Saturday, September 10, 2016
The Problem With MBTI in Fiction
But there is one thing that bothers me - when people start using fictional characters as examples of personality types.
You want to know why?
Because they're fiction. They're written by an author who sees the world in a certain way, and, try as they might, their own personality type is going to bleed all over their story and into every character. Even for characters of their own personality types, there's a certain amount of distance they have to make between themselves, a certain amount of glazing over their faults that will happen.
I'm an author myself. I'm an ENFP. I write ENFP characters who don't always think or act like ENFP's, and I write characters who aren't supposed to be ENFP ... but the ENFP thought process still snuck in while I wasn't looking.
Take Petra, for instance - I meant for her to be an INTJ, and most of my beta readers recognized her as such ... except for the one who was an actual INTJ. (She tried to pin her as an ISTP ... but frankly, that isn't Petra AT ALL. ISTJ would be more likely.)
My mom is an INTJ, and we're about 75% sure that my baby sis is one too. I read tons of articles about INTJ's ...
But here's the thing.
I'm not an INTJ. I'm an ENFP.
(And, second thing - for the longest time, Petra was going to be an INFJ, and there are a few moments when that showed through.)
I don't see the world through introverted intuition, but extroverted intuition. While I do understand extroverted thinking, my comfort decision process is introverted feeling. And that bled through.
No, I don't think she's not an INTJ, but she is an INTJ written through an ENFP filter.
Now take Clara - she's supposed to be an ENFP. And her perception and decisions processes are very ENFP much of the time. But there are elements of her character that are NOT true of me, and I've as yet to meet an ENFP who adheres to a schedule as well as she does. If you're looking for an ENFP model, I'd highly recommend Robin instead, but even with her, there are elements that I know aren't strictly ENFP about her,
Because you see, there are elements of my ENFP-ness that I'm frankly embarrassed about, that I know won't make a good hero. So I quietly shave them out and slide in other flaws instead. Or play up weaknesses that I'm not so embarrassed about.
And this is why it bothers me when I see people holding up fictional characters as models of personality types, because with fictional characters, it's never clear-cut or obvious. I was looking at a number of charts the other day and found Katniss sorted as ISTP, ISTJ, and ISFP. Frankly, my lean is ISTP, but she's fictional. Her brain functions according to the whim of her author and perhaps some feedback from an editorial staff.
It's a little better in TV, where you can have multiple writers for one series, because you can bring a multitude of personalities to the story. Even there, and taking MLP as an example now, some writers present Pinkie Pie as an ESFP, others as and ENFP. Sometimes Twilight seems more like an INTJ, other times she acts more INTP. It depends on the writer and the plot.
Do I mind the typing of fictional characters? No, I don't. If it helps you identify with the characters, all the more power to you. But what I do mind is people touting fictional characters as supreme examples of personalities. Because they're fictional. They're going to contradict themselves in ways that no real human being ever will.
But here's one more secret - if you know the personality type of an author, you can learn a lot about the way they think from their writing. I may not write the perfect ENFP characters, but I myself am all over my writing, in the depth of my POV's, in the richness and wildness of my worldbuilding, in the complexity of the plot twists. Stuff that, I've noticed, also seems to be true of INFP's, but then, we do have the same functions, just in a slightly different order.
And that, my friends, is why I've been asking everyone what their personality types are and how they feel it bleeds into their writing. Academic study.
Feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the subject, and, hey, if you're a writer, and you know your type, can you tell me what it is and you feel it affects your writing?
(And yes, Miss Melody Muffin, I wrote this post because of our conversation about Petra, but a lot of this is thoughts I've been having for a while)