Most of you are familiar with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I'd venture a guess that you know your type and perhaps those of your loved ones, too. The test, based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, was devised by Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, beginning in the 1940's. It is now a standard personality type indicator, used in everything from career counseling to Internet quizzes. If you haven't done it yet, just Google "Myers Briggs" and take one of free online tests. They might not be as accurate and detailed as a complete evaluation by a trained professional, but they can be impressively accurate.
Out of curiosity, OG and I recently took one of the more detailed on-line quizzes. He got what he always gets - INTJ. Mine was a bit of a surprise. I though I knew my type, based on a career book OG had bought several years ago. It turned out I was just fooling myself. I had answered a number of questions the way I presented myself to the work world, not the way I truly am inside. Removing that bias and looking deeper, I discovered I am an ISFJ - much more the real me.
After the test there was a list of famous people who had the same personality type. OG and I discovered our union is the equivalent of Vladimir Putin marrying Mother Teresa. Really. That explains a lot. It also didn't come as a big surprise to many of our friends and family. What surprised me is how we've made such glaring incompatibility work for thirty-two years. Must be my saintly nature. LOL
Interesting, you say, but what does this have to do with writing? I've used the Myers Briggs personality types for many years to create characters. I start with one character - usually the heroine - and write down everything I know about her. Then I try to match her with one of the sixteen personality types. That gives me a head start creating the hero.
I've never been a big believer in opposites attracting - not complete opposites, anyway. I try to give my couples at least one or two similar character traits so they'll have something in common. Two opposite traits create plenty of opportunity for conflict. Trust me. Just look at me and OG. You can't get much more opposite than Putin and Mother Teresa, and we have two traits in common.
Using the MBTI personality types also helps flesh out characters. If you're wondering what your hero or heroine would do or feel in a particular situation, re-read their personality type info for a clue. You might worry that using "types" will turn your characters into flat stereotypes, but I've found the opposite to be true. People, and fictional characters, are much more than four personality characteristics, but these categories are broad enough to encompass the infinite variety of humanity. For me, typing helps keep characters consistent and realistic.
Have you tried this method? What are your favorite tips for creating vibrant characters?