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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » INTJ what?

Author Topic: INTJ what?
Member # 2109

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Do not expect INTJs to actually care about how you view them. They already know that they are arrogant bastards with a morbid sense of humor. Telling them the obvious accomplishes nothing.
I don't know where this came from, but it sounds like a quote, so I put it in that form.

Well, a friend sent me this along with a note telling me I'm an INTJ, whatever that is. I looked into it a little and it seems to be a personality type from some sort of popular personality test. Hmmm.

My question is, have any of you ever used personality types (this kind, or others) to create or deepen your characters? Does it make any sense to actually plan characters out that way, or does it work better for you if you just let them develop as they will? Is this something that is commonly done?

And, yeah, I think what my friend quoted is is accurate. Unfortunate, but accurate.

Posts: 2710 | Registered: Jul 2004  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 2132

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I try to let them develop as they go along, I think that using personality types sort of sticks them into a kind of tight archetype, although they could always be a starting place.

As for INTJ, it's from the Meyers-Briggs personality tests. My dad is one (my parents are really into the whole thing), but I never thought of him as an arrogant asshole who doesn't care what other people think, but maybe that's because he's been softened by his line of work). I could see where that would come from though. If he was bitter and jaded like me he would match that explanation.

Personality types are good food for though but not exactly the basis for a character I think.


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Member # 1214

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I used Meyers-Briggs on all the major characters in my novel after it was all written, just to see if I could identify where each person fell. I could, except for one. That clued me in that I needed to put more work into that character.

But I would never use it to help develop my characters in the first place.

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Member # 1658

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It's something I've toyed with. More often than not, my thoughts go along the lines of: "well, I've got an ESTJ character here... what happens if they have to get along with an INFJ in order to achieve this?" (Just picking groups out of thin air here, as my bookmark for a reference site is in the office, not here at home...)

What you've essentially got is a group of 16 stereotyped characters. You can then take these and modify them however you need to fit your plot. For background characters, this doesn't need to be by very much. For major ones, I'd avoid basing them too heavily on such a well-known model...

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Member # 2083

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I did the Myers-Briggs thing but I can't remember what I'm supposed to be, I guess I'll have to look it up. As I recall, it seemed pretty accurate though.

I found this website that lists some of the Myers-Briggs stuff for those who are interested.


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Member # 2109

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Thanks guys. So, the consensus seems to be that the system is potentially useful to examine or modify a given character, but you shouldn't base your characters on a stereotype.
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Member # 1941

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The Meyers-Briggs types can be a useful tool in real life sometimes, too. Back in college, my church group had a whole retreat on how personality types influence faith. Very interesting!

Michael Flynn says something about using Meyers-Briggs types in _The Wreck of the River of Stars_. Now, I still haven't found time to read that one, but my husband really enjoyed it. One of these days, I'll get to it.

I've never used Meyers-Briggs in my writing, though.

Oh, and the quote is not really anything to do with Meyers-Briggs types in general or INTJs in particular--that's just one person's opinion, and it's not even based on what an INTJ really is. For example, the "morbid sense of humor" bit is by no means universal, or even (in my experience) all that common.

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Member # 1941

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Oh, and a lot of the so-called Meyers-Briggs tests on the internet are not at all accurate or reliable. The real thing is a legitimate tool, but a lot of the stuff out there on it is nonsense.

(I've taken a real, professionally-administered Meyers-Briggs inventory.)

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Member # 213

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One virtue of using types is that it helps certain types (particularly NTs) understand that the kinds of thinking used by other types actually has some internal logic. Stereotypes are the result of trying to write a character that you don't understand very well. Insofar as using personality types helps you understand your characters better, they will be less stereotypical (just as your soldiers/doctors/seamstresses will be less stereotyped if you've actually gotten to know a few soldiers/doctors/seamstresses fairly well).

Most portrayals of INTJs, for example, tend to be horribly stereotyped and based on a complete lack of understanding of what drives them and how they make decisions (this despite the fact that INTJs are way overrepresented among writers). So quotes like that sent you by your friend are common, even though they represent nearly complete misrepresentations of anything said by Myers&Briggs. The facts are that INTJs tend to create their own moral universe based on logic and evidence rather than the opinions of those around them. They also see little point in trying to change someone else's opinions about them. The relative scarcity of INTJs in the general population means that INTJs are used to having very logically sound reasons for disagreeing with nearly everyone around them.

And they know that this looks like arrogance and a morbid sense of humor. But if you write an INTJish character as though they were simply arrogant and delighted in morbid subjects, you would be missing the point entirely and simply using a cardboard cutout that captures none of the real motives and internal reasoning of the "real life" models you think you're using to create your character.

So reading the Myers&Briggs literature is a good way to avoid using stereotypes.

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Member # 2109

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Well said, Survivor. You've convinced me to look into it at greater depth.
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