How do you create rounded characters?
I’ve just returned from the first part of a qualifying course for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). For anyone unfamiliar with MBTI, it is personality type indicator that is used as a self-development tool; very useful in the work that I do as a Careers Consultant. However, it occurred to me that it might also be a very useful framework for developing fictional characters. In fact, as the course progressed, I found myself regularly reflecting on the characters in my current book and how they might behave in certain situations.
The MBTI inventory was developed by mother and daughter, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers who took the theories of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung around personality and type, then through over 50 years of research and development produced this indicator. Today, it is the most widely used instrument for understanding personality differences.
Naysayers amongst us might argue that it is restrictive and like putting characters in boxes. But as I have discovered, the amount of research underpinning the tool is so massive, I can’t even begin to do it justice here. If you believe in creating rounded characters that interact with each other and behave in a believable way, then you wouldn’t go too far wrong by taking a look at some of the theory behind the tool.
When I got home from the course, I googled MBTI for character development and came up with some interesting web sites:
A bit of fun for Simpsons fans: – the Simpsons MBTI
If you want to undertake the test yourself, I’d highly recommend getting feedback from a qualified professional. This would give you a rich insight into your own natural strengths and potential areas for growth. Enhancing an understanding of yourself and your own motivations will undeniably help you to understand what motivates others. And… as a writer, I am fully aware that an understanding of the rich complexity of human relationships is at the heart of character development.