When we write fiction, we create characters that are different to us. Right? At least that’s the idea. Sometimes though, it seems that our own personality traits can slip through onto the page, and we find our character behaving how we would behave, rather than how they ought to.
This got me to thinking about our characters’…well, their characters.
Have you ever been personality typed at work? Or completed a ‘Cosmopolitan’ style multiple choice questionnaire to see who you really are?
In my experience the results are very rarely surprising (particularly when we complete the survey ourselves). But I wondered what would happen if I completed a personality test for one of my characters.
Are her actions congruent with the personality I intended to give her?
Myers-Briggs is one of the most used and trusted tests. It divides people into one of 16 different broad ‘best-fit’ personality types. I found a synthetic online version here. There are only four choices to make so it’s pretty fast. Try it!
I answered the questions first for myself and then for my character. I’ve posted the results below. I’d be inclined to say that they’re pretty accurate for both of us.
For writing a new character, when I’m just getting to know them, I think this short, fast summary could be a useful reference for deciding how they should behave in a given situation.
Why not try it for one of your existing characters, or one you intend to create? I’d love to hear how you get on.
Claire – ENFP
Words, ideas and possibilities spew effortlessly from them. Words are their best friends. They dance around ideas, the more, the merrier. Imaginative, spontaneous, original and enthusiastic, they have a knack for seeing other possibilities, other dreams and options. The world is never as it is but as it could be, as if it were but an artists sketch begging for colour. They initiate change and often are prone to trespassing a few known boundaries to take themselves and others where no one has been before. The status quo tends to lack inspiration.
When inspired, they are fearless and tireless. Their energy will know no limits unless red tape takes over. Routine drags them down. Their faith in possibilities and belief in the benefit of change often inspire others to follow. They are challenging, ingenious and innovative. They will give their best to what appears to be an impossible challenge, a place unknown to man or beast.
They use metaphors, stories, images and analogies to make their point.They love theories and often shape their own. They see patterns emerging. Keen improvisers, they are rarely caught off guard, there is always something up their sleeve. The sky is the only limit.
They are sometimes entertainers, artists or otherwise engaged in public demonstrations that allow their ideas to bloom. Their greatest difficulty is not in initiating projects but in choosing among so many possibilities, setting realistic boundaries, establishing priorities and correctly assessing resources.
Main Character – INFJ
Without introverted intuitives, it is said that Israel would have had no prophets. Under deceptively conventional appearances lie perceptive minds that travel the breadth and depth of universal mysteries, contemplating its multilayered complexity, seeking the trends that will define the future. With time, clarity of vision comes. When it comes, they are propelled towards the vision and all their actions lead to it. They are perseverant behind a quiet exterior and will often come back with their vision long after everyone believes they have let it go.
What they see is so clear and obvious to them they are often surprised to find that others cannot see it as well. They may find it difficult to articulate the necessary steps towards implementation or to explain how each goal fits into the larger picture.
Their mind usually travels from the past to the future, seeking to fit a particular situation in a large context. It picks up patterns, symbols and images from different seemingly unrelated fields, identifies similarities and provides meaning. This can help solve problems by juxtaposing ideas, finding analogies or simply by rooting out the quintessential reality, discovering the origin in universal stories and human experiences, culling wisdom from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. Their mind naturally travels from the microcosm to the macrocosm.
They regularly have to face the difficulties of bringing dreams into reality. The time and effort it takes is always more than what their intuition initially suggested. They are determined perseverant, inspired and often see things just around the corner, into the near or far future.