Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Human Personality Traits and Character Development

The more you know about your character, the better your reader will understand and identify with him. The character’s name and physical appearance are important and will help the reader visualize the character you’ve created. But how the character speaks, moves his body, thinks, acts and reacts is what makes the character come alive in the reader’s imagination. Capturing the essence of your character is one of the challenges you must overcome to achieve a story that is engaging and entertaining.

For inspiration, some writers turn to personality profile typing charts. Leaders in the field of psychology have studied human behavior and determined that people fall into personality categories based on how they systematically act and react to social situations. Two such researchers were the mother and daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.

Myers and Briggs developed the MBTI, a psychometric questionnaire consisting of seventy-five yes/no questions based on Carl Jung's theories on human personalities. They first published it in 1962. A taker’s answers are tabulated and indicate which of the sixteen personality types the taker falls into.

I have taken the MBTI test several times over the past couple years, and every time I’m typed as ENFJ (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). To give you an idea of how the personality types can inspire your characterizations, listen to how an ENFJ character would be described: Warm, empathetic, responsive, and responsible. Highly attuned to the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. Find potential in everyone, want to help others fulfill their potential. May act as a catalyst for individual and group growth. Loyal, responsive to praise and criticism. Sociable, facilitate others in a group, and provide inspiring leadership. Exclaim My wheels are turning already; aren’t yours?

To take the Myers Briggs Test yourself, Click Here

To read a description of each of the sixteen personality traits, Click Here

David Keirsley, PhD also studied human behavior. His description of the Four Temperaments of the human psyche gained him international acclaim. He, too, devised a test to determine personality types called The Keirsey Temperament Sorter®-II (KTS®-II). According to his website, “(The KTS-II) is the most widely used personality instrument in the world. It is a powerful 70 question personality instrument that helps individuals discover their personality type. The KTS-II is based on Keirsey Temperament Theory™, published in the best selling books, Please Understand Me® and Please Understand Me II, by Dr. David Keirsey.” Keirsley claims every person falls into one of four temperament categories: The Guardians, The Idealists, The Rationals, or The Artisans.

[I took The Keirsey Temperament Sorter on 1/12/2010, and was typed an Idealist. In paranthesis were the letters (NF), or "Intuited Feeling." This is exactly in line with my results for the MBTI: (ENFJ).]

To learn about each temperament, Click Here

And to take the KTS-II, Click Here

Exploring personality types is a fascinating way to create and develop fictional characters. Let the type descriptions spark your imagination, lead you down unexpected storylines, and inspire you to write authentic, life-like characters.