next important thing is to READ ALL OF THEM.
But I don’t have TIME to read all this!
Guess what, hun; a chunk of your writing time had better be devoted to research and a lot of your writing time will be devoted to learning about people.
While these personality tests are not perfect and can’t account for how nuanced all people are, understanding these complex baselines will allow you to create characters that will be nuanced, but also consistent.
Take. The. Time.
Read each of the articles on each one. Take some notes to help you remember it.
Then, the next step will make a ton more sense…
Step 3: Make a Spread for Your Writer’s Bullet Journal
Layout this spread however you like, <this is the picture of my spread in my own journal> in case you need some inspiration.
I divide two pages into sixteen cells by dividing each page in half vertically and then into quarters horizontally. Then, each personality has a cell. I use almost the same colour code as the website, but my yellow doesn’t quite work on the page, so I use orange instead.
How you decide to lay it out and colour code it is entirely up to you. However, you DO need to mark which type you are in your spread so that you know which type you are.
This will help keep you accountable so that you don’t repeatedly make characters in your personality type. We cannot grow as writers if we stay within our comfort zone, this means making characters that are unlike ourselves and exploring personality types and what they would do in familiar and unfamiliar situations.
If this is your first book and that’s what you’re currently doing, don’t worry about it. Keep writing. This is when you need to learn the basics. However, if you’ve been writing for more than ten years and this is your third or fourth book, unpublished or not, then you need to do something DIFFERENT.
Step 4: Make a Character Based On Your Type
I know that I just talked about NOT making characters off your type, but you need to familiarize yourself with how the types work and how to make characters off them. Using a character type you’re familiar with will help you learn.
I’ll walk you through the process if you’re using my Character Worksheet in my Novel Starter Kit, which I can send to you through email if you sign up below!
Okay, there are a few fields that are NOT hinged on the personality type, those are:
- Character Name
Now, those are purely external traits, that obviously won’t hinge on the characters personality type.
And, keep in mind, that you may not have a perfect answer to each of these questions right away.
It’s probably going to take some time to get these ironed out and might take several drafts of your story before you have the fields laid out to your satisfaction. Laying down some framework now will help you immensely in the steps to come.
- Scars and Markings
- Speech Pattern
- Weapons and Equipment
- Abilities and Skills
- General Mood
- First Impression
- Associated with Settings
My character worksheet isn’t based on the ORDER you fill it out, it’s based off of CATEGORIES. So don’t feel like you have to fill it out in order!
Other than the physical features section first two sections I suggest you fill out are the History and Future cells. In fact, you REALLY should do a stream of consciousness writing session to figure all of this out.
And be prepared for BOTH sections to change as you write. It’s completely natural and it’s NOT the end of the world. That’s why they make White-Out tape.
Nicknames are often given to characters based on past events and things that come around their personality. You may have to wait until you fill out the rest of the worksheet before you’re able to answer this.
Scars and Markings are part of your character’s backstory and you will know when they get various scars and tattoos and whether or not they have a mole on their shoulder. Probably, a “I” personality type isn’t going to have a scar from a bar fight they got into. An “E” personality type probably ins’t going to want a hidden tattoo. Think about these things in the context of the personality and make sure it matches. If it DOESN’T match, make sure you really hang a light on it and explain why.
Style very much hinges on the personality type. As in INTP, I have SO MUCH going on in my brain that I don’t want to have a cluttered work environment or wear bright clothing. I wear monochromatic clothes that I don’t have to think about and I like my workspace to stay very much the same so I can continue to do my thing.
Speech Pattern might not feel like it would hinge on the personality type, but it really does! The website even says so. As an INTP, I tend to just ramble on about whatever is going on in my head and I will KEEP TALKING until all those thoughts are out in the open. If the other person doesn’t understand, I tend to get pretty frustrated. It’s PERFECTLY clear to me!
Meanwhile, an ESFJ (my complete opposite) will be the person talking about fashion and social events, rather than larger philosophical concepts. And they will be the ones staying the latest at the party, while I’ve packed up long ago to go home with a book and a glass of wine to be alone.
Undertstanding these big differences will allow the tone of your character’s POV to come across much more strong and your readers will know exactly who’s talking just by the feeling of your prose.
Weapons and Equipment are defined more by roles in the story. But let’s face it; even those roles are defined by the personality type! You’re pragmatic leader is not going to be an INTP or an ISTJ type; those guys are going to be your scientists, programmers, and writers. And those guys are going to carry different things in their pockets. An ESTJ, for example, probably won’t have an emergency sweet in their bag, but they will have a band-aid. And the INFP will probably always have a spare rock or two found on their wandering that they thought was pretty.
Job’s are a large part of our identity, healthily so or not. Understanding that a retail position is probably not the best for an “I” personality type and that an “E” would never be happy in a cubicle is a large step toward knowing how people operate.
I’m an “I” and wasn’t happy in EITHER. So let that sink in for a while!
Abilities and Skills: obviously, someone in the more Turbulent personality types aren’t going to have much people skills and an INFP is called “The Mediator” and will probably have very good people skills, or at least wish they did. Meanwhile the “N” personality types will just know how things are supposed to go, while their counter parts “S” will need to observe things for a while to understand the situation and make a decision from there.
Interests: This one can feel like it’s really close to the above category, but you need to separate them. Just because someone is interested in something, doesn’t mean they are any good at it. And it also doesn’t mean they haven’t tried it.
General mood will hinge very heavily on the situation the person is in, but we have to admit that there is a mood everyone is in. I’m generally pretty happy, just not in the morning before coffee. I know lots of people who are in a constant state of anger until something comes along to change that. Personally, that sounds EXHAUSTING but that’s how people roll. An ENTJ feels like that type of person to me.
First Impression’s come with a lot of pitfalls and booby traps. Things that an ENTP or ESTJ will probably handle with ease. Even and INFP will probably be able to navigate those social labyrinths with apparent ease. However, I as an INTP or and ISTJ will probably have issues with this. Read through all the types to make sure you have a handle on your character’s first impression.
Flaws are laid out VERY CLEARLY on the 16personalities website! This makes it REALLY EASY to give your characters the flaws that work with their personality type! No more flaws generators for you! You’ve got a list of CATEGORIZED FLAWS at your finger tips!
Associated with Settings: I KNOW this one sounds completely off the wall. Stick with me. As an Introvert, the chances of me going to a frat party or joining a sorority or club of any sort are VERY low. An extrovert will probably join one, however! So having someone like me, an INTP, at a college party, is very unlikely. If I’m there, it’s under duress.
Think about your characters and your settings and make sure they actually make sense with those settings.
Step 5: Make a Character Based Off Your Opposite!
Okay! Now that you’ve made a character based of you; who is your opposite?
This is MUCH easier than you think! Because each letter has a letter that is, in essence, it’s opposite.
I’m an INTP, which means my opposite is an ESFJ.
I’m not Extroverted, I’m Introverted.
I’m not obServant, I’m iNtuitive.
I’m not Feeling, I’m Thinking.
I’m not Judging, I’m Prospecting.
E or I
S or N
F or T
J or P
If you’re an INTJ, your opposite is an ENFP
ESTJ’s opposite will be INFP
ESFP will be INTJ
And so on.
It’ll be HARD to think about this, but use the website as your cheat book and it will help! I promise!
Step 6: Take the Test As Each of Your Characters (Or Maybe Just One)
If you’ve already made most of your characters and can assign a type to them, try taking the test as each of your characters! Find out if your guess was right and then make sure you tweak and twist their reactions to fit that type. Or maybe you need to assign them to a different type!
This is a GREAT exercise in getting into your character’s head. And it may yield some surprising results!
Step 7: Tweak Your Existing Characters with their Types
If you’ve done the above step correctly, you either know you were right or you were wrong. If you REALLY need that character to be the “Defender” type or an ISFJ, then you need to make some adjustments.
And guess what; if you got it wrong the first time…
Just make some adjustments and KEEP WRITING.
Making those adjustments NOW will mean that you’ll have few steps to go through when you’ve written your book.
Thank you so much for sticking with me! I know this was a monster of a post! This will hopefully be a fun detour into making new characters and new types of characters. But don’t let it distract you from getting at least a FEW words written today. You can do this!
Make sure to share this with your writing friends, if you got ANY good tips out of it and spread the word. It really helps out my blog and my motivation!
I wish that wasn’t so true and that I could just do this under my own steam, but you guys really do make my day when you share this or mention me on Instagram. It really makes a difference.
The Ginger Wordsmith
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