How MBTI can Help with Character Development

How MBTI can help with Character Development

This post is for all the writers out there! A basic guide to MBTI typing and how it can help you with character development!

As always, I am a firm believer in eliminating the unnecessary to save room for knowledge that I can actually use. This often results in my forgetting how to do basic maths, but it also means that I aim to apply all of the knowledge that I acquire to some aspect of my life and work.

My attraction to the Meyers-Briggs theory originated in the realisation that I could use it to improve character consistency in my creative writing. In fact, I started this website as a way to practice using MBTI to profile fictional characters.

In addition to improving character consistency in writing, using MBTI also helps to avoid allowing your own personality to accidentally flow into characters where it’s not wanted. For instance, as an INTJ, I have a very difficult time writing from a feeling perspective, or from the viewpoint of any extravert.

Before I started using MBTI to prevent this, I often found myself accidentally writing characters that I intended to be the emotional drive for the story as cold and unfeeling. Either that, or I would majorly over-compensate their feelings by making them cry babies. Likewise, I would often start out a viewpoint as largely extraverted, and then accidentally revert to writing them as an introvert.

How MBTI can help with Character Development

MBTI is a great too to combat problems of this nature. If you’re new to this, I’ll be upfront in saying that MBTI is highly complex and takes a little while to understand, but once you get the hang of the theory, it will become an invaluable writing tool.

Your first step, if you haven’t already, will be to familiarise yourself with the Idiot’s Guide to MBTI.

Once you feel you have an adequate understanding of MBTI basics, you’ll start profiling your characters according to their MBTI types.

If you’re less comfortable with your knowledge of MBTI, you can always pretend to be your character and take the MBTI test. The major downside to this is that there’s a likelihood of inaccuracy. However, if you must take a test this one is the most accurate out there. The other downside is that you won’t really be able to complete the next step because you won’t have an adequate understanding of the Jungian functions (you can learn about them Here)

Next, you’ll want to write a detailed profile of each character, likely styled after a similar manner to the character typings on this website (example). Typically, the character profiles that I write for my own characters are longer and more detailed than the ones I’ve written for The Book Addict’s Guide to MBTI, often comprising up to three pages per character.

Simply lay out your character’s Jungian functions and produce evidence to support your character’s thought process. You’ll be right on track to character consistency! Good luck!


8 thoughts on “How MBTI can Help with Character Development

  1. The only problem is when people pick a MBTI stereotype for their character and run with it. INTJ females are the most uncomfortable to read about when they’re stereotyped, especially when they ALSO follow the stereotype pattern of 1) fall in love, 2) magically become a stereotypical ISFJ, 3) all better! Ugh. But other than that MBTI+characters=yay!


  2. This is precisely why I got interested in MBTI, too (aside from being fascinated by how people work). My characters all sounded sort of same-y, so giving them a certain type helped me get a handle on how to make them feel like real people who thought and felt differently than I do. Sometimes I discovered that they worked better as a different type while I was in the middle of writing the story, but at least it gave me a good place to start. The function stack is also super handy for defining a character arc–when a character starts getting in touch with their inferior function, you know that they’re finally learning and growing.


  3. MBTI has big a huge help with my writing. My biggest problem is Sensing types. I can find writing Feeling types a little difficult (it’s mostly when the emotion makes me feel uncomfortable), but for some reason I barely ever have any Sensing characters. I recently found out one of my characters is an ISTP, which happens to be my dad’s. I had an ISTJ character, but sadly she’s been discarded.

    As for highly detailed character profiles, I don’t exactly do. It’s something I should do. I usually end up writing the story, learning the characters as I go, and then start writing profiles. I have a few completely finished, but I might try the character typing style. They don’t seem as time consuming as other styles.

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      • Freckledmermaids, I do understand where you are coming from. Sensing characters who have most or all functions developed and are relatable can be difficult to create and write. As a Sensing Feeling type myself, my tip is to explore the thinking and intuition sides of their thought process and how those would develop (in a healthy way). Some Sensing Feeling types use more thinking and intuition than others.


  4. Thank you very much for this article. I’d been trying to use the MBTI system in my creative writing in just the way you detailed here, for a while now. So, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about MBTI.
    I usually don’t have a problem writing feeling-type characters. But extraverts are a big hurdle.


  5. That’s interesting. What kind of feedback did you get on your writing? Was it extremely well written?


  6. What wonderfully serendipitous timing for an article such as this! I’ve recently decided to write a musical in effort to put together all my unfinished song ideas and experiences into one cohesive vision, and even I being a MBTI nut hadn’t thought of this!

    I can definitely understand where you come from with the difficulty in writing Feeling characters; I as well have great difficulty writing from a Thinker’s perspective and my Thinking type characters as a result are flavored by my Quaternary Te (comes across as too extreme) if they are SFP/NTJ and by my Tetiary Ni (which can appear similar to Ti to the untrained eye; Ni has a more flexible internal map than Ti).

    I’m definitely going to build the profiles for the main characters now!


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