notebook the myers briggs test

Hey there! Today I’m talking about using the Myers-Briggs test in your writing. Personality tests can be both fun and enlightening as inspiration for characters. When used with caution.

Writing Tip #4 – Use the Myers-Briggs Test For Characterization

Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in the 1940s as a way to indicate personality types based on Carl Jung’s archetypes. The test has since been used extensively in the business and educational worlds, but does not have any true scientific background. It’s basically just a fancy Buzzfeed quiz. Which, hey, use those for characterization too, if you want.

I’m not a huge fan of using the MBTI for definitively classifying people, real or not.  Unless you find comfort in categorization, I recommend caution with any test that declares you as a specific type of anything. People are more fluid than binary types give us credit for.

That said, the MBTI can offer valuable new insights to your characters.

Take the test as your character

No, not as yourself (unless you really want to – I’ll get to that).

Get into your character’s head. Answer all the questions as though you are your character. Consider both what you know about them and what you don’t.

Simply trying to determine the difference between what your character thinks of themself versus who they really are can reveal a lot.

Do your best, but don’t worry if you make up answers on the fly. That’s part of the process. If you want, take the test more than once for a character. See what changes.

Once you take one version of the test enough times, you’ll start to figure out what answers lead to what results. I recommend using multiple different sites to avoid that. Two free options are here and here.

Analyze the answers AND the results

Inspiration can hit while you’re taking the test. Maybe you’ve never thought about how your character interacts with other people. Maybe you haven’t considered whether or not your character is willing to cry in front of people.

I found out one of my characters is 100% in favor of getting revenge when people anger her. That surprised me. I don’t know what to do with that fact yet. I’m a little scared, but in a good way.

If you’re working with a newer character, the 4-letter type given at the end can help you develop the character on surface levels.

Does the character need a job? See what professions their type does best in. Not sure what their love life looks like? Take the test for their partner(s) too and look for charts that compare the relationships of those types.

Similarly, the MBTI can show you where you need to develop your character better. If there were questions you doubted the answers on, ask yourself why.

What part of your character’s background have you missed considering? Does this character lie to themself about a part of their personality to look or feel better?

Don’t be afraid to dig deep into the type. I personally enjoy comparing my character’s type to those of real famous people and other fictional characters.

Compare to yourself (optional)

While I don’t recommend using the test for yourself, having a general sense of how the test would categorize you can be interesting to compare to your characters. It also can help you look for ways to make sure your characters don’t all sound like slight variations of you.

My characters have a definite tendency towards certain MBTI traits. Generally, I make “intuitive” and “feeling” characters, both of which I consistently test as.

Two results from me testing two different characters. The second is the same type as me. (Images from 16 Personalities)

I forced myself to play around with the answers on other tests, reminding myself that what I consider the right answer might not be the same as my character. Easier said than done, for sure.

Remember, nothing is binary

I took the Myers-Briggs test multiple times for one of my characters because the first results didn’t feel right. I’m still not satisfied with the results. There are little things that feel off, that a different profile result might resolve.

I’m forcing myself to stop trying to get the perfect type, though. Simply taking the test has made me consider that character’s background and personality more. I’ve discovered things he struggles with, and determined why.

Before taking the MBTI for him, I thought I knew him pretty well. It turned out I still have a lot more to learn.

Just like people, the best characters are complex. The MBTI can’t magically create the perfect character for you, nor can it tell you everything about that character.

Mostly, like any personality quiz, it’ll just make you consider new things.

And isn’t that the goal of any writing?

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