Jaye Wells

Using Types

So for those of us who are writers, how does this help us? First, knowing our strengths and weaknesses (no matter our profession) can help us in almost any area of our lives. Second, knowing our characters’ strengths and weaknesses makes us better writers.

I mentioned in comments after my last post that I decided to write my current book in first person. This decision came after several false starts in third pov. But when I tried it in first it flowed. Knowing the ins and outs of this heroine will help me “stay in character” while I am writing. It’s just another tool in my writer’s toolbox. Obviously this character will reflect a lot of my own traits, but for the times when she does things I would never do, being able to understand why she’s doing it will help me write. I can also figure out my hero’s type, so I can understand the tension and conflict between them. Since my characters are opposites, it will be good to understand the whys of their actions.

A great book on this subject, Do What You Are, uses these types in reference to career planning or job searches. It take each type and give a run down of strengths, weaknesses, ideal work environments, things to avoid in jobs, as well as a comprehensive listing of careers. It’s another good resource for you personally or in your writing.

But let’s look at character-building from the other side. Let’s say you don’t know much about your character except his profession. You know he’s a lawyer and he’s working on a big case. Check out the book or one of the personality web sites and check out the personalities drawn to the legal profession. Pick one that works with your vision and build upon what you read.

Same goes if you don’t know the profession, but you know a trait. ENFJs (my type) are outgoing, people-persons. They tend to give of themselves with little regard for their own needs. Let’s say you have a character in mind who has been caring for a sick parent for years. Now the parent has passed away and the protag is faced with building a life for themselves alone. Knowing she is an ENFJ might help you understand her conflicts–being alone is very hard on this type. Also she has no one to take care of so she has to refocus that energy elsewhere. Build from there.

12 Thoughts on “Using Types

  1. Jaye Wells on January 24, 2006 at 2:21 pm said:

    Crud. This was supposed to be Wednesday’s post. I accidentally posted it early. Sorry for the info dump today.

    Jaye

  2. R.J. Baker on January 24, 2006 at 2:54 pm said:

    Crud is the best your can do?

  3. Jaye Wells on January 24, 2006 at 4:06 pm said:

    I like the word Crud. Although I tend to lean more toward Crap. Thought I’d mix it up today.

    But if you’d prefer here is a list of profanities since I know that’s what you really want:

    Shit on a stick, Damn it to hell, Fuck it all… Better?

  4. R.J. Baker on January 24, 2006 at 8:16 pm said:

    I was thinking tuff titty miss kitty…but I like where your heads at…

    I love when women talk dirty, of course that’s just me and appropriateness always plays into it.

  5. M. G. Tarquini on January 24, 2006 at 8:41 pm said:

    I write about occupations I know, or can imagine because of life experiences. And that’s how I get away with writing about things that seem way outside my experience.

    If I need authenticity, I find somebody in that profession to work out the details. I have BROTHERS – the one about the forest and the guys in leather- out to a forrester right now, for those bits of authentic detail.

    Agreed those personality types can be useful and eye opening.

    I linked here. You’ve lots of good things to say. Thanks for coming by my blog. Don’t be a stranger.

  6. Jaye Wells on January 24, 2006 at 9:10 pm said:

    M.G. thanks for stopping by and the link. I linked to you too.

  7. Mignon on January 25, 2006 at 9:07 am said:

    Jaye, you’ve solved a serious problem I’ve been having with my short stories. I started them about five years ago, and I was nearly finished with 4. When we moved here a couple years ago I signed up for a distance learning class, but didn’t finish it (got knocked up, oh well). Now, when I go back, I can’t understand my characters any more! Your post made me realize my personality type has changed after having two children. I think I’m going to have to start all over, maybe telling the stories from a different viewpoint.

    I like Crud. Nuts, too.

  8. Jaye Wells on January 25, 2006 at 11:39 am said:

    Mignon,

    So glad this helped you. I don’t know that my personality changed after having a kid, but I do know it emphasized different parts of me. Also, sometimes writing a scene in a different pov can help you understand your goals with it. I’ve heard it’s a good cure for a block. Let me know how it goes.

    Jaye

  9. jamie ford on January 25, 2006 at 12:15 pm said:

    Interesting, I had never thought about using Myers-Briggs typology to frame up certain characters. But I can see how it could add friction and detail, while maintaining the continuity of the character.

    Great idea.

  10. R.J. Baker on January 25, 2006 at 7:56 pm said:

    Excellent as always.

    A very unique and creative way to use personality tests. Knowing the character’s motivations ar key to creating realistic ones. This is especially hard as you(the writer) trys to put oneself into roles that you have no knowledge of(for me killers and cops).

    A good combination wrench to add to my near empty writers tool box. Thanks.

  11. Jaye Wells on January 25, 2006 at 7:59 pm said:

    R.J.

    Glad you found it helpful. My crit group uses these types. In fact, when they “auditioned” me to join they asked me if I knew my type. Luckily I did.

    Tonight at our meeting we actually had a discussion about what types her hero and heroine were. Put a whole knew spin on my understanding of her goals in the story.

  12. Jaye Wells on January 25, 2006 at 8:00 pm said:

    Thanks, Jamie. Of course I have an affinity for characters with my type. But it’s good to be able to expand my horizons a bit using the profiles of other types.

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