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Is Your Protagonist a Thinker or a Feeler?

I just started reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, having already seen the movie and feeling that I would like to do the work justice by also reading the book. I’m maybe 20 pages in and I can already tell that Charlie, the narrator and protagonist, has a lot of feelings. To be fair, he’s also undergoing some pretty intense stuff, so that’s understandable, but it seems like he’s very in tune with his emotions. One might say that he seems like he’d be a Feeler in the context of the Myers-Briggs type, but you’d have a skewed idea of what Feeling actually is.

Feeling and its MBTI counterpart Thinking, like the concepts of extroversion and introversion, are personality indicators that can be used to develop your characters. They’re not exactly what you think they would be though.

The Difference Between Thinking and Feeling

When a character has the Feeling trait, it’s easy to conjure up the idea of them being more in tune with their emotions, and being more comfortable expressing these emotions. This isn’t actually the case. A person with the Feeling trait likes to make decisions based on personal convictions and the people involved in the decision. Feelers desire harmony with others in their decision making.

Thinkers, on the other hand, are not necessarily exceptionally intelligent or introspective. Thinkers base their decisions on facts and objective observations. While a Feeler wants to make sure that all concerned parties are content with the ultimate outcome of a decision, a Thinker is more concerned with the principles and truths at work in the decision. Pros and cons lists are common indicators of a Thinker, and a Thinker is more likely to base their decision in objective fairness.

The simplest way to differentiate Thinkers and Feelers: Thinkers value truth over tact, while Feelers value tact over truth.

PRACTICE

Write a scene in which a Thinker or Feeler is trying to determine how best to spend Memorial Day weekend. Maybe there is a third party involved in the decision as well.

About Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

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  • Margaret Gaby

    This a very interesting post. I am one of the ‘Thinker’ types (ENTP) and I find it that many protagonists are Feelers. Has anyone else noticed this? Do you think that Thinker protagonists are not as popular as Feelers and consequently my writing is less popular?

    • http://www.pjreece.ca/blog/wordpress/category/blog PJ Reece

      M.G… I don’t “think” it makes any difference–thinker or feeler–to the success of the story. In both cases the protagonist must reach a point where he/she comes to lose faith in their strategies and belief systems. Probably the thinker can be destroyed more easily, because facts can be dis-proven, while feelings are more subjective, more elusive. I would say that a more complicated story would involve “feelers.” It would take longer to bring them to their knees, and the pain would be more severe. In fact, I’ve never considered the thinker vs feeler question before, so thanks for bringing it up. Cheers.

  • Shawn Spjut

    I’d also add, if you’re talking to a ‘thinker’ you’ll get a quicker answer if your question begins with “What do you think . . .’ And for the ;feeler’ it’s, “How do you feel about . . .

    I’m a thinker and if you ask me how I feel about something, I can spend hours just analyzing the heck out of it, and still not have found an answer. But ask me what I think and I can expound for hours.

    Margaret Gaby’s comment: I think most people read to ‘feel’. Though I have to say, as a thinker, if there is too much ‘feeling’ in a story, I’m going to have a hard time finishing the novel. Probably why I like my romance cushioned in paranormal fantasy – lots of action to break up the emotions.

  • http://long-distance-writing.blogspot.com/ Kate Taylor

    I am a feeler, so is Jeffrey Atkins.

    Jeffrey Atkins looked to the far right inside his closet. There it was, the garment bag that held his uniform. He had to stretch to reach the bag and stumbled slightly as he retrieved it. Even the garment bag he treated with respect as he laid it upon the bed and smoothed his hand over it.
    Each year since he had been discharged from the United States Army, Jeffrey opened the garment bag and tried on his uniform before the actual Memorial Day parade. He had been fortunate to have maintained his physique so that his uniform still fit pretty well. Rather than gain weight, he had lost weight over the last year, having fought a short lived battle of his own. He was healthy now, which made living every day a joy.
    His son, Kyle, Joan, and the kids were having a cookout over in Maple Valley and they invited him to come.
    “It’s the first weekend we begin to celebrate summer, Dad. C’mon, you’ve marched in all the other parades; take a year off. It’ll be good to have you here. Whadda you say?”
    Jeffrey sighed. He hated that Memorial Day had been changed from May 30th, to the last Monday in May. It angered him, even if only mildly that many people just considered an important day of remembrance to be a day off, a long weekend. He shook his head that his own son felt that way.
    “Son, I’m sure that your cookout will be a good one. Hamburgers and hot dogs on your grill always seem to taste better. But, know what? Being here and marching in the Memorial Day parade means a whole lot to me. My buddies are all here. You’ll have lots of cookouts over the summer, won’t you? I’ll be happy to come if you invite me, but this time, I am going to stay put here. I’ll talk with you later, okay?”
    “Okay, Dad. Sorry you can’t come. And, yes, we’ll have more cookouts and you can bet you’re invited to all of them. Bye for now.”
    “Bye.”
    Jeffrey went back into the bedroom and unzipped the bag. He undressed and then almost as respectfully as he would hold a folded American flag, he lifted the uniform out. He took his time as he put all the pieces on, pants, shirt, tie, belt, even socks and his boots, that had been on the right side of the closet. He stood in front of the full length mirror and placed the khaki garrison cap on his head. He was a soldier once again. He lifted his right hand to salute. Then, he bowed his head to remember his buddies, especially Buck, Ronald, and Wilfred, whose small flags waved in the breeze over their graves.
    The weekend went by and it was Monday, Memorial Day. Jeffrey marched proudly and he remembered.

    • Alisha Joy

      I loved this. Well written. Wished the son would have been more supportive and respectful… but isn’t that the way of it.

    • Luther

      Great story. Good feelings.

  • Luther

    “My father always told me that where there is gas and a spark, there would be an explosion. Your motor not starting is probably related to the electrical system or the carbonation system.” Said John as my son and I worked on our 1967 Triumph TR6. We had been trying to start it for 30 minutes with no success, when my neighbor John
    wandered over out of curiosity.
    I said, “Do you feel that we will flood the engine if we continue to crank and crank without it starting?” My son and I looked at one another perplexed at the whole
    situation.
    John replied, “It doesn’t matter. As long as you hold the gas pedal to the floorboard, the gas will go through the cylinders. I will find out if there is a spark or not.”
    My son got behind the wheel and turned the ignition while holding the gas pedal to the floorboard.
    John yelled, “Keep cranking. I think I found the problem. Your distributor wire
    has been disconnected.”
    I watched as he connected the wire and suddenly
    the engine sprang to life with a roar. What a wonderful feeling of relief and accomplishment.
    I shook Johns hand and said, “I feel that I owe you at least a beer.” John
    replied,” Let’s get that beer!”

  • http://www.dawnyspace.blogspot.com.au/ Dawn Atkin

    ANZAC Anxiety

    She paced the hallway in short deliberate steps. The boards creaked up though the soles of her feet begging for a decision. Yet Stacey remained anxious. Will’s practical rationale had been so convincing. Why wouldn’t she go? What possible reason could she have to turn her back on a national event that remembered our forefathers and the battles they fought so we may all live a life of freedom and choice?

    “War,” Stacey whispered into the dozing half light just peeping through the lead lights of the front door. “Even the word makes my tummy churn.”

    She slipped her hands into the pockets of her raincoat. Her heart fluttered. Two small white butterflies danced. She followed their soft flight to the infinity of her inner world and shuddered as they disappeared in the midnight blues and cerise lines behind half closed eyes. Stacey sighed. She knew she couldn’t go. Her heart had already left for the Peace Gathering at the small rammed earth building hidden in the paperbarks by the river.

    Stacey’s lips curled softly as she considered the joining her friends to chant and drum in a circle of love and peace at The Sanctuary. She knew that Will would be disappointed. Maybe he wouldn’t notice her absence at the war memorial.

    She smiled and followed the silky filament of her heart out into the daylight and as the morning sun kissed her cheeks Stacey knew she’d made the right choice.

    • Alisha Joy

      beautiful images in this.

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  • Sandra

    Stacey had a worried look on her face. Matt on the other hand was sitting on the floor indian style looking outward at nothing.

    “Oh come on,” she said, “you know mother needed this.”

    “It was stupid.” he hisses, “you’re just adding to her personal delusions. She will be even more difficult to assuage next time. You know that right?”

    “So what just tell her the truth and have her think that everyone hates her.”

    “Everyone does hate her, she is a conniving bitch, who will stop at nothing to hurt others, she can handle this.”

    “She’s my mom. And she deserves better than that.”

    “And you’re going to come back to me crying just like before, looking for the answer next time you completely trust her all over again, thinking she actually was capable of being descent. Just face her.”

    “No you’re right, I have to do this.” She reaches out and gives his shoulder a gentle squeeze. She looks at him, waiting for him to return a glance, but he remains motionless focused on some non reachable distance.

    “Okay bye,” she blurts and then turns the handle and pulls the door and it swings open and she juts out.

    The door clicks closed and his head looks down at the floor. He get’s up and heads out the door and to the parking lot and get’s into his car and drives home. When he is there he pours himself a stiff drink and turns on the tv. Staring at it and drinking, before he falls asleep on the couch.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Last week:

    Stacey jumped into Matts arms and gave him a kiss on the mouth. He looks at her and smiles, and pushes the bangs from her eyes.

    “What do you think of this dress?” she asks.

    “It’s lovely, you are too.”

    She gives a warm smile and then jumps back and gives a little spin, showing off her dress.

    Are you ready to go to the party? she asks. Your not dressed quite as nice as I am, but it will do.”

    “Yeah, he says in a stammer, “but I don’t think we should go.”

    “What do you mean, my mother has come all the way here.”

    “You know what happens whenever she comes by.” he pleads.

    “It will be fine, you’ll get to meet my family. It will be an important moment for us.”

    “Okay you’re right.” he whispers. “Well I guess let’s go then.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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