The Writer’s Thoughts: Should I Use the MBTI in Writing?

It was a few weeks ago when a fellow writer introduced the idea to me of using the MBTI for fiction, and it was a week ago that I posted on my MBTI type so that other writers could understand the ISFP in terms of giving it to one of their characters. I thought all this was a great idea, but before I begin giving my characters each a personality type, I thought I would post today on some of my thoughts on doing it first and see what you guys think.

The Writer's Thoughts- Should I Use the MBTI in Fiction-

Could this help me understand my characters more? I certainly would think it would; you do get to spend more time with your characters after all, and I find the more time I spend with them, the more I learn (which is true for real people too). It could help to better point out their weaknesses and strengths. So yes, I like that idea.

Could it help me understand all of the types? In my research on types so far, I’ve found that I’ve learned not only more about myself in finding my type, but also about other people. I like to think of my characters as real people, because they really are (in my mind), and I’m thinking that if I give each of them a MB type, I could start seeing them as real people.

Could using the MBTI in fiction be my personal key to eliminate certain writing weaknesses? I also started thinking about the way I’m writing my characters and how using the MBTI could help. I’ve read on a couple writing blogs that since usually the author has just one personality, he or she might be prone to write all of their characters with their own personality, thus creating not a colorful and varied cast of characters, but a crowd of all similar thinking ISFJs, or whatever type the author happens to be. There’s no room for conflict, which leads to a lack of a ton of other things that create a good story. And I thought to myself, hey, giving MBTI types could solve this problem! I struggle sometimes with a few of my characters as a lot of different aspects of them are based off of me; thus they think and act the same as me. In this case, the MBTI for fiction could be key for my characterization skills.

Then again, there are thousands of successful writers who lived before the MBTI was ever invented. Hm. Yeah, and they were pretty successful, so successful, in fact, that their books are classics and still widely read today. Of course, these authors were geniuses, and I’m not, so maybe the MBTI could help us novices a bit.

This is a scary thought: What if I DID use the MBTI and it resulted in my having to completely rewrite the character, even rewrite the whole story and plot? Ouch. Especially when this applies to novels, this is extremely terrorizing. I wouldn’t want to do that, ho no. But wait. Could this change be for the good? What if I did have to rewrite the whole story or character because of what the MBTI revealed to me and it was a good thing, and I got more out of writing it a second time than I ever dreamed of? A single character can change the stories of everyone else, thus completely causing the author to rewrite the whole book. Though this may sound intimidating, it may just be the thing I had to do all along (even though I’ve rewritten my novel twice). I’d like to hear if this has happened to other people and if it worked for them.

Could using the MBTI produce a cast of cliche stereotypes? This is the last thing I want to happen. Good characterization is very important to me, which is why I even started thinking about using the MBTI in fiction in the first place. Here’s why I think this could develop stereotypes: Because I could end up boxing each character in a solid personality type. “Ok, you’re ENFJ, you’re ISFP, and you’re ENTP.” Great, so I have a basic understanding of their psychology, but what about the quirks? What about the oddities and individuality and the different knacks that make them unique? As writers, we all know those are important, right? I think this is something I just need to be careful of; sure, I could give my characters a MB type, but I want them to be one-of-a-kind. Thinking about real people could be helpful too, because each person on Earth is completely different from everyone else, which is why we are all special, even though there are thousands of ENFJs and thousands of ISTPs. Here’s the bottom line: Real people have real unique qualities, no matter their personality type.

So that’s that. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “The Writer’s Thoughts: Should I Use the MBTI in Writing?

  1. What an interesting study you are doing! It is enlightening to study the Myers Briggs personality types! I love your last sentence and that you understand how unique each individual is. These traits can cross over and blend in countless ways. Carl Jung’s studies were based on observation of various behaviors, not actual scientific studies, and this led to the larger MB studies. It is great to study the charts and descriptions as it gives some good overall ideas, and then add to the variations you see in your own circle. You could look at each “type” and write a few characters with those characteristics, meshing some together and have a large group of people you can use for your pool. It might be somewhat like seeing this group as a multi age/ethnic/socioeconomic group of folks coming together for some reason as a group, getting to “know” them by assigning various traits, and then see which of these new friends wander in to your story. Personalities can and do change as people encounter various life experiences, adjust overall life views, and as they examine their various “bents” and seek to enhance some traits and curtail others. This should be a truly fun adventure! As the Psalm states, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Enjoy your study! It will last a lifetime! Wish I could be there to have discussions!

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    • Thanks for the interesting information! I think that no one can really fit into a single personality type completely, because each time I took it I got three different types besides ISFP. I like your idea about writing different characters as one type to create a large group of people with different psychological make up. And yes, personalities do change (especially because of different life patterns and maturity), which will make assigning characters types very interesting, because a few of my characters have different arches, down or up, and part of it is or can be due to the personality change. What is your type?

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  2. I’d already written 2 books before discovering Mbti and when I sent my characters through the test they all had different personalities than me. (I’m an ISFJ/P) Actually, I’ve never written a character with my type. 😛

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  3. I think using MBTI is a useful tool, especially to explain behavior outside your experience. I think most writers, especially classic writers, observed the people around them and used them as the basis of their characters. I could only imagine who Sherlock Holmes was patterned on and upped to the Nth degree. Some people really are just geniuses. 😉 But you know, there’s a lot of potential for you too. Keep being the awesome you.

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