Myers-Briggs: Break Out the Big Guns.

For my new series on developing characters using personality profiling, I thought it would make sense to bust out the big guns first. Namely, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. If you’re somehow not familiar with this, it’s the one where people are categorized into one of sixteen personality types, labeled with sets of four letters. Basically, you are sorted by your levels of introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perception. Your levels of each of these things essentially make up who you are and how you respond to the world.

For example, I’m an ISTJ. That means that I am Introverted, I trust my Senses and Thinking over feelings and intuition, and I tend to Judge rather than perceive. Yes, everybody freaks out and starts looking at me like I’m some sort of iron-backboned, judgey freak with a stick up my rear when I tell them that, but seriously people. Calm down. We’re people too.

If you’re looking for a nice, general overview of this Type Indicator, here’s a link to good old Wikipedia.

Here’s the plan of campaign:

  1. Discover what your character’s profile is. Take a test here.
  2. Learn more about the profile. Nice, detailed descriptions can be found here.
  3. Let me know in the comments, or through Twitter, or whatever, what your character’s profile turns out to be!


Now for the meat: I thought it would be fun to go through each of my suggested exercises with one of my characters. I’ve chosen the main character from my first NaNoWriMo novel, since I know him pretty well already, but he’s distant enough from my own self (hopefully… I guess I’ll find out, won’t I?) that I still have more to discover about his personality.

His name is Nate, and that’s all you really need to know about him, although you can find him in all his unedited glory here.

The first step is to discover what Nate’s profile is. To do that, I’ve found a nice online version of the test. It’s not highly official or anything, but since we’re only using it on our brain children, I reckon it’s good enough. I did actually take this for myself, and I came up with the right profile, so it’s presumably pretty accurate.

If you’re following along, remember to answer the questions as your character, not as yourself…

Huh. Nate is an ISFJ. So, apparently are Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Walken, Naomi Watts, and Rosa Parks. You’re in good company, buddy. This group is also known as “The Protectors.”

It was a little difficult at first to get into Nate’s headspace rather than my own, but once I did, it became a lot of fun. I started to experience his curiosity and anxiety on some of the questions that didn’t bother me at all when I was taking the test myself; and if there was uncertainty about how to answer one of the questions, it was his uncertainty rather than mine. Quite an interesting out-of-body experiment.

Now, let’s see what we can discover about ISFJs… The website where I took the test has some good info about characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses that back up what I already know about him. He avoids conflict, he has a warm and friendly nature, he likes to please others, he’s organized and responsible (Boy, is he ever… I made him OCD in response to his lack of control over his life.), he bonds with children and animals quickly, he’s practical and observant, but he can depend too much on others’ approval or be seen as overly emotional. OH, BINGO! In the “career” section, they mention an eye for aesthetic beauty, and suggest photography as a good career for ISFJs. Well, guess what talent Nate discovers in himself toward the end of the book?

Now, let’s see if the more detailed description from the second website has any surprises for me…

Well, first off, they’re called “nurturers” rather than “protectors,” but I suppose they’re just different aspects of the same thing, aren’t they? Interesting perspective…

The short description is “Quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Well-developed sense of space and function. Rich inner world of observations about people. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings. Interested in serving others.” True, true. I’m beginning to be rather proud of my ability to create cohesive characters.

“the ISFJ has an exceptional memory about things that are important to their value systems.” Well now, that is interesting… I’m not sure if I’ve highlighted that as part of his character or not, but it would certainly be a useful trait in this character. Worth thinking about.

“ISFJs learn best by doing…” Oh, yes. Excellent point. I hadn’t actually thought about it, but that definitely applies to Nate.

“The ISFJ has an extremely well-developed sense of space, function, and aesthetic appeal.” Throughout the story, Nate is strongly aware of the spaces around him, finding a place of comfort hidden under the tent-like branches of a cedar tree. Interesting to discover that this is a common trait in this personality type.

“More so than other types, ISFJs are extremely aware of their own internal feelings, as well as other people’s feelings. They do not usually express their own feelings, keeping things inside. If they are negative feelings, they may build up inside the ISFJ until they turn into firm judgments against individuals which are difficult to unseed, once set.” It might provide some good direction for this particular story if I make Nate more prone to holding grudges than I initially showed…

And so on and so forth. I hope my walk-through of this process has been somehow enlightening for you. I know I’ve enjoyed myself, and also hopefully provided myself with some direction for future edits.

As always, please please feel free to let me know what you think of this exercise!




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