The NaNoWrimo Success Series: How To Create Characters Using The MBTI Method

NaNoWriMo may be over, but if you're looking to build complex characters these tips still apply!

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Alright writers, we’re officially 5 days away!

If you’ve been following the NaNoWriMo Success Series, by now you’ve:

-      Chosen Your NaNoWriMo Story

-      Outlined Your NaNoWriMo Plot

By choosing your story and outlining your plot, you’ve already set yourself up for success. With your scenes in place, you get to avoid writer’s block because you know where your story is headed.  Even when writing gets hard, you’ll be able to keep pushing forward and finish your novel (If you haven’t done those things, it’s not too late to get started!)

Now that you’ve ensured you’ll finish your story, it’s time to move onto techniques that will improve the quality of your first draft. One common issue with many first drafts is character differentiation and authenticity.

Whether you’re writing quickly or slowly, it’s easy for all of your characters to become the same. Even if you feel like your characters are different people with different personalities, re-reading a first draft will often show you that your characters have blurred together and now think/speak/react the same as every other character in the story.

This problem becomes even worse when you’re cranking out ~1,700 words a day.

If you’re incredible and diligent, you’ll spend hours building every single aspect of every single character in your story. But if you’re like me, you need something concrete and functional so that you can build on the ideas you have and expand them to create characters that are both unique and 3-dimensional.

This is where the MBTI Character Method comes in.

What is MBTI?

MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. MBTI is a questionnaire that identifies how you “perceive the world and make decisions.” After answering this questionnaire, you are identified as 1 of the 16 personality types pictured below.

Via wikipedia.org

What is the MBTI Character Method?

The MBTI Character Method is a process that allows you to map the characters you already have in mind against the 16 personality types. This process is great because it forces you to identify the nuances between your characters and consider new ways that they are different from each other. One great example of this is the Harry Potter MBTI chart below.

Via simbaga.tumblr.com

As you can see from this awesome chart, all 16 people depicted above are unique and different from every other character around them. Having a chart like this is great because when you have one story event, you can analyze how each character would react and respond based off of their unique personalities.

If you take the time to build this chart for your story, you’ll ensure that all of your characters begin as different people before you write page 1. This will help you avoid blurring them together as you fight to get through NaNoWriMo.

How To Use the MBTI Character Method

  • Step 2: Create a list of all of your main characters. For ease, a main character is anyone who affects/drives the plot and outcome of your story.
  • Step 3: Write down every thought you’ve ever had about each character on your list. Don’t leave anything out – hair color, favorite song, random childhood memory. Even if the information will never make it into the story, put it down on paper. Your goal here is to flush out all of your preliminary thoughts so that you don't lose any of your original creativity when you move on to Step 4.
  • Step 4: Look at the blank MBTI chart below and figure out which of the 16 personalities matches your protagonist. The key here is to match what you already have with what’s written. Don’t just pick what looks cool – think and analyze who your character is, how you think he/she reacts, and how he/she makes decisions.
  • Step 5: Repeat this process for the rest of your main characters. Again, don’t just place character names in blank spaces at random. Compare each new character to the characters you’ve already placed. Think about what makes sense with what you already had in mind and what personality types add a new voice and perspective to your story.
  • Step 6: Study, study, study! Over the next 5 days, study the characters you’ve created and think about how they’re different from each other. The more substantial the characters are in your head, the more realistic they become on paper.

So there you have it! Let me know if you have any questions below and good luck building your cast of characters! Stay tuned this week for my post on 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers and keep up the good work!