Recently, I’ve been reminded that there are a lot of different personalities in the world. I was talking with a friend who wanted to vent about something going on with his life. Now, my first instinct when someone comes to me with a problem is to help to find a solution.
If it’s a problem, then it needs to be solved. It’s just an aspect of my INTJ personality.
But he wasn’t actually looking for a solution. He wanted someone to vent to – someone to commiserate with him, give him a pat on the back, then send him on his way with a “great job for enduring!”
Unfortunately, that’s not the first place my mind goes. Problem –> solution. If you don’t want your problems solved, then why are you talking to me about it?
But this served as a reminder to me that we, as writers tend to fall into an unfortunate trap. We know ourselves pretty well, so we tend to write characters that share our same interests and personalities. Sure, there might be a few variations (for example, one character likes Star Wars and the other one likes football), but it isn’t significant. Most of the heroes tend to have similar mindsets, and usually the only characters with a different sort of personality are the villains. Especially if it’s a mastermind-type; they tend to be INTJs.
We really need to work on that….
In any case, it’s a trap that writers need to avoid. Sure, the characters that you write about might be relatable to you, but they aren’t relatable to everyone. Not all your readers are going to think the same way as you do. Not everyone has the same personality type. Your fictional world will be much more realistic and vibrant if there is a variety of personality types.
If you like to do your research – and what decent writer doesn’t? – then I recommend steering your Web browser to an analysis of the Briggs Myers personality types. One of my favorite sites is 16 Personalities. Not only can you take the test to get a deeper understanding of yourself, you can also look into all the personalities.
Here’s a fun challenge for you: choose one of those personalities – preferably one different than your own. Read through it, then design a character based around that personality. Try to figure out how that character might factor into your story.
If you manage to do it with one, then do it with another personality type. If you can do it with each of those personalities, you’ll find that you now have 16 different characters to use in your stories. That’s a pretty good selection!
Don’t forget to have fun with this experiment, too. After all, what’s the point in creating new worlds and new characters if you’re not enjoying the process? Have fun, and until next time, keep on writing!