Friday 11 December 2020

On why it's basically a miracle I found a husband - Kelly McCaughrain

Having had a great NaNo (38K words, thank you very much), I’ve been chillaxing this week by messing about doing Myers Briggs personality tests online for my characters. As a lapsed psychology student, I love this shizz.

The Myers Briggs system divides everyone into 16 personality types based on things like introversion, extroversion, thinking, intuitive, sensing, judging etc. Then it gives you a description of that type, their strengths and weaknesses, how they typically behave in relationships, in the workplace, and as parents.

For example, I did one for myself (of course) and was told I’m an INTJ. The description informed me:

  • That INTJs are popular as fictional villains
  • That well-known INTJs include Vladimir Putin and all the worst people from Game of Thrones (but also Michelle Obama and Katniss Everdeen so that’s cool)
  • That I’m a fantastic employee unless you have the temerity to tell me to do something
  • That I'm unlikely to ever meet anyone mad enough to marry me
  • And that I’ll probably never even meet anyone else like me because this type is shared by only 0.9% of women. 

Luckily, no one (least of all me or Putin) is saying the Myers Briggs system is a psychologically valid tool. It’s been fairly widely discredited in fact. But mainly because the system was designed to test potential employees to see where they’d be best suited and it really doesn't do that very well. (Companies do still use it despite the widespread discrediting.)

And yet people love it, and they find the personality descriptions spookily accurate. I wouldn’t base any life decisions on it, but yeah, I could totally run Russia. 

And I think it’s actually really useful for working on your characters, because what it does do, is take a person’s answers to a bunch of questions and produce a summary of their personality. And it’s spookily accurate because you’ve basically given it the information, it’s only summarising what you’ve told it already. 

So if you do it for one of your characters, answering the questions based on their behaviour in your book, it won't tell you anything you didn't already know, but it does give you a little synopsis of them. Which is SO handy, because you can stick it over your desk and refer back to it while you’re writing. It’s like a shorthand, shortcut, quick-reference guide to that person and how they’ll typically behave in a variety of situations.

I have a tendency to assume my characters would do what I would do. But of course they wouldn’t. The personality descriptions can suggest behaviour you mightn’t have thought of. And in the early stages of drafting, it can be so helpful to have something to keep you grounded in that character’s personality. You don’t have to be rigid about it or make them stereotypical, but I think it does help to keep them believable.

Plus you get to spend hours procrastinating by taking tests for yourself and all your friends! Did I mention I studied psychology because I’m incredibly nosy?

You can do the free test here. Come on, what else is there to do in a locked down December?


Kelly McCaughrain is the author of the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year,
Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

She is the Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland #CWFNI

She also blogs at The Blank Page




Liz Weir said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz Weir said...

That is spot on Kelly! I did the test and I'm an Adventurer apparently.I found the results surprisingly accurate! Especially about my introvert features which might surprise people.

11 December 2020 at 13:05

Kelly McCaughrain said...

That's great Liz! It's a bit of fun, isn't it. My introvert features came as a surprise to *no one*. :D

A. Colleen Jones said...

INFJ when I did the test years ago at the office in Vancouver. Only 2 of us had that, the writer and the graphic designer. Hmmmm. :)

Kelly McCaughrain said...

Must be a creative type, Colleen!

Ms. Yingling said...

I'm an INTJ as well, so I'll definitely read your book if it ever comes out in the US. I imagine there are more book/library types who share this designation than are represented in the general population!

Kelly McCaughrain said...

Ms Yingling! I'm ridiculously happy to find another INTJ! Even if you're thousands of miles away. :D Now you mention it, the main character in my book is definitely an INTJ! Hmm...

Sheena Wilkinson said...

I just did it -- I'm an Advocate apparently; can't remember the letters -- and yes, it was spookily accurate, especially the bit about it often taking a long time to find the right partner (50 years...)

Kelly McCaughrain said...

Brilliant Sheena! That is spooky!

kasturbian said...

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LuWrites said...

Just catching up on the posts I've missed this month and totally LOVE this one! Seem to remember my Myers Briggs test said I could be Beethoven or Shakespeare and I can live with that too - the idea of using them to work out how your characters behave is sheer genius! Thanks for that. And for making me laugh when I'm about to face the shitstorm of Tesco for Christmas food shopping...

Kelly McCaughrain said...

Thanks Lu! Click and Collect all the way!