Character Psychology and the Author: Connections?

This kind of picture always makes me think of Laskenay. She hates conflict, but when her values are threatened, she WILL defend them.

This kind of picture always makes me think of Laskenay. She hates conflict, but when her values are threatened, she WILL defend them.

Psychology is so related to character development…. It’s something we authors need to think about. And it’s something that I imagine naturally interests us…. Fiction, after all, is all about people. It’s about exploring what it means to be human.

That’s why we write it. And it’s why we read it.

Anyways, I am interested to some extent in Myers-Briggs classifications. Reading up on it, and taking tests, I’m pretty certain I’m an INFJ: That means (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging.)

INFJ’s are supposedly the rarest personality type in the general population, but what I find really crazy is this (no spoilers, I promise!):

  • My favorite character in my Herewith novels has never been protagonist Kora. It’s always been her mentor Laskenay.
  • I’ve recognized this since early drafts, even without understanding why I felt so strong a connection with Laskenay, who is, admittedly, a complex woman with lots of different things going on.
  • I realized recently that Laskenay is also the classic INFJ. As in, she fits ALL the key descriptions I’ve ever read about an INFJ in ways more striking than I do.

So, I’m realizing I’ve felt drawn to this character because she is a reflection of things I wish I could be. On some level,  she takes the potential I see in myself, given who I am and what my talents and tendencies are, and does amazing things with them.

She overcomes the weaknesses we both share: the ones I haven’t quite confronted or conquered yet. She takes the things I am good at to a level I admire. She’s far from perfect–not a flawless character by any standards. Rather, she takes what I consider important in life and demonstrates those particular qualities, or achieves those goals.

I’m only publishing this because it goes to show how WEIRD writing can get…. How complex a process creating fiction is, and how deep the human drive to art can be.

I wonder: has anyone else noticed this about their favorite characters: either characters they’ve written or read about? (I have seen Remus Lupin, from Harry Potter, also classified as an INFJ and he is one of my favorite characters ever). Are you a lot like them? If you are interested in the Myers-Briggs stuff, do you find they classify similarly to you?

That’s the meat of the post. But if you are interested, here is a brief rundown of Laskenay’s personality.

INTROVERTED: Laskenay is a thinker. She thinks before she speaks, and she would definitely prefer the company of a few close friends to large crowds. She is not an attention grabber, not a “loud” or “inspirational speaker” kind of leader. Her strength is dealing with people one and one… which works well in the novel, to the extent that she is a mentor of sorts to my protagonist.

INTUITIVE: Laskenay is intuitive in the Myers Briggs sense in that she works more with the big picture, and considers the big picture in making decisions. She assigns meaning to details, rather than consider details with hard, cold logic. She does not make fast decisions when she can avoid it, and she always considers the future implications of what she does. She is also intuitive in the sense of having gut feelings about things that turn out to be accurate. That is a classic characteristic of the INFJ.

FEELING: Laskenay (likes me) hates being around conflict and especially hates being involved in conflict. She tries to make people feel at ease, worries about how she says things, not just what it is she’s saying. She is empathetic.

JUDGING: Laskenay likes to feel in control. She focuses on work before “play,” strives to avoid procrastination, and likes decisions to be made so that she can be productively task-oriented.

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17 responses to “Character Psychology and the Author: Connections?

  1. Im’ IFNJ also. I used to be EFNJ, but that’s changed over time. Many authors like to say that they creatively imagined their characters, but there is a deep psychology to character creation. The DSM-V is a great way to learn about both healthy and pathological personalities. I feel that there is a little bit of “us” in every character we “create.” But then, I’m a psych/forensic nurse. 🙂

    • that’s so cool!!! I never realized you were a psych nurse! That is amazing….. You guys help so many people.

      • I’m retired, but I worked in psychiatry for seven years. One thing I loved about nursing was the diversity. I worked so many different aspects of nursing. I really miss it, but not the stress. It’s major responsibility. Life and death almost every day. Draining. Writing has its moments, but it’s relatively peaceful.

  2. I’ve always been interested in “what makes people tick.” I’m more likely to notice the expression on someone’s face or the look in her eyes than I am what she’s wearing. I also pay attention to mannerisms and eavesdrop on conversations. Like most writers, I’m naturally curious about everyone and everything. When I write, I think I use my characters to unravel some of life’s mysteries–such as why certain people behave as they do!

  3. its been a while since I checked but im either a isfj or an isfp

  4. I’m an INFJ too! We were tested at work as part of a day relating to how people are different, work differently, and learn differently.

    I have always had a fascination with Psychology and studied A level psych at home just for fun long before i started taking my writing seriously. Nowadays i take a lot of short courses from sites like http://www.futurelearn.com. They do short introductory courses on things like forensic psychology. In 8 weeks I learned heaps about the human memory and how we can be tricked into remembering things that never happened, and how we can completely miss seeing something that happens right before our eyes. It also explained how police are trained to question witnesses in ways that help people to remember more, and also how to avoid influencing the witness and their memories. Other courses i am about to take are called The Mind is Flat (It explores “the Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology”) and Psychology and Mental Health. This is the course description for the first week. “In this first week, we’ll try to understand why some people experience mental health problems and others don’t. Is this because of differences in nature (their biology), nurture (what happens to them)… or something else?”

    I study these things just for fun but i believe it also helps me to develop three-dimensional characters that people can relate to and believe in.

    • One of the qualities of an INFJ like us is a richer inner life…. a love of learning and thought and contemplation, especially about the deep stuff. Psychology and writing fit right in! 🙂 Good luck with your classes, Naomi!

  5. I can MBTI as whatever I want depending on the situation, and depending on my mood I’ve managed to be both ENFP and ISTJ (polar opposites). So as no real surprise, my characters are wildly different from each other, yet I can point to some part of my personality that matches them. Proof’s in the pudding.

    • I see bits of myself in all my characters too. Even and especially the villains. Which is kind of freaky, but it’s how I relate to them and give them a splash of humanity that makes them interesting (to me at least).

  6. INFJs, unite! For characters to come alive, they need to have a Meyers Briggs foundation.Otherwise, they’re cardboard characters. Keep on using it.

  7. I’m also INFJ — is it possible that it isn’t as rare as we’ve been led to believe or is just that most (all) the INFJ are writers?

  8. I’ll have to look into these Myers-Briggs tests. It sounds like I might be an INFJ as well. I wonder if these are qualities that incline people to become writers.

    • INFJs are quiet, creative types generally. They see and establish patterns, have deep convictions, and appreciate delving deep into issues and into the “big issues.” Because of that, they do tend to be writers and/or artists. That doesn’t mean, of course, that they all are, or that other personality types can’t be writers.

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