In Jeff Gerke’s book, Write Your Novel in a Month – How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What to Do Next there was a chapter on creating characters. Gerke suggested making use of the Myers-Briggs Personality System. For those of you who are not familiar with it, you can read more about it here
Basically the Myers-Briggs system categorizes personality types into sixteen categories based on these four basic preferences.
Introversion (I) versus Extorversion (E)
Intuition (N) versus Sensing (S)
Feeling (F) versus Thinking (T)
Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P) – I still have a bit of trouble understanding the difference between these two, but basically I look at it this way. Judging types tend to like everything tied up nice and neat in a smart little bow. Perceiving folks are more likely to let things hang a bit more loosely.
By determining which of the four pairs a person prefers, you can come up with sixteen personality types. I use this a lot when I’m creating characters. To make the system easier for me to remember, I associated each of the sixteen types with characters from all four incarnations of Star Trek. These are my personal opinions so you might not agree with my selections, but that what’s fun and flexible about the system.
The description of the sixteen types are from Gerke’s book and from here.
INFP -Sees the word through as full of wonder, as through rose-colored glasses; must have work that has a meaningful purpose; idealistic. Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people.
ENFJ – Organized and decisive; works to build harmony in personal relationships; empathetic; sees potential in everyone. Popular and sensitive, with outstanding people skills. Externally focused, with real concern for how others think and feel. Usually dislike being alone. They see everything from the human angle, and dislike impersonal analysis. Very effective at managing people issues, and leading group discussions. Interested in serving others, and probably place the needs of others over their own needs.
ISFJ – A serious observer of other people; overwhelming desire to serve others; often taken advantage of; responsible. Quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Well-developed sense of space and function. Rich inner world of observations about people. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings. Interested in serving others. (I’m thinking The Doctor might be more extroverted than introverted, but he does seem to not have a problem being by himself).
ESTP – Tolerant and flexible; actions, not words; the doer, not the thinker; spontaneous, impulsive; competitive. Friendly, adaptable, action-oriented. “Doers” who are focused on immediate results. Living in the here-and-now, they’re risk-takers who live fast-paced lifestyles. Impatient with long explanations. Extremely loyal to their peers, but not usually respectful of laws and rules if they get in the way of getting things done. Great people skills.
INFJ – True activist for a worthy cause; good insights into other people; remembers specifics about people who are important to him/her. Quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they are done. Extremely intuitive about people, and concerned for their feelings. Well-developed value systems which they strictly adhere to. Well-respected for their perseverance in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic, rather than leading or following.
ESTJ – The person self-appointed to keep everyone in line; prefers facts to opinions; stays with the tried and true. Practical, traditional, and organized. Likely to be athletic. Not interested in theory or abstraction unless they see the practical application. Have clear visions of the way things should be. Loyal and hard-working. Like to be in charge. Exceptionally capable in organizing and running activities. “Good citizens” who value security and peaceful living.
ENFP – Idea person; warm and enthusiastic; enjoys work that involves variety and experimentation. Enthusiastic, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities.
ISTJ – Quietly thorough and dependable; always seeking to clearly understand things; punctual to a fault; can seem cold. Serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living. Extremely thorough, responsible, and dependable. Well-developed powers of concentration. Usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments. Well-organized and hard working, they work steadily towards identified goals. They can usually accomplish any task once they have set their mind to it.
ESFJ – Generous entertainer; lover of holidays and special occasions; natural leader; good delegator; encourager; cooperative. Warm-hearted, popular, and conscientious. Tend to put the needs of others over their own needs. Feel strong sense of responsibility and duty. Value traditions and security. Interested in serving others.
ENTP – Ingenious; outspoken; easily bored by routine; challenges status quo; institutes change; clever; incisive. Creative, resourceful, and intellectually quick. Good at a broad range of things. Enjoy debating issues, and may be into “one-up-manship”. They get very excited about new ideas and projects, but may neglect the more routine aspects of life. Generally outspoken and assertive. They enjoy people and are stimulating company. Excellent ability to understand concepts and apply logic to find solutions.
INTP – Obsessed with achieving logical consistency of thoughts; natural and creative scientist; looks for the logical explanation. Logical, original, creative thinkers. Can become very excited about theories and ideas. Exceptionally capable and driven to turn theories into clear understandings. Highly value knowledge, competence and logic. Quiet and reserved, hard to get to know well. Individualistic, having no interest in leading or following others.
ENTJ – Organizes groups to meet task-oriented goals; vision caster; always seems to find himself leading; spots inefficiencies and fixes them. Assertive and outspoken – they are driven to lead. Excellent ability to understand difficult organizational problems and create solid solutions. Intelligent and well-informed, they usually excel at public speaking. They value knowledge and competence, and usually have little patience with inefficiency or disorganization.
INTJ – System builder; both imaginative and reliable; natural strategist; long-range planner. Independent, original, analytical, and determined. Have an exceptional ability to turn theories into solid plans of action. Highly value knowledge, competence, and structure. Driven to derive meaning from their visions. Long-range thinkers. Have very high standards for their performance, and the performance of others. Natural leaders, but will follow if they trust existing leaders.
ISTP – Doesn’t do something unless it’s a big project into which he/she can throw him/herself utterly; great “big problem” solver. Quiet and reserved, interested in how and why things work. Excellent skills with mechanical things. Risk-takers who they live for the moment. Usually interested in and talented at extreme sports. Uncomplicated in their desires. Loyal to their peers and to their internal value systems, but not overly concerned with respecting laws and rules if they get in the way of getting something done. Detached and analytical, they excel at finding solutions to practical problems.
ESFP – Exuberant; outgoing; a lover of life; hedonistic; partier; scattered; into things that are “new”; Johnny on the spot; chatty. Warm-hearted, popular, and conscientious. Tend to put the needs of others over their own needs. Feel strong sense of responsibility and duty. Value traditions and security. Interested in serving others. Need positive reinforcement to feel good about themselves. Well-developed sense of space and function.
ISFP – Sensitive; caring all about feelings; his and other people’s; moody, quiet, kind, doesn’t like conflict; needs his/her own space. Quiet, serious, sensitive and kind. Do not like conflict, and not likely to do things which may generate conflict. Loyal and faithful. Extremely well-developed senses, and aesthetic appreciation for beauty. Not interested in leading or controlling others. Flexible and open-minded. Likely to be original and creative. Enjoy the present moment.
As I said, these are just my opinions and you may or may not agree with my classifications, but I set this up mainly as a quick snapshot of each of the personality types so that when I’m “casting” my fiction, I may say I want to make a particular character more of a Neelix type than a Spock type. I also like to pair characters that are diametrically opposed in personality.
This was done a lot in Star Trek. For example, there were the epic battles between Mr. Spock (ISTJ) and Dr. McCoy (ESFJ). Although Spock and McCoy both favor using their senses over intuition (they both share an S), which makes sense in that Spock is a scientist and McCoy is a doctor and both tend to make evaluations about the world based on their senses, Mr. Spock is a thinking introvert and Dr. McCoy is a feeling extrovert, which led to quite a few disagreements on a number of topics.
In Star Trek:Voyager, Neelix, who is an ESFP, was paired with Commander Tuvok, who was another ISTJ like Mr. Spock. In this case, the two characters were pretty much opposite on all the traits except for one. So usually whenever Neelix was around Mr. Vulcan, as he called Tuvok, Neelix usually got on the sotic Vulcan’s last Vulcan nerve with his extroverted, emotionally driven exuberance for life.