The Right Personality

Today a radio broadcast Sparked my memory of a seminar I attended not so long ago about “type theory”. The broadcast was about introverts and how these personalities react to an online environment. All very interesting stuff and worth a listen. However, the introvert / extrovert topic and the subject of personality type theory that we were taught about in the seminar was quite different.

I should say, type theory is this hugely complex Jungian psychological subject only the tip of which I know anything about. So it’s certainly not deserving of the simplification that I’m going to reduce it to. I do so only as an introduction to how cool it is, and how cool it can be when applied to character development in creative writing. This is the way it was introduced to me by Dr. Carolyn Mamchur at the seminar.

Here we go: There are 16 different personality types. Sounds like pseudo-science already, doesn’t it? Or a Cosmo quiz. Ignore that, it’s very cool, I promise. The personality types are made up of one of two opposing traits in four different categories: Introverts/Extroverts, for example, is one category.

This may be easier illustrated than explained so lets go on a field trip… Personality types can be deciphered by filling out what’s called a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire and then assessed by a professional or - thanks to the web - in a totally unprofessional manner by dweebs like me. You can do your own MBTI test here. I’ve been assessed by a professional and also taken the preceding test and they both yielded the same result, so props to the online test. But don’t take my word for it. Once you’ve got your four letter MBTI results code head on over to this site to read your profile - they use the term “temperaments” rather than personalities.

It’s like reading an autobiography you don’t remember writing.

If you learn a little more about the MBTI letter codes then you may find yourself quickly becoming obsessed with mentally diagnosing your friends and family members. But if you can get past that for a moment you may just realize the value of this theory as a source of character development.

Creating a character is all about creating (or recreating) a psychology. At least that’s the way I look at it. To make a character believable, their personality has to make sense as it guides their behaviour. An audience can detect if it does not. Measuring out that personality to get there can be like trying to put together Frankenstein’s monster. Well this MBTI stuff, is like a blue print to every character you’re ever going to write.

Again, way too much information for one little blog post but stuff worth sharing. Go now. Be amazed.

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