Writing to (Personality) Type
This article was first published in the April 2001 issue of the FRW newsletter, Words of Paradise. Permission to reprint from: Elaine Hopper, Chinara@aol.com
Creating Lifestyle Conflicts for Your Characters, by Bonnie Vanak
Is your hero a “J?” Does he make a list and follow it with painful precision until each item is accomplished? Is your heroine a “P?” Does she make 30 lists on little pieces of paper, do one or two items, and then becomes sidetracked by a phone call from a friend suggesting a day at the mall? If so, your characters are polar opposites. And you have the basis for some terrific lifestyle conflicts.
“P” (Perceiving) and “J” (Judgmental) are personality characteristics that
show how we order our lives. These characteristics are part of the
Myers-Briggs type indicators ®. The Myers-Briggs ® test is a personality test
that has become a standard in corporate America. Many employers will require
recruits take this test prior to hiring. The test consists of questions that
are designed to measure a person’s preferences and indicate a personality
type. The characteristics include extrovert, introvert, sensing, intuition,
thinking, feeling, judging and perceiving. Yet it is the latter two that
provide the most insight to how a person conducts his or her everyday
business … and the type where the most conflict can occur according to
psychologist Sharon Cassells of Boynton Beach.
“Two words that describe Judgmental types are productive and
deadlines. Perceiving types are receptive and open to discoveries,” said
Dr.Cassells, who administers Myers-Briggs ® tests for companies.
According to Cassells, “J’s” and “P’s” represent the most conflict because
they are vastly different. A “J” will handle deadlines in advance and make
a plan for the day. A “P” meets deadlines at the last minute and becomes
easily bored with routine.
A “J” knows that Monday she will tackle a work problem using steps A, then
B, then C. If any of these steps are out of order, she can become agitated
and upset. A “P” on the other hand,jumps from A to Z and then back to A,
and weaves her way around to try to find a solution.
A good example of movie characters with polar opposite characteristics can be
found in “Romancing the Stone.” Hero Jack Colton experiences life as it
happens, goes with the flow, and seems irresponsible while romance author
Joan Wilder is a “J” who must stick to deadlines, likes having her life
under control, and is comfortable finishing what she started.
It’s possible to have one personality trait and yet be forced by life to
adapt the characteristics of another. This occurs to the hero of my
contemporary romance, “Sex with Mrs. Ex.” Matt is a natural “P.” He needs
freedom to explore, likes surprises, and he is flexible and adaptable. The
heroine, Amber, is clearly a “J.” She needs order, structure, and
Yet as a Marine, Matt was forced toadopt “J” tendencies in order to survive
a military lifestyle. He also displays these characteristics when conducting
business. When Amber and Matt must face danger together, Matt’s natural “P”
persona takes a back seat as the “J” training kicks in. He is decisive,
efficient, and structured in dealing with the emergency.
Curious as to what type of characters are in your story? These web sites offer more information on personality types: http://www.personalitytype.com/quiz/quiz.html; http://www.advisorteam.com/user/kts.asp.
You can actually find out your personality type by taking a test online – the Keirsey Temperament Sorter which scores results according to the Myers-Briggs system. To find out your character’s type, answer the questions the way s/he would.
Test your characters and find out what types they are. The answers may just surprise you!
Bonnie Vanak is a former journalist who writes short contemporary romance and dabbles in amateur psychology as a hobby. This article was originally published in Words of Paradise, April 2001 newsletter of the Florida Romance Writers.