Writer, Know Thyself: An Introduction to MBTI

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Writing fantasy is hard—especially a traditional sorta-kinda-not-really epic fantasy like The Thíortha Chronicles. First there’s the world-building: coming up with topographical, political, socio-economic, magical, and multi-cultural systems, all while attempting to not plagiarize any of the thousands of other sorta-kinda-not-really epic fantasy novels out there.

But a well-written story world is only half the battle. A complex story such as ours has many, many characters—hero(ine)s and anti-hero(ine)s, villains and antagonists (and yes, they are different), sidekicks and sages, and a whole host of supporting characters. How do we keep track of them all? That’s where the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) comes in.

MBTI is a type of, well, I guess you could say personality test. I like to think of it more as a indication of how a person processes information than a true personality assessment. Marie came across MBTI last summer while we were working on the second draft of Poisoned, and it has been a valuable asset in keeping our characters internally consistent, as well as aiding Marie and I in some areas of our personal growth.

An individual’s MBTI is based upon a four-letter system, one of each of the following: E (extroverted) or I (introverted), N (intuitive) or S (sensing), F (feeling) or T (thinking), and J (judging) or P (perceiving). For instance, I am an INTJ (introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging) and Marie is an INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving). You can take a test and find out your personality type at one of these sites (here or here). These include a type description, strengths and weaknesses, and even some famous personalities of each type.

Since studying MBTI helped Marie and I so much, we thought it would be fun to do a series about it on our blog, especially noting how it helped us with developing the characters in our books.

 E vs. I

The concept of extroverts vs. introverts is fairly well-known, especially in recent days.  While our general American culture tends to heavily favor extroverts, the internet subculture exalts introversion to an almost unhealthy level.  Many myths surround the two (extroverts are always happy, introverts hate people, etc.), but the MBTI distinction between the two is clear and simple. Extroverts gain their energy from being with other people, and introverts gain their energy from time spent alone. A classic example of the extrovert/introvert differences would be with my best friend (a textbook extrovert) and I. Whenever she needs to relax, she wants to go out with friends (the more the merrier), as opposed to my hermit-like tendencies to lock myself in my room with a book whenever I’m stressed. Sometimes, an individual will test somewhere in the middle, and they are called ambiverts.

N vs. S 

While the first MBTI letter deals with an individual’s inner world, the second letter deals with how he takes in information.  A sensor (S) is focused primarily on facts, what he can perceive with his five senses, and the present. The “just the facts, ma’am” line from Dragnet fits the Sensor very well. He is very bottom-line and practical, and can sometimes tend to be closed to new possibilities. The Intuitive (N), on the other hand, takes in information through his impression of things.  He is focused on possibilities, the future, and often reads “between the lines”. He tends to be quite creative, but can tend toward impracticality.

 F vs. T 

This MBTI letter deals with the information processing and the decision-making section of an individual’s personality. A Feeler (F) makes his decisions primarily based on how it will affect the people around him, while a Thinker (T) bases his decisions primarily on principles that he holds to be true.  Feelers tend to be warm-hearted individuals—the one who will allow you to cry on their shoulder and be a strong moral support in almost any situation, but can sometimes be too idealistic. Logic is law to the Thinkers, who (in some cases) detach themselves from their emotions to make nearly unbiased and fair decisions. Their innate love of logic and order often encourages them to pursue scientific and technological fields of study. However, they have an awful tendency (and I speak from experience) to be tactless in their endeavor to be helpful. When one asks a Thinker what their opinion is on something, they will give it to them no holds barred; while a Feeler, if they feel their opinion will hurt someone, will present it in the kindest way possible.

J vs. P 

The final letter of MBTI deals with an individual’s outer world. Judgers (J), unlike their name suggests, are not necessarily judgmental. They are highly structured individuals, prefer rigidity to spontaneity (unless the said spontaneity is scheduled, of course), and generally put work before play. They are task-oriented, list makers, and usually plan their work so that it will be finished before its deadline. Perceivers (P) tend to be carefree, spontaneous individuals, unfettered by the chains of schedule. They like to wait and gather as much information as possible before making a decision, unlike their Judger counterparts, who will make any decision based on the information they currently possess. Perceivers work in bursts of energy instead of at planned intervals. Marie and I are a classic example of J vs. P: growing up, I (J) would bulldoze through my list of chores every day and then enjoy a chunk of free time (again, the planned spontaneity), while Marie (P) would work on chores for a bit, read a book for a bit, work some more, read some more, etc.

Well, there you have the basic description of MBTI. Stay tuned in the following weeks, as Marie and I will be doing descriptions of each type. Who knows, you may even get a sneak peek of some of the characters from Poisoned!

Did you take the MBTI test? If so, what was your result?

~Suzanne~

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3 thoughts on “Writer, Know Thyself: An Introduction to MBTI

  1. Nice post. 🙂

    I tested INTJ all the time — come to find out, I’m an INTP. Fits me so much better.

    Doing a test is great, but the only true way to figure out your personality type is to explore the cognitive functions and determine which ones you use and in what order. People assume an INTJ and an INTP are the same except one is more laid back — not true at all; they share no cognitive functions, so their brain doesn’t process information in the same way. They use two different kinds of logic — internal (INTP — the mind is most important) and external (INTJ — impacting the world is most important). Everyone uses sensing, intuition, thinking,and feeling — one of two different subtypes within that function, that influence how you relate to others and see the world.

    Learning this has blown my mind and helped me figure out other people. I’ve learned that Fi-users can sometimes get on my nerves, but I shouldn’t expect their behavior to be anything like mine (Fe-user)! It makes more tolerant of how people make choices.

    • Yes, learning about MBTI has helped us with interpersonal relations as well…especially me (Suzanne) as I have a ESFx best friend who doesn’t always see things the way I do. We’re hoping that this blog series will help some of our readers, too. 🙂

      • It really IS helpful to know these things. I’m not so quick to judge now that I know how different minds work. It’s not stupidity on their part, it’s a different reasoning process that doesn’t see things the way I do. And I can adapt my behavior to take into consideration their feelings, which is nice. 🙂

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