Back at the end of April, we discussed using the Myers Briggs test to develop your characters. We covered the more obvious personality traits: Extroversion vs. Introversion and Thinking vs. Feeling. I would feel bad if we didn’t take the plunge into rounding out all of the elements of the Myers Briggs test, so here we’re tackling Intuition vs. Sensing and Judging vs. Perceiving, which are often the harder Myers Briggs character traits to explain.
Intuitive and Sensing Myers Briggs Characters
Let’s start with Sensing and Intuition (shown as N in the MBTI so as not to be confused with Introversion).
On the surface, those words seem to mean the same thing. If you’re very intuitive, you would probably also be pretty sensitive (sensing) to your surroundings, right? To an extent, that’s the case; most of us work both intuitively and sensitively according to the MBTI definitions.
But here’s what makes an S (sensing) different than an N (intuitive): someone who primarily displays the Sensing trait will use their five senses (get it?) to interpret their surroundings, while someone who is more Intuitive will pay more attention to the patterns in that information, and will interpret their surroundings through that lens.
In short, Sensers tend to think more concretely, while Intuitive types tend to think in the abstract.
Here are some examples of characters with these Myers Briggs traits to give you an idea of what this looks like practically:
Intuitive Characters (N’s)
- Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye
- Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones
- Luke Skywalker from Star Wars
- Gandalf from Lord of the Rings
- Ivan (Vanya) Karamazov from The Brothers Karamazov
Sensing Characters (S’s)
- Aragorn from Lord of the Rings
- Inspector Javert from Les Misérables
- Han Solo from Star Wars
- Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones
- Dmitri Karamazov from The Brothers Karamazov
Judging and Perceiving Myers Briggs Characters
Judging vs. Perceiving gets equally confusing on the surface. How are those two terms opposing forces?
According to the MBTI definition, someone who is a Judger tends to prefer structure and order, being settled when a decision is made.
A Perceiver, on the other hand, prefers a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle, tending to gravitate towards the information gathering before a decision is made.
This trait only applies to what is visible to the outside world; in other words, someone might show signs of both a Judging and a Perceiving personality, but they only show their Perceiving side to the outside world, meaning that according to the MBTI, they are a Perceiver.
Here are a few examples of characters with these Myers Briggs traits to give you an idea of what this looks like practically:
Judging Characters (J’s)
- Hermione Granger from Harry Potter
- Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (he’s probably an INFJ or INTJ, but he could be an INFP)
- C-3PO from Star Wars
- Robb Stark from Game of Thrones
Perceiving Characters (P’s)
- Harry Potter from Harry Potter
- Yoda from Star Wars
- Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones
- Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
The Myers Briggs Test and Your Characters
These four traits may not be getting quite as much love in the cultural discourse as Extroversion and Introversion, but they are equally useful in fleshing out a character.
Is the hero of your story more concerned with the larger goal ahead of him (an Intuitive habit), or is he more focused on the details of how to achieve that goal (which is what a Sensor would do)? Maybe the sidekick prefers to know the plan ahead of time (a typical Judging trait), while the hero is more interested in changing up the details to adapt to the changing scenario (Perceivers love to live by the seat of their pants).
Putting opposing personality types in play with each other can create interesting subconflicts, or keeping similar types together can show why the hero and her sidekick work so well together.
What is your Myers Briggs personality type? What Myers Briggs types are your characters?
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Try giving your characters the Myers Briggs Test. You can find a simple version of the Myers Briggs test here. Step into your character’s thought process, embody their personality, and take the test as them. Then come back here and report your results. Did the results surprise you?
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.