This is part four of the MBTI for Writers Series. See the character creation worksheets and cheatsheets in the rest of the series.
Character development can be tough for writers who don’t have the right tools. So let’s just jump right into choosing your fictional character’s MBTI type, shall we? Here are three ways to know or choose yours.
#1 Answer The Following Questions about Your Fictional Character
Question One: It’s been a long, hard day and tomorrow she has another big project to work on. How does your character relax and restore herself in preparation?
- She spends time alone (reads a book, builds a table, goes for a walk by herself) = > Introvert.
- She hangs out with family or friends (goes to a club, talks on the phone, plays a board game with others, plays a team sport) => Extravert.
Why? Introversion and extraversion is about where you get your energy from. If you feel reenergized after spending time alone, you’re an introvert. If you feel reenergized after spending time with people, you’re an extravert.
Question Two: Your character is admiring a painting. What does she notice most about it?
- Where the brush strokes appear long and steady or short and dashed. How the paint is textured or smooth. Where colors blend or don’t. And how the light hitting it from below brightens the canvas. How this painting looks like a street she was on when she was ten and that beagle trotted up to sniff her hand and left a wet spot from his nose => Sensing.
- If the artist used more blues but kept everything else the same, the painting would look more like a scene from the ocean than one of a street. Maybe the vague, impressionist features of the women’s faces means the artist didn’t have much experience with women. So many artists who paint street scenes include a little black dog, and look here’s another one => Intuition.
Why? Sensing versus intuition makes up the basic way your character takes in information from the outside world. Sensing is about physical sensations and detail in the moment or in the past. Intuition is about patterns, the big picture, and making connections between the facts. We tend to take in information from the outside world primarily through one or the other.
Question Three: It’s time for your character to make a big decision: which house to buy. What goes through her mind when she weighs the pros and cons?
- The house in the up-and-coming neighborhood is a more sound investment. In ten years, she’ll make a tidy profit on its increase in value as the neighborhood grows up around it. In the meantime, the smaller mortgage means bigger payments on student loans and retirement accounts. And if her family grows out of it before the ten years is up, she can always rent it out to keep her stake in the game. She and her family will just have to adjust to the inconveniences of its awkward layout and less than ideal neighbors for now => Thinking.
- The house in the suburbs has all those fruit trees her family would love. She can already picture the kids gathering fruit on weekends for pies and preserves. Her husband loves Christmases around the fireplace. He’d love the big grate in the family room! And that pool in the backyard. Wouldn’t she just be the envy of all her friends? => Feeling.
Why? Feeling versus thinking is about how we make decisions. We usually base our decisions primarily on subjective feelings (our personal values or those of the people around us) or objective logic (when we attempt to remove ourselves from the equation to make sound judgements). Even if we all really make decisions based on our feelings and all of us can use logic to make decisions, one is more important to us than the other.
Question Four: How does your fictional character deal with the outer world. Does she:
- Make plans and contingencies for her day ahead of time? Or have a routine she feels bad about not sticking to? => Judging.
- Prefer to live spontaneously, seeing where the day leads her and feeling cooped up by the idea of a plan or routine? => Perceiving.
Why? Our approach to the outside world has a lot to do with our thought processes and outward behavior.
Put your answer to these four questions in order and you have your character’s MBTI type. Feel free to do some independent research if you’re anxious to get started with MBTI character development. And sign up for alerts to find out when your fictional character’s MBTI cheatsheet goes live.
#2 Take the MBTI Self-Assessment for Your Fictional Character
The best online MBTI self-assessment I’ve found is here. It can be a great place to start the character development process if you take it for your fictional character.
If you choose this route, keep in mind that it isn’t always easy to be as objective about yourself or your fictional character as you need to be to get the right answer from a self-assessment. If you can easily compare yourself (most people can’t) or your character (a little easier but still tough) to everyone else when you answer each question AND you don’t let bias get in your way, you’re more likely to get an accurate result.
By the way, the percentages in the result you’ll get from that test ARE NOT a reflection of how much you are like the MBTI type it reports but how sure the test is that it assessed your type correctly. Or, more accurately, how consistent you were when you answered the questions.
If you’ve taken a statistics course, this distinction probably makes more sense to you. If not, just remember that you and your fictional character are one and only one MBTI type. It is impossible to be 60% feeling and 40% judging, for example. That is not what the percentages mean.
Such an important distinction if you’re going to use this tool well for character development.
#3 Choose One of the 16 Types for Your Fictional Character from This MBTI Type Overview
INTJ (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging) The desire to create systems that work drives these characters. They spend most of their time in their inner world of ideas, building a subconscious framework of the world based on ideas, relationships, and principles. They’re often the villains in stories because they tend to be driven, strategic, forward-thinking, and ruthless as enemies. Plus their love of logic sometimes makes them seem cold to other people. Nikola Tesla was likely an INTJ.
INTP (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perceiving) The desire to build and advance knowledge drives these characters. They spend most of their time thinking through theories to come up with logical explanations for how things work. They’re often the brilliant scientists or eccentric professors in stories who explain the technical or theoretical stuff to the main character. Albert Einstein was likely an INTP.
INFJ (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging) The desire to use their intuitive insights to help and inspire others drives these characters. They spend most of their time in their inner world of ideas but seem outgoing to others. They’re often the impassioned characters in stories working to save the world. Mohandas Gandhi was likely an INFJ.
INFP (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) A deep sense of ethics and the determination to live them out in their lives is what drives these characters. They spend much of their time exploring their personal values and ideas and believe everyone must follow their own path. They’re often the expressive artists in stories. William Shakespeare was likely an INFP.
ENTJ (Extraversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging) A desire to organize change for the betterment of systems drives these characters. They spend most of their time analyzing the world around them and developing plans to achieve their visions. They’re often the big decision-maker in stories—think bosses, kings, and chief gods—who organize plans and people to accomplish big goals. Napoleon Bonaparte was likely an ENTJ.
ENTP (Extraversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perceiving) A desire to understand and improve the world around them drives these characters. They spend most of their time analyzing the complexities between people and ideas and love coming up with ideas that solve problems. They’re often the inventors in stories—sometimes improving humanity but often causing chaos. Leonardo Da Vinci was likely an ENTP.
ENFJ (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging) A desire for harmony among people and to help others develop their potential drives these characters. They spend most of their time organizing the cooperation of others and maintaining their personal relationships. They’re often the traditional heroes in stories, or the organizers of do-good events—think the girl in charge of organizing the tree planting committee or the teacher helping the theater kids put on a show. Martin Luther King Jr was likely an ENFJ.
ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) The pursuit of happiness and new experiences for themselves and empowering others to pursue the same is what drives these characters. They spend most of their time scanning the world around them for the deeper meanings and relationships between people and ideas. They’re often the comedian or comic relief in stories or the character inspiring others to pursue their individual definition of happiness. Robin Williams was likely an ENFP.
ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) The desire to create and enforce order in established organizations so they and the people around them can live secure, peaceful lives is what drives these characters. They spend most of their time focusing on the details of procedure and order and expect others to adhere to these standards. They’re often the policemen or dedicated government workers in stories. Warren Buffett is likely an ISTJ.
ISTP (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving) The desire to solve practical problems in their immediate environment often drives these characters. They spend most of their time studying how things work so they can put that knowledge to immediate use. This is why they’re great people to have around in an emergency. They’re often the skilled warriors, athletes, and master craftsmen in stories. Amelia Earhart was likely an ISTP.
ISFJ (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) The desire to provide for, protect, and care for others using established, traditional methods is what drives these characters. They spend much of their time focused on their immediate surrounding and on the details of their past experiences. They are often the nurses and teachers in stories—improving the world one person at a time. Mother Teresa was likely an ISFJ.
ISFP (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving) Their individual values and a personal sense of what is helpful to others is what drives these characters. They spend most of their time attuned to their senses in the present moment. They are often the sensitive artists in stories. Bob Dylan is likely an ISFP.
ESTJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) The desire for productivity, to maintain order, and to enforce the external rules of society on others is what drives these characters. They spend most of their time organizing systems and people to get things done. They are often the taskmaster supervisors or politicians in stories. Martha Stewart is likely an ESTJ.
ESTP (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving) The desire for excitement and the pursuit of adventure is what drives these characters. They spend most of their time in their senses in the moment and taking immediate action. The are often the warriors and swashbuckling adventurers in stories. Ernest Hemingway was likely an ESTP.
ESFJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) The desire for harmony and cooperation among people drives these characters. They spend much of their time thinking and talking about other people and the ways in which others do or do not adhere to the social code. They are highly social and often well-liked, so it isn’t surprising they’re often the popular cheerleaders and sports heroes in stories. Jennifer Garner is likely an ESFJ.
ESFP (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling Perceiving) The desire for spontaneous pleasures and new experiences drives these characters. They spend much of their time focused on their senses in the moment and keeping busy with people and active hobbies. They are often the fun-loving but loyal protagonist in stories. Marilyn Monroe was likely an ESFP.
Want to know when we go in depth on each MBTI type with cheatsheets and how to use each one in your stories? Tell me at the bottom of the page over here.