An important part of writing is better understanding the characters you are developing. At times this can be very difficult for me because I can barely understand myself. There are many tools you can use and today I’m going to talk about one in light detail and talk a bit about how I handle it.
Humanity is relentlessly trying to find better means with which to define and understand itself. At the micro level we like to think we understand ourselves and those closest to us but realistically we can only accurately predict things on the macro scale. The larger the population the more accurate the predictions and nearly without exception the smaller we make a population the more unpredictable it becomes. This is certainly confusing and counter intuitive (to me at least) but even now as I think about it I suppose its fairly common knowledge.
Our studies are more accurate and applicable the larger the sample sizes but evenly they become more vague. The things that reliably carry across large populations tend to be on the extreme ends of our psyche. The desire to survive, to reproduce, to breath clean air. These are all things that we are biologically driven to demand.
Myers-Briggs is, as far as I understand it, considered one of the best tools for building believable characters. This is not its intention. As with any psychological test it is for assessing people and making safe and accurate assumptions on their future actions. When you are trying to decide if someone is in danger of repeating an offense these kind of studies are important.
You’ll notice a bunch of seemingly random letters in these squares but each has a meaning. Keep in mind this is just how I understand their meanings and you may want to double check for yourself online. The first letter in each sequence is either an I or an E. These stand for Introverted and Extroverted. An introverted person is generally someone who collects and acts internally. They are reflective and private. An extrovert tends to be active and loud (in many senses of the word). Most people have a fairly acceptable grasp of these two concepts.
The next letter in the sequence is either an S or an N. The first sequence told you how they are likely to express themselves and the second tells you how they will act when presented a challenge or new piece of information. S stands for the sensing type and basically means that the person needs to have all the information tangibly before them. They are interested in the now and don’t really rely on their gut. The N type is intuitive (they already used I in the first sequence), these people listen to their gut and look for meanings and symbolism. In my experience the most interesting characters for investigations have been the latter half of this.
The third letter in the sequence is sort of like Chaotic and Lawful in Dungeons and Dragons. It is either an F or a T. Thinking types are your lawful characters, they are looking for objective truths and logic. Spock or Paladins. I want to say that Sherlock is more like a Thinking Type but frankly his character seems to be pretty much all over the board to me. The Feeling type of person is someone who humanizes things. They aren’t looking for something concrete but rather something emotional and closer to philosophical.
Finally the last sequence is represented by a J or a P. Judging types are people who hunger for organized life and goals. When they complete something it fills them with euphoria and that task/completion harmony is their ideal. A Perceiving type on the other hand is absorbed in ever changing landscapes. They want fresh new ideas and the prospect of such things gets them giddy. They break down in homogenized and structured environments.
So to recap, and again this is just how I understand this stuff. So take with a grain of salt and a side of waffles.
Introverted or Extroverted.
Sensing or Intuitive.
Thinking or Feeling.
Judging or Perceiving.
By taking their test you will find which of these 8 traits best represent you and the combination of your four letters suggests what kind of person you are likely to be. That’s cool and all for a real world experience but where and how does that apply to character development?
When you are writing a new character try and sit down and think about which of each tier your new character falls into. Once you’ve got everything thought out you now have a quick reference point for your character when you are in a bind. While you are writing your story you can refer to your characters history, the current events, and their chart placing. Using that information you will be able to provide a believable and interesting response more often than not.
How then do I do it? Only recently did I learn about this system (which is disappointing given how popular it is) and I think it will do me well. I won’t be losing my trick though. When I make a new character I basically try and recalibrate my brain to fit into their skin. I brood on the situation and their emotions
I try my very best to become the character that I am writing. Every inkling of anxiety, every rush of euphoria, every spec of thought. When they are sad I am sad, when they are angry I am angry, when their world falls apart so does mine. This is actually one of the reasons that I don’t like watching a lot of television. I don’t necessarily do this voluntarily. My connection to other’s emotions, be they real or not, is terribly concentrated.
There are few things as effective to making myself happy as watching someone else having their life uplifted. I’ll admit lately that is not as true as it normally would be just because I’m surrounded by misery on some level or another and its certainly overwhelming other things.
Its not something I would ever want to give up. I do wonder what it feels like to not feel though. I’m fascinated by sociopaths, people who can turn off their compassion or concern. I’d never want to do it forever or for even a long amount of time but I think it would be neat to feel for just a few minutes.
Might make my writing a little more interesting I suppose. I am more or less literally (at the psychological level) living the stories I write. Their actions, gains and losses, haunt me in many ways. When I do have dreams it is not uncommon for them to be related to my writing and when they are not they tend to influence future writing.
This might not be all that unique or interesting. I’ve never really read how other people do it. But it has been on my mind for a few days and I figured it was worth writing. Tomorrow I’m going to take a stab at a little bit of caffeine and see if I can handle it without extra pain problems. Lately I’ve been mitigating my anxiety and I think its about time to really pick up my writing again.
An addendum I suppose is that I’m quitting Reddit. I’ve decided I’m going to just uninstall the app on my phone and anytime I want to use it I’m just going to read a book instead. I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on anyways. It shouldn’t be too hard seeing as I dropped the Escapist weeks ago and haven’t felt the worse for it.
So that’s that. If you want to check out where you fall on the charts above check out a free copy of the test here.
I’m not the least bit surprised.