Believable Characters, Part 4

I’m still talking about creating believable characters. I’m pulling from several sources, but mostly Jeff Gerke’s book Plot vs. Character and David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me II

Now that we’ve explored the four base pairs involved in personalities, let’s have some fun. It’s time to mix and match. You remember the four parts:

1.  Extrovert (E) or Introvert (I)
2.  Sensing (S) or Intuitive (N)
3.  Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
4.  Judgment (J) or Perception (P)

Now we just pick one trait from each base. If you’re a math person, you realize there are 16 possibilities. Check it out:

Someone who is extroverted, sensing, thinking, and judgment is called ESTJ in the Myers-Briggs game. The letters aren’t so important, but it’s much easier to type the four letters than typing the words out. Stay with me. 

Keirsey calls this person THE SUPERVISOR. She is self-appointed to keep everyone in line. She likes being in a group, and she likes taking charge of it. She prefer facts to opinions and is highly practical. She will not be spontaneous (that’s a perception trait) or particularly tactful (that’s a feeling trait), and will not indulge in speculation, imagination, or fantasy (that would be the intuitive).

The ESTJ is eager to enforce the rules, and expects others to follow the rules or face the consequences–and this includes employees, offspring, and spouse. ESTJ’s make excellent workers. They obey their superiors, and are comfortable issuing orders to subordinates. They are not always responsive to other points of view or to the emotions of others, and can be seen by others as rude or tactless.

ESTJ’s are preoccupied with morality and worry about society falling apart, morality decaying, standards being undermined, and traditions being lost. They see themselves as dependable and respectable. Others see them as fatalistic and pessimistic, and that doesn’t bother the ESTJ. She really doesn’t care what others think about her. ESTJ’s make up about ten percent of the population, so you’ll run into lots of these people in life and in fiction.

Some famous ESTJ’s are George W. Bush, Bette Davis, the Reverend Billy Graham, and Lucy from the Peanuts.

This type of person finds great success in occupations that require a high degree of dedication and disciple: corporate law, politics, police work, military service, and business. You will NOT find an ESTJ working as an artist/performer, a writer, or a sex trade worker. 

So, if you need a prostitute in your story, she won’t be an ESTJ. If, however, you need an excellent vice cop or a drill sergeant, the ESTJ is the perfect fit! Other good careers for the ESTJ include lawyer, chief information officer, and dentist. Make sure, when you’re creating your character, that you don’t veer from the base personality, or he won’t be believable to the exalted reader. There’s room for quirks, idiosyncrasies, phobias, and aberrations, but they need to fit within the framework of the personality type. Later, I’ll get into how to incorporate these exciting bits into the base personality.

Can you now see how this personality stuff can help you create believable characters? Are you excited about it now? Are you dying to study the next one? It’s coming up in the next post.

-Sonja
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