Believable Characters, Part 14

Today we continue this lengthy look at building believable characters using the good stuff found in Jeff Gerke’s Plot vs. Character and David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II

Keirsey calls the ESFJ (extroverted, sensory, feeling, judgment) THE PROVIDER. I’ve also seen this person described as “the Supporter” or “the Enthusiast.” Whatever you call her, she’s nurturing, loyal, harmonious, and collaborative. She makes certain that everyone around her has the necessities of life. She’s eager to serve, arranging for the physical health and welfare of those in need. She’s extremely sociable. She wants traditions upheld, social functions to succeed, and for everyone to be healthy and happy. She’s the woman who feels the uncontrollable urge to feed everyone who comes anywhere near her house (which is kept immaculate but cozy, not museum-like).

Providers make up more than ten percent of the population, so they can show up frequently in your novel. They are tireless in organizing goods/services, and make excellent chairpersons for banquets, rummage sales, and charity balls. They are the best hosts/hostesses, aware of all their guests names, what everyone’s doing, and what everyone needs. They are personable and talkative, and go bonkers when left alone for too long. The best way to cause this character stress is to lock her in solitary confinement for a couple of days. Even among strangers, the ESFJ will strike up a conversation with anyone nearby, about any topic. They are delighted with gossip. If your protagonist needs to know what’s going on in any given neighborhood, have him seek out the Provider and she’ll happy divulge that information, free of charge–and she’ll provide coffee cake or a sandwich. 

The ESFJ has observable things on her mind, as opposed to imaginary or abstract issues. She’s much more concerned with people’s lives than with theology or sociology. Sometimes she can come across as pessimistic when she turns nostalgic, recounting past experiences in the good old days, but most of the time, she’s upbeat and highly sensitive to those around her. She loves to talk about her emotions. She’s quick to like and dislike, idolizing those she admires. Anyone who disagrees with her, or does something she disapproves of, goes on her hate list. Personal criticism will crush the Provider, as she highly values the opinions of others, especially in regards to her own behavior. 

Providers lean toward service occupations: flight attendant, teacher, clergy, nurse. They are visibly and honestly concerned with their customer’s welfare, so used-car salesman isn’t a good fit. They respect their supervisors, do their duties with diligence, and respect and obey all rules. They are exceptionally loyal, especially to family. To throw a wrench into the Provider’s life, give her a mate that steps out on her, or is extremely independent (doesn’t *need* her, per se), or refuses to share his emotions with her.

Famous ESFJ’s include Don Knotts, Sally Struthers, and Mary Tyler Moore. Fictional ESFJ’s include Monica from Friends, Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh, and Leonard McCoy from Star Trek.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s