Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Character, Mine and My Characters'

Got a personality or temperament test for me? I'll probably take it. When the 4-temperament theory that labeled us sanguine, choleric, melancholy and phlegmatic was making the rounds, I identified myself as a phleg/mel. But then I met my favorite system, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which identifies me as INFJ, the Counselor Idealist, Idealist being the broader category and Counselor the specific type of Idealist. While only 7 or 8 percent of the population are Idealists, and INFJ's are really rare birds, as writers we abound! Keirsey's book, Please Understand Me II, which describes Idealists, Rationals, Artisans and Guardians, has been pivotal in my understanding of myself, those around me, and for creating realistic characters it's been a boon! When I read his detailed analysis of the INFJ -- and he spends just as much time on the other fifteen types (there are four main types with four variations in each category) -- I think "How do you KNOW my deep, dark secrets?" This is the system I've found to be "right on" about me, and as a whole it rings true to me. Among many other things, I learned from Keirsey that I'm the type who -- yes, the type who cares what type I am.

This very day the Ennegram Type Indicator came to my attention. I took the free online test that gives a tentative result (you can take the full test for a fee) and found that I'm likely Type 4, the Individualist. I read the description, and it sounds like these guys have my number, too: instrospective, romantic, self-aware, sensitive, reserved -- guilty as charged! And this SO nails it: "Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living." I love when they can capture the dichotomy so well. Heh-heh.

HOWEVER, my second-highest score was a tie between FOUR other categories (there are nine) -- the Reformer, the Helper, the Investigator, and the Peacemaker. They are all partly "me," too. And in the end, that's why I still prefer Keirsey. His system integrates me rather than scattering me hither and yon. That's why my favorite companion when creating characters is Please Understand Me II. It's a guide to what combinations of traits occur in real, live people.

Wanna play? Keirsey, Enneagram


Tabitha said...

From one INTJ to another, Hi! *waves* :)

It really fits me to a "T." Especially the part about having a Plan A and Plan B...but they forgot the rough draft of Plan C. :)

These are cool tools to use when creating or thinking about characters, huh? The more real we can make them, the better. :)

Marcia said...

Hi Tabitha! Actually, what I am is the INFJ. I am certain my dad was an INTJ, and I have to agree wholeheartedly with the Plan A, Plan B, etc. And the courting info; that's exactly how he picked my mother!! I'm amazed how detailed Keirsey is with some of these traits. All the descriptions make me feel as if these are people I've really met, and that makes me feel it's a great help in creating characters readers will feel the same way about.

Tabitha said...

Ack! Sorry. That one letter didn't stick in my memory.