The Myers Briggs Temperament For Character Development

Sometime in 2013, I began reading and rereading Robert McKee‘s tome, STORY, to better understand what I was doing in helping authors get published, but now, I’m all into writing my own work.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon two books that have gone beyond, well beyond, what I learned from McKee and they’re both books by author Jeff Gerke. The first book was entitled The First 50 Pages. The second was Plot Versus Character.

Reading these two books was like getting hit by lightning.  Flashes of ideas exploded in my head. Why?

The Myers Briggs Temperament

I’d heard of Myers Briggs before, but I’d never taken one of the tests. As I noted last week, I’ve taken several of them now and hadn’t been able to land on anything consistent. Then with several talks with Dr. Harold Duncan of Preston Place Counseling in Dallas, and a review of my MB score sheet, it became apparent that I was having alternating scores because on all but the I (introvert or extravert) I’m pretty much mid-line for each of the three remaining categories. (I’m an INTJ).

But what Gerke says in Plot V. Character is that an author should start with deciding what the MB temperament of his/her characters are going to be and then adding layers onto them. What Love Language do they use? What tragic events happened in their lives that affected who they became as an adult? Those all are important to Gerke in his character development.

So for about three weeks now, I’ve been engrossed in my “spare” time learning about Myers Briggs, figuring out who I am in it, but also, figuring out what my protagonists needed to be. And if one was an ENTP and the other and INTJ, then my bad guy antagonist needs to be an ISFJ. Two other prominent characters that help get the story going are an INFJ and an INTP.  And then there are opposing characters for them to play off of. IMG_7360

It is taking a lot of time to figure all this out, but that’s okay. When I began to tell people I was doing this in late March or early April, mentor and friend, Ron Rose cautioned me, “This is a LONG process,” he said.

In 2010, I drove from Dallas to Houston to pick up fellow dad blogger Ron Mattocks and we drove to Atlanta for a conference.  Along the way we talked about the importance of the first book. He said then that the first book defines you.

I continue to keep that in mind. I want this to be a solid and positive experience as I go thru it. It has become mentally exhausting at times, but the more of this I do, the more I can see how my characters are shaping into “real” people. They’re going to do “real-ish” type things in the work. When they react to situations the way they do, they will be doing it true to the temperament of an ENTP, and INTJ, and ISFJ and more.

Gerke pointed me to the book by David Keirsey called Please Understand Me II.  I’ve gone forward and backward in this book and continue to do so by the hour as I work.

Yesterday I printed out a notebook I’ve constructed through this process and included the Myers-Briggs Temperament characteristics for each of the characters in it. I started with a 1-inch binder. Today I increased it to a 1.5-inch binder, there’s that much information.

Myers Briggs classifications for my main characters, plus helpful info on who gets along with whom, and not so much.

Myers Briggs classifications for my main characters, plus helpful info on who gets along with whom, and not so much.

Last night I used the binder to make a spreadsheet that includes each character, their MB type, and who they’re likely to get along with and who their not. This has made starting the next step, doing a 15-page character interview, easier to begin because I can flip thru the pages of my notebook, find a particular point about a character and then jump back into the questionnaire.

I’ll let you know in a few days how that’s going, but this has been a big organizational step for me and I wanted to share.

 

 




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