One of the most important parts of a good story are characters. Sometimes they are human, sometimes animals, it’s even possible to transform inanimate objects can be protagonists or antagonists. If an author cannot create believable personas within the story, it will go flat.
There are countless techniques that writers use to build complex and dynamic characters. Some people draw their characters and write their backstory. Some people interview their characters, which is my personal favorite.
We decided, as Novelthree, to have our characters take personality tests. This is actually a very popular technique to get to know your character.
Some personality tests to consider:
- Five Love Languages- A series of questions to help understand how you (or your character) communicates love. How do they feel it? How do they give it?
- Myers Briggs Type Indicator- A series of questions that categorizes you (or your character) into one of 16 personality types.
- Pottermore’s Sorting Hat – A series of questions that tell you (or your character) which Hogwarts house they belong to.
- The Color Code- Another series of questions that categorizes you (or you character) into personality types corresponding to different colors. With dominant and secondary colors addressed.
First, we went online and found a free version of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator found at www.humanmetrics.com. Then, we each picked one of our characters to test. Kate kept track of our answers on paper while I read the questions. Rachel was holding a baby.
For me, the results of the test were fascinating.
Putting Characters to the Test
I answered the questions as if I were my character Kindle Burns. I would expect her to be categorized as an ESTP. According to personalitypage.com, this personality has been described as a doer.
Friendly, adaptable, action-oriented. “Doers” who are focused on immediate results. Living in the here-and-now, they’re risk-takers who live fast-paced lifestyles. Impatient with long explanations. Extremely loyal to their peers, but not usually respectful of laws and rules if they get in the way of getting things done. Great people skills.
This is exactly how I would describe Kindle. As I answered the questions for her, she was categorized as an ESFP. These people are more known as performers. According to personalitypage.com, performers are:
People-oriented and fun-loving, they make things more fun for others by their enjoyment. Living for the moment, they love new experiences. They dislike theory and impersonal analysis. Interested in serving others. Likely to be the center of attention in social situations. Well-developed common sense and practical ability.
Now, this is where it becomes interesting as a writer: this was very close to how I perceived her, but I know she’s a doer. So now, I have the power to go back and review Kindle’s actions and make sure she’s making decisions true to her character. Or, I could just realize that she is a performer. Oh the possibilities!
But here is another part that’s tricky: people change. Her personality will change from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. It’s called the character arc and not only is it “a thing,” it’s integral to the story.
This exercise was very enlightening and I intend to do it with other characters to help solidify the world that I’m writing about. Also, if you’d like to see some of Kindle’s character in action, check out a scene I posted here.
I tested for the narrator/main character from my current WIP, Eidolon. I knew that Aitana was an extrovert, but I wondered about the other three markers for the Myers-Briggs assessment. She tested as an ESFJ, The Caregiver. (Ironic, given that in Namesake, she heartlessly shoves her sister through an active portal, haha.)
However, her F score was under 10%, which puts her borderline ESTJ, The Guardian. And she does waffle between Thinking and Feeling, a fun line I get to walk when I’m writing from her perspective. While I don’t know that the test will influence my draft going forward, it was fascinating to think through the questions with her instincts in mind instead of my own. (I’m an INTJ, so almost her opposite.)
I was excited to take the test in behalf of my main character, Ilianna in the upcoming, Of Blood and Deceit, and I’ll be honest with you, I had no clue how she would turn out. At first, I found it difficult shutting off the part of my brain that wanted to answer the questions for my self and to really dive into the protagonist’s persona. Ilianna tests as a ISTJ. She is introverted (no real shocker there), pays attention to the facts/details, loves logic and reason, and she prefers structure and organization. Now, while I found all of these points to be pretty spot on, I did discover that while Ilianna wants her outside/work life to be organized and professional, her bedroom is a complete disaster zone.