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:

Character creation made easy – pick a personality. (From: learntowritefiction.com)

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.

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Posted on July 18, 2011, in Careers, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Dorothy Shamah

    Thank you for this link..character creation made easy. I’m an INFJ myself and a member of an INFJ listserve. It is more than lovely to be in touch with like minded ‘preference’ endowed individuals. I’ll check out the link. Surely, making one character INFJ and another an ESTP would automatically create some tension in any plot.
    annielaural who lives at http://www.kookaburaseranade.blogspot.com

    stop by sometime

  2. Annie – thank you so much for your comments. I am also an INFJ and delighted to meet another writer with like minded preferences! Fantastic. I’ll check out your blog.

  3. This is such a great blog entry. Such a great idea. As a fan of Jung, and an INFP, this idea is so helpful for my writing. I am so glad to have encountered it, as it really offers some useful ideas for creating and developing characters. It really makes a lot of sense (thinking both about characters in books I’ve enjoyed, and in giving me ideas for how to make characters work in my own writing). Thank you. So glad I eventually discovered this blog entry 🙂

  4. Anthony – thank you for your comment! The more I have used the MBTI tool over the years, the more useful it has become in both my work and my writing. And thank you for taking the trouble to look back at my past blog posts. 🙂

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