Edit: I looked at What are some ways to get to know your characters? and while I noticed similarities, I think that question asks in broader terms about what tools can be used for developing characters. I tried to narrow this question down to specifically the Myers–Briggs method, it's usefulness and limitations.

For a while I've been fascinated with the different personality types, studying the letters, function stacks, and how they play.

I've done tests to find out what types my characters are and spent hours reading up on that particular type, how that type thinks, their work habits, relationships, how they react to stress, whatever is available to find online (for free mostly).

That said, I tend to come up with my characters first and then figure out what type they are. It seems the more I get familiar with my POV characters, the less they seem to fit any particular type. Is this realistic or a fault in developing my characters?

I'll use my soldier character as an example. I tested him and he fell in the "ENFJ" category. (Extraverted, intuitive, feeling, judging) The more I read up on the type, the more I realized this type "can't" be a soldier. I put "can't" in "" because I'm sure there must be real life exceptions, but internet research is pretty limited, so I can't go 100% sure one way or the other. Long term wise over the arc of the series this type does appear to be the closest fit for the character and his development. Though early in the story he has his "mask" so it may be hard to type him with that mask on.

But then I noticed my character also plays up an "alter ego" or "work personality" (aka his mask) as a way to shut out his feelings and keep focused on his surroundings, and help achieve his missions/ battle tactics as a soldier.

Is this a bit unrealistic?

I decided to test my character again (factoring his work personality, the mask he puts on, how he carries out his actions rather than how he feels inside about what he is doing) and came out with an ESTJ. An ESTJ would be a more fitting type for a soldier, but he still has contradictory traits that make him swing between that, an ENFJ or even a possible ENTJ. (he does want to believe in abstract stuff, thinks towards the future, but because of a rough upbringing with his first father figure and a falling out with his second father figure, he shuns such beliefs initially and favors the belief to show fear (or emotion in general) is a sign of weakness.)

I'm wondering how much can I/should I rely on the Myers–Briggs system? Are such contradictions natural and realistic? I see myself as a contradiction being unsure if I use T or F as my dominant, swaying between INFP and INTP. I tested my own "work personality", the mask I tend to put on at work and came up with INTJ. The description of an INTJ doesn't fit me quite, but I can see things I can relate to, even more so when I read up on an INFJ. I notice I have a stronger judging preference at work than I do at home. At work I can't stand clutter, inconsistency, like to complete tasks, but at home I'm the opposite.)

Considering my real life example vs my character, is it that unrealistic for my character(s) to not fit cleanly in the "box" or do I have major work ahead of me to sort out my characters? (and perhaps myself in the process?)

Or do you make up the characters and if there are contradictions, you just let it go and try not to worry about it too much? (and that being what I need to do with mine?)

  • 1
    I've seen this done, and it seems like a useful exercise but not a good constraint. There is, for example, an analysis of all the HP characters online somewhere for their Myers-Briggs typing. geekologie.com/2013/09/…
    – SFWriter
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 20:57
  • Possible duplicate of What are some ways to get to know your characters?
    – FraEnrico
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 7:50
  • Possibly a duplicate of this question: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/582/…
    – FraEnrico
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 7:51
  • 2
    @FraEnrico Though not a duplicate, I do like that you linked to "What are some ways to get to know your characters?" topic. That question and the answers are a helpful resource. Especially if branching out and considering other options for character development.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 19:14
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    You mentioned you've looked at function stacks. Good for you, that's the basis of the framework, keep refering to those. I also wanted to mention that a lot of online tests are biased towards Introverts and Intuitives because they're more "rare". The most common mistype is the INFJ and INTJ because they're the rarest, so I suggest reading through the cognitive functions and determining from those what your characters MB type is. Another thing to look into that offers insight is the shadow functions of each type. psychologyjunkie.com is my favorite resource for MBTI, it's well done.
    – Nadeshka
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 23:13

9 Answers 9


I think these contradictions in personality is what makes it more interesting. Every person at some point in their life does something that does not match their personality. Or like Andre Berthiaume said "we all wear masks, but there will be a time that we cannot separate the mask without tearing the skin." Which means we grow into our characters. Of course some people grow more into their characters than others because of their personality or because of the traumas they have experienced.

It has been popular to create a variety of personalities. For example, the script of the TV series "Friends" was written so that each character had their distinct personality type. This works best when there are about 5 friends. This may help to get the audience to have there own favorite character, or a character they can relate too. It also creates a more stylized environment in which the audience has a certain prediction about the character due to there personality. This can create suspense when the character needs to do something that does not match his personality type. You might also want to check out the big five personality types which have some overlap with the Myers-Briggs indicators.

Beside developing your characters' personalities you should also think about what they value. What is important to the characters? This will create the tension in your story as the characters have to overcome their own dispositions.

  • - "we all wear masks, but there will be a time that we cannot separate the mask without tearing the skin." I really like the quote. It is very fitting in this context. Even more so as I think over not only the rough draft of book 1 I am writing, but also his story arc in the series as he comes to terms understanding who he is and finding his values. (he's so used to ignoring his own self and own beliefs in order to please others (superior officers and those serving below him as well. As well as trying to make sense out of a corrupt system and being taken in with it.)
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:25
  • As I am working out the rough draft I've been finding a lot The theme seems to be coming to terms with what they've been hiding/ running away from. For my character's friend, was that he hated the corrupt system, so much he deserted his friend and left things a mess (the enemy almost took them out) and for the soldier character was that he lost himself, in his hopes to change the system, that he let himself get taken and become part of the corrupt system. By reuniting the two former friends turned enemies, they have to confront those sides of themselves they've been hiding from.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:33
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    Not only do we do things that contradict our personality, it's those contradictions that 1) make us individuals and 2) allow us to grow over time. By doing what we don't normally do we can decide if we want to change or not.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 0:27

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is considered pseudoscience by psychologists today. If you find that (real or imagined) people do not fit one of the MBTI types, then that is because those types are not valid* (that is, they do not exist in reality).

The MBTI types can serve as an orientation for creating fictional characters in the same way that plot structures from how-to books can serve as an orientation for developing your story, but both should not be taken further than that. As soon as you have the basic structure or personality, other kinds of knowledge should come into play: your past reading (of other novels), your personal experience (of what life is like), and, if you really want to get scientific about creating believable characters, expertise in scientific psychology.

There are great introductory books on personality psychology (for character), clinical psychology (for the 30% of the population that have some kind of clinical disorder or other), and social psychology (for interpersonal behavior), so a few weeks of reading should get you up to date on the basics. From there you can dig deeper if you need more detail for a specific character.

But from my experience too much research into science will only make your characters stiff and constructed. What you need to write believable characters are experiences in life and an ability to reflect and introspect on those experiences.

* see e.g. Hunsley, J., Lee, C. M., & Wood J. M. (2003). Controversial and questionable assessment techniques. In: S. O. Lilienfeld, S. J. Lynn and J. M. Lohr (eds.): Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology (pp. 39–76). New York: Guilford Press.

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    +1 for using pseudoscience and Myers-Briggs in the same sentence. You must be an INTJ ;) Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 17:51
  • I feel obligated to point out that, although MBTI is about as scientifically valid as saying "my character is a Ravenclaw," JK Rowling did sell quite a lot of books by doing exactly that.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 19:05

You're overthinking it too much. The Myers-Briggs can be nice (I have a friend who did - sorta - an extensive research on it) and surely its good to know your character so well that you can type them (also, most personality types come with examples of behaviour, nice descriptions, and good material whatsoever).

I'm no psychologist, but no one "fits cleany in a box", no matter how intricate and personalized your box system can be.

My two cents: the Myers-Briggs can give you insights, but shouldn't be taken as the absolute truth. Do that and you'll be toying with a more complex looking horoscope.

  • 1
    "You're overthinking it..." indeed that would likely be my character's thought on this whole thing. Just for my own amusement I like to imagine my characters being with me as I force them to sit at the computer and test. My Soldier dude would likely roll his eyes, grin wryly and be "What difference does a few damn letters make?" I'm still the same guy. What great secret to life are you trying to resolve? "Oh well, if it would make you happy, I'll do it." Then he'd look at me genuinely puzzled why I'd obsess over the results afterwards.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:22
  • If your characters are so "real" and well planned that you can imagine their reaction with this clarity, you should be fine (and you probably did a nice job already!).
    – Liquid
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:40
  • I've kind of grown up with them as I've been working with this ongoing story project since I was in gradeschool. Granted there were many multi year long pauses and breaks, but it is fun watching how my characters change and evolve as I get a clearer perspective of my story. I know for sure the character in question went through several revisions. The character he is now is like a 180 of the character I had back when I started writing him in 1996. (He was an introverted, quite kind of almost stereotypical wise/ leader sort) but I grew bored of that and he evolved to something else.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:50
  • It dawned on me a very calm extremely introverted type might not make the best former drill sergeant + I could get a lot more interesting story if he was a brigadier general vs a door guard. (seemed to interest me more at age 12 than now) Yeah there was a lot of evolution as I've grown up, matured and reflect on what I am writing. There's still plenty of room left for the story to develop though. I'm nowhere near where I want to be.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:53
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    You may be a perfectionist, then (capitan obvious here). Still, it's fine if you want to improve - but going back to the question, I don't think the Myers–Briggs system should be reason enough to question your choices.
    – Liquid
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:55

I think it is "natural" for us to at times suppress some of our traits and rely on others. Yes, a woman can be intuitive and feeling and empathetic and sympathetic, she can desire fair outcomes. But in a stressed situation, still shoot and risk harming innocent people if it is the only way to protect her child from harm.

A soldier can feel the same. He may not really be cut out for it, I know that because I was in the military myself as a teen, thought everybody I met dumb as a rock, hated it, hated their logic, and suffered through my stint in it. I had no blood lust or desire to kill anybody. But, that said, I was an athlete with extreme control over my body and mind. I trained on the weapons, I was the fastest runner (but not the fastest sprinter), I was the best marksman in my group, I was the best student in self defense. I also had the highest IQ, and was the most cynical and argumentative with idiotic policy.

And though I was never in battle, I do believe in a true battle situation I could easily kill many enemy soldiers to protect the men around me, not out of hatred for the enemy but out of love for my brothers in arms.

That's just a fact of psychology, when it comes to kill-or-be-killed, our "family" takes priority over strangers.

I enlisted as a grunt (non-officer) in the military as the most practical, fastest way to pay for my full education (the GI Bill in the USA was quite generous). Your soldier, like me, may have joined the military for one reason and discovered they are not a good fit, psychologically. That may be the source of much regret and psychological pain. Yet his performance as a warrior, that mask, can be anywhere from incompetent to consummate.

When it comes to battle, many people freeze (unable to make a decision because fear and adrenaline have impaired their frontal cortex) and may be killed for it; but those that don't have typically also shut down higher level thinking and are acting through muscle memory and instinct to become merciless killers, protecting their own lives and those they feel responsible for (not necessarily in that order of priority). I've read actual soldiers saying they did not feel like they hated or wanted to murder the enemy, but were trying to stop a threat to the rest of their squad. They WERE killing the enemy but it felt like protection and self-defense of their brothers and/or 'country' (the civilians they love at home in most soldier's minds), not an invading attack, even though they were part of an invading force.

This is why military leaders often dehumanize the enemy (or in the bugfolk story perhaps demonize would be a better word), and emphasize 'family' ties in soldiers (eg. these are your brothers and sisters, worth dying to protect against predators that are just killing machines that are literally no more than animals that would destroy everyone you love).

Under battle stress, the complexity of personality can fade, interacting parts stop interacting, things become simple and instincts take over. If your character is 'judging', that aspect can dominate. Love for family and friends can dominate and make them killing machines. Or fearfulness can dominate and make the cowards.

Besides the horror of battle and losses, I think some of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is for soldiers that have to deal with something they did in battle under stress that haunts them when they regain their moral and thinking faculties.

For example, consider a soldier primed during a house invasion to expect hostile terrorists that will fire upon him. Busting into the house, the first person he sees is a five year old girl that poses zero threat to him, but instinctively he shoots and kills her, acting without thought, his muscle memory and primed expectations do the shooting, adrenalin had shut down his judgment. Then it turns out their information was wrong, there are no terrorists, not even a male in the house.

Later, when his thinking returns, He cannot get this little girl out of his mind, he has nightmares and keeps reliving this episode, the shooting of the little girl followed by her screaming and wailing mother, he just killed her child for no reason at all. He just cannot square who he thought he was with who he became in that second, out of fear and adrenaline and false certainty. The fear component may make him feel he acted as a coward. It may even be he judges himself guilty of murdering a child, and finally punishes himself according to his own value system: He takes his own life.

In short, I don't think you have a problem at all, as long as your characters and masks have at least some justification. Humans (and I presume your characters too) are of at least three major minds, in order of true control: Instinctive, Emotional, and Rational. Rationality serves emotion, but it is a late add-on evolutionarily speaking, always a servant to emotion and easily overridden by emotion, which is why people do things in anger, fear, lust or addiction that they would never do if they could think about the consequences and ramifications of what they truly wanted out of life.

And though emotion and instinct are closely intertwined, in the end instinct and muscle memory can override emotion, out of the same time constraints: animal instincts are far faster than translating emotions into actions.

I would say the main thing is to ensure that what you do in writing these departures from Myers-Briggs (which is far from the only structure used to judge personality distinctions) is NOT a deus ex machina, an improbable departure to make it easier for you to get through the next plot point or scene. Avoid that kind of departure, if anything ensure your plausible departures create conflicts, they do not avoid it. Don't use them to make your authorial task easier!

  • Thanks for your time describing your experience. That is exactly the type of reasoning behind my soldier. He joined because 1 his closest friends were drafted (and he wanted to show support for them) and 2, the family thing. We got to save our starving colony from those "monsters". That and he may not have fully believed his own colony was corrupt. He used to before serving gloss over the bad and assume the best or the good. The corruption with their system he'd be discovering while he is serving, and likely when he's gotten to a high enough rank that just leaving isn't an option.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 23:45
  • That's cool to know based on your story, I'm not far off. It's refreshing to hear from people with experience to help me gauge how I am writing on stuff I've only read about or did simple research.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 23:48
  • That said I agree with the idea to make the character believable and use it to create conflict. For my soldier character this split really eats him up emotionally when he has time to reflect on what he's done to the point It led him to make poor choices early in his life (alcoholism and eventual recovery), and tons of regret later in his life as he deals with his emotions and avoidance of handling them well.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 23:58
  • In my case, I did suffer through two years of the military, but more in the sense I had to work for people, from sergeants to two star generals, that I sincerely thought were morons, and in hindsight four decades later, still believe that. On top of that many were sadistic and cruel to those beneath them, for no apparent or valid reasons in my view. I suffered no lasting emotional trauma, no "why me" moments or angst or unresolved anger. No irreversible traumas or life changing experiences. No gratitude or fondness in hindsight, either. I got through it, then took my GI Bill and wrung it dry.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 11:49
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    The stories we find most interesting are about revelations and transformations. Coming of age is one, love stories, overcoming tragedy, understanding yourself, realizations, coming to terms with the death of a loved one, stopping world changing events (or engineering them). Overcoming daunting odds. IRL there are usually just a handful of such momentous transformations. But we love the stories about them! I don't think people like to read about boring real life, unless it is precursor to such a transformation. They anticipate that, and if they don't get it, they are disappointed.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 16:24

The Meyers-Briggs test is a means typically used by people to quickly assess a person and know how to react to that person in a given situation. This is most often used in, just one example, management positions--though by far not that only one.

As a writer, it can be interesting to know their 'niche' according to this test, but let me give you an equally 'pointless' comparison.

I'm an Anime Fanfic writer. So I deal with a lot of Japanese culture. One such a thing is the 'blood type' personality test. There are 4 types. A (perfectionist), O (artistic), AB (hard to categorize) and B (... I never said I remembered it all).

It's vague. And while the Meyers-Briggs offers 16 arch types, there are 7 billion people on the planet. Not everyone is going to fit neatly in such a confining box. But it's just as unrealistic for a 'personality type' test to encompass all 7 billion individuals. (or is the population dropping? I keep hearing 6 billion these days... hmm)

The fact is, you need to know your characters. Your main, without a doubt, but all characters as well. Something (a tool) like the MB can help, but it's not an end-all be-all test that will define your characters. Their experiences and how they react to that will. Nothing more, nothing less.


I think all the other answers here are very good, but as another Myers-Briggs enthusiast I’d like to add my input and a couple of examples from my own experience. As an INFJ, I love personality typing, because I love abstraction (N), I love trying to understand and empathise with other people (F), and I also love organising and defining things into neat little boxes (J). I can’t resist typing my characters. It can be extremely useful early on when these characters are still only concepts (or if you are writing conceptual stories or caricatures). But don’t get too bogged down by it either: it is only a framework and real people are complex. So should your characters be!

For example, last year I was writing a story about a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder and decided that he would have 9 different identities, each based on the different personality types of the enneagram system. The characters were obvious caricatures – in fact, that was the point. The MC is battling with himself and his other identities for dominance, but at the end he begins to question why he believes his identity is more valid than the others. Isn’t he equally as one dimensional as them? Since this story was pretty conceptual, I adhered strictly to the typing system when writing the characters. But I also found that typing them helped me to see clearly how they would interact with each other, what values they shared and what they were at odds about. I found it so useful that I started to do the same for my other stories.

Now I’m writing a romance novel. During the first draft I found myself agonising over my characters’ Myers-Briggs types. I had pegged the love interest’s type as ISFP. As I had written it, he and the MC seemed to bond over a shared emotional intensity (F). But wait! Then I noticed that it wasn’t really the other’s emotion that they each found appealing, but the lengthy discussions about life and death and love they were able to have along with it (N). An ISFP would have little interest in such discussions – wasn’t he more of an INFP instead??

Cue agony – would I have to change aspects of his character to fit more in line with an INFP? Would I have to rewrite his dialogue, the ending, maybe the entire character from scratch? The answer is no. The first thing I noticed was that I was no longer writing – which is always a bad sign! So I took a step back and reprioritised. Eventually I realised that with all this thought I was putting into the character’s type and trying to line him up with his letters, I was losing what I loved most about these characters: their complexity.

If you’ve ever tried to type anyone else IRL, you’ll know that there are always going to be contradictions. If you can, find a site for testing that shows you the percentage of each type. For example, my sister and I are both INFJ – I’m right on the border of P/J, but my sister is pure J and the difference between us in that respect is staggering. But it’s also important to bear in mind that we are also just different people – different genetic makeup (well, probably around half and half), different interests, different careers. We’ve read different books and we’ve had different friends and mentors. Although we have the same parents, even our upbringing has been different due to our position in the family. There are so many things that influence a person’s personality, and your characters should be no different.

So, no, you’re not doing anything wrong if your characters don’t perfectly fit into a personality type – in fact, you’re probably doing it better! That’s closer to how real people are (as much as I love Myers-Briggs…). And, most importantly, as much as it’s fun and helpful to use types when writing characters, don’t let it stop you from actually writing. Best of luck!

  • Thanks for your thought out reply. Yeah I test as an INFP, but I see a lot of things I relate to in the INFJ discussions about feedback loop between wanting to learn up on stuff to get a better picture and feed the intuitive part and getting stuck in a loop. I relate to that a lot, because I definitely like clear cut conclusions on things, but at the same time I am equally scared to come to conclusions, this procrastinate, which I assumed is a (P) trait. I can't stand clutter at work, but at home I'm not going to burn myself out organizing.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 16:11
  • As far as the T and F I am on the fence, because I like logic and emotion. I suspect some of it has to do with being on the autism spectrum, so reading emotions can be a bit of a handicap, so that may have weakened the F part of my personality, or perhaps I I am naturally have a Thinking preference but adapted to developing enough of a feeling trait to pass as an INFP, or maybe I am just a mix of those two types depending on circumstance.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 16:14
  • That said, my 2nd character, the former friend/ (Character as my avatar presently) seems to be a fairly clear cut INFJ, with some P/J crossover perhaps and if he were typed by his friends, they'd think he's an extrovert since he enjoys company with others. He's also a more newly developed character, so maybe I haven't gotten him as pegged down. The (I) part of his personality came as a surprise to me initially because I viewed him at first outgoing, then realized he also liked his alone time to reflect, where as my soldier character grows restless when alone/ faces negative thoughts/ emotions.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 16:16
  • Having conflicting personalities may not be too bad a consideration now that I think about what I have developed spirituality and reincarnation in their world. (souls merging at the end of their cycle or shredding apart to rebuild new souls (As I imagine it, there's the Creators and their system of Afterlife and Reincarnation but each colony/ culture interprets it a different way and makes up their own beliefs from it. They have different religions but are worshiping part of the same system, causing a lot of confusion and conflict between eachother, kind of like our world in a way.
    – BugFolk
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 16:27

Another thing about Myers-Brigs is you can have some wobble between personality one of the 16 archtypes and the jobs they suggest are not necessarily the jobs they are required to take nor do they reflect that. Not all INTJs (for example) are computer programers, though it is an attractive option to them becaues INTJs are very system and rules oriented. They also tend to be politicians because it's working on building systems of rules.

TVTropes actually has a few pages on character Myers-Briggs personalities and while not many ENFJs are from military fiction, one stunning example is General Iroh, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. You can certainly have a military guy with this personality type... it's not necessarily a good protagonist, but it's still a fun character. These are the teams glue in a fire fight. This is the guy who says "We're gonna win cause you people are awesome" while surrounded on all sides. He's gonna be optamistic in his own team and know each individual well enough to know their strengths and boost their confidence. While not listed on this side, I would also look at Captain Mal Reynolds from Firefly, especially during his war flashback scenes (though he has shades of it in the present setting). In two seperate incidents, he comes into the trenches and sees a shellshocked grunt troop and instantly gives them a confidence boost ("We're gonna make it because we're just too pretty to die."). Even in the present, he has a tendency to see the best in people, even though he still has some qualms that leave him in a broken state. In one episode, he's about to dual another man after punching the one off character for implying that another member of his crew, Inara, is a whore (She's a high professional call girl with years of training, but yeah, its a crass description of her trade). Inara sneaks into Mal's training and teaches him some sword techniques and Mal seems impressed and says "They teach you how to use swords in whore school?" Inara balks at this, and questions Mal about this ("You have a strange sense of honor. You'll lay a man out for implying I am a whore but you call me one to my face."). Mal immediately explains that there is a difference. Mal has no respect for Inara's occupation, while the other man has no respect for Inara. Here in lies some of that ENFJ personality. Mal might not like Inara making money in this fashion, but that's because he thinks she is better than that. And as we latter learn, Inara and him have several differences in political preferences that would seem to cause tension. We also see this when Mal is answering to a government patrol questioning, who note that he was on the wrong side of the space civil war. Mal corrects and says he was on the losing side... he's still not convinced it was the wrong side. In the film (Serenity), when Mal is talking to another crew member, River, who has been the subject of human experimentation and is not all there because of it, Mal talks her down and drops this line: "The government's man, he says you're a danger to us. Not worth helping. Is he right? Are you anything but a weapon? I've staked my crew's life on the theory you're a person. Actual and whole, and if I'm wrong, you’d best shoot me now." And when he learns the actual lengths of what the government is willing to do, he gives the famous "I Aim to Misbehave" speech he sets his beliefs as to why, "Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people… better. And I do not hold to that." He looks at River in that pause because in the attempt to make River better... and the people of the world they are on... they failed and the damages were high. Mal doesn't believe in making people better. He believes in people who are better than they think they are.

I've done a few Myers-Briggs tests myself, but they're not used for character creation, but for character understanding. First, I like to write about characters who are not like me... nobody loves writing about themselves, so I use Myers-Briggs as a test against my own type. It also helps me focus in on who the person and is and what they can offer to the narrative and how to set up conflicts with people who are not like them.


Here's a bit of knowledge from Jungian psychology (which I'm somewhat familiar with).

Jung (I'm not sure if he's the originator of the idea, but he sure is famous for it) talks a lot about "archetypes" in his work, which, as you might guess, are exaggerations/caricatures of certain "types" of people.

For example: Archetype A is known as the "Jester". The "Jester" archetype is comedic, and is a good mood-maker. However, has trouble being taken seriously because of his usually playful and whimsical demeanor.

Each archetype has its characteristics; strengths and weaknesses. Everyone on earth has elements of each archetype within them, but exhibit more characteristics of some archetypes than others. People will also shift from one archetype to the next throughout their lifetime. Think back on your past and how you used to be in your youth. Have you changed? Probably. If you had the chance to redo something, you'd like to think you'd act differently, and so should your character.

Your character is like that. So, make them lean towards one archetype, but also let them branch out into others, and let them shift between archetypes throughout the story if you can/want. The thing about humans (from "Man and his Symbols" (paraphrased, because I don't remember the quote exactly)) is that they are too fragmented and inconsistent. Ideas they had will fade into the obscurity of their unconscious. They will forget they did things, and act in ways that are not typical of them. Same thing with your characters. They're multiple archetypes, fragmented, and dynamic, unpredictable. That is, to a certain extent, what makes them interesting.

Hope that soliloquy is somewhat helpful. I seriously recommend reading up on Jung and Campbell. Their work has tremendously helped me enrich my writing. (At least I like to think so)


I have found the Myers-Briggs assessment to be more useful for its process than the end result. As I go through the questions for each character I have to decide how they will deal with certain situations and I gain insight into their motivations.

I don't think any tool like this should be the soul decider of character personality. If you try to box your character into a certain personality type they will lose their uniqueness and become predictable.

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