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-- the fearless type --
We love characters around here, and we love building them. So today we wanted to share one of our favorite tools for developing insanely dynamic, rich and relatable characters-- by using MBTI.
(While this post is strictly about MBTI, we recommend learning both MBTI and the Enneagram typing system for an all around view of your characters. The MBTI is how the world sees you/your character, and Enneagram is how you/your character see the world, so together they form a complete picture).
WHAT IS MBTI:
MBTI -- or Myers Brigg Type Indicator -- is a personality typing system that uses elements called cognitive functions to figure out sixteen different personality types. It's purposely crafted to make the theory of psychological types easy to understand and accessible to the everyday person. Not only does this help people towards a path of self development, but it can also help us understand others. That's where MBTI for book characters come in.
In our workbook we've talked about the simplest approach to typing, and that's to take the whole system at a surface level to make quick assumptions. This can be an easy way to get started for several reasons. It can give you a jumping off point that helps you focus on one or two of the closest matches quickly, and it can help you bypass a lot of the psychology if that's not your thing. We still recommend trying out MBTI by using the functions (we call it in depth typing and it's the second half of this post), but if you want a refresher on quick-typing, read on.
Each MBTI personality type is a combination of four letters, and those letters essentially become the name of the type. At it's most basic form, it boils down to: Are you extroverted or introverted, are you a sensor or an intuitive, are you a thinker or a feeler, and lastly: are you a judger or a perceiver?
It's important to get a good understanding of what these words actually mean and stand for, because if you don't it is extremely easy not only to mistype but to fall prey to many stereotypes. Let's take a closer look at each part of the equation.
To do a quick type, simply go through each section and pick which side you feel correlates to your character more. Once you have your final combination, begin your research on that type and decide if it fits your character.
Extrovert vs Introvert = E or I
Sensor vs Intuitive = S or N
Thinker vs Feeler = T or F
Judger vs Perceiver = J or P
The total combinations of these letters create the 16 types: INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP, INFJ, ENFJ, INFP, ENFP, ISTJ, ESTJ, ISFJ, ESFJ, ISTP, ESTP, ISFP, ESFP.
IN DEPTH TYPING:
As we mentioned before, using the quick typing method is really more like educated guesswork at best, and at its worst it could result in mistyping. The reason for this is because it's difficult to break down each type into merely eight distinct differences without losing a lot of the depth to the psychology of it.
This is where the cognitive functions come in. The truth of the matter is, everyone has elements of introversion and extroversion, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, and perceiving and judging. We just use them all in different ways, and are stronger or weaker in some areas than others. There are eight functions, and they get to the nitty-gritty of the personality type. Because everyone is able to think, feel, use their intuition and use their senses, it comes down to how do you use each specific part? Are you using it in an introverted manner or an extroverted way? Everyone has a combination of some functions being used in an introverted way and some being extroverted--it's always in a pattern, E-I-E-I or I-E-I-E. It's simply a matter of figuring out what the combination is, and in what order the thinking, feeling, sensing and intuitive factors fall.
Every possible combination of these functions becomes the sixteen MBTI personality types. Here's a quick cheat sheet to help you out!
Another place with lots of great references and charts is at Personality Hacker. They have a page full of guides, as well as a podcast and blog articles. If you want a great website to get a quick grasp on all the types individually, head to 16 Personalities. It's a great go-to place to check into the types.
So there you have it! You are now equipped to use the Myers-Brigg Type indicator to craft rich, amazing, realistic characters. Oh, and if you figure out your own type in the process, be sure to head over to our posts on our top tips for introverted and extroverted writers!