Blame it on my MBTI

ENFP_Motivational_Poster_by_ConnMan8D

After watching a couple of television shows in which characters ended up in very difficult situations, it hit me why it’s so darn hard for me to create conflict between characters. I choose to blame it on my MBTI type. Surely you are familiar with MBTI? The Myers-Briggs Personaltiy Inventory (MBTI) is used for many reasons — marriage counseling, team building, leadership training – but I use it for career counseling. Hence, I know an awful lot about type. The MBTI is made up of four dimensions with poles on either side and each dimension looks at a specific aspect of personality. An individual’s type is made up of four letters, one from each dimension:

Extroverted – Introverted (Where we gather energy)

INtuiting – Sensing (How we take in data)

Thinking – Feeling (How we make decisions)

Perceiving – Judging. (How we are out in the world)

See, I’m an ENFP and one of the outstanding characteristics of my type, or really anyone with a preference for Feeling (F), is a desire for harmony. This is a person who would rather tell you that the dress looks great on you rather than risk you being upset by the truth. This is a person who is more likely to find a way for *all* the kids to play, rather than leave anyone out. Now you can see how a need for group harmony could impact a writer’s willingness to place her characters in harm’s way and/or watch them fight. Inevitably, I’m the person who, while watching TV, will call out to the fictional people on the screen,”Oh, but just talk to her. You can work it out. Tell her how you feel!” Now that might be good if I’m counseling a friend through a fight with someone, but it doesn’t make for good drama. If everyone talked through their feelings told their ‘truths’ in our fictional worlds – man, how boring would that be?!

In terms of my writing, what I need to do is get in touch with the opposite of ‘Feeling.’ The Thinking (T) preference is characterized by being analytical and logical. This is the person (*cough* boyfriend) who will tell you the truth about how your butt looks in those jeans because, for Pete’s sake, you asked didn’t you?? And this is the person who will pick the *best* players for the game because — hello? We’re in it to win it, right?

INTJ-wallpaper

If I tap into my Thinking side, I can remember that what I’m trying to create is good drama. I can be analytical and logical about the drama, not all touchy-feely about who’s getting hurt and who is misunderstood. Good drama means people lie, they make bad decisions, they argue with one another and they assume the worst. Not all of the time because that would be…Real Housewives. Ha! What I meant to say was annoying. That would be annoying.

There are other ways that my personality type influences my writing. My Extroversion (E) means that it’s hard for me to spend days alone in my house writing. To combat that, I sometimes work in cafes with writer friends. The Perceiving (P) preference tells you that I’m not a planner, but I have to fight against that if I am to carve out time from my week to write. The one area that works with my writing is the intuiting preference. Where the N (intuiting) indicates a desire for creating things, the S (sensing) suggests a preference for implementation. It’s common for creative writers – or artists of any kinds – to show a preference for intuiting. But remember girls and boys, we are complex people who can do things a variety of ways. A person with a preference for Sensing could be a fiction writer, too, but that person would probably approach writing differently that I would.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get in touch with my Thinking side and create a fracas in my story. I can always go back to my Feeling side when I’m finished writing. How about you? What is your type? How does your personality impact the way that you come to the page? Or the way you go about life in general?

6 responses to “Blame it on my MBTI

    • Let’s not think of them as flaws so much as aspects of self that can get in the way of good fiction πŸ™‚ After all, hopefully, you embrace those sides of you in other areas of life. Says the FEELING girl — always looking for harmony. Always…

  1. See, I’m borderline on Myers. I have my introvert and extrovert moments. I’m energized by people but I also crave solitude. And I totally see what you mean about conflict–wanting everyone to play nicely. But as you said, conflict creates good drama. I am amazed at writers who can blithely send their characters through all kinds of hell. I cringe every time something bad happens to mine!

    • Linda – I would have you all cleared up on the MBTI if I administered it πŸ˜‰ And yes, you and I are cringers. You are definitely an ‘F’ – as in ‘Feeling’.

  2. ENTJ, which means I don’t think twice about putting my characters through hell. Typically, I have to bring one or more back to life between the first draft and the final version, because my intuition–that readers will appreciate my killing off a beloved character in the service of the novel’s emotional intensity–usually turns out to be wrong.

    • Lyn – LOVE that you need to bring a character back to life! So that where you’ve learned to access the ‘F’ side a little bit, while Linda and I need to get ahold of that T.

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