A Concerning (read: amoral) Theme in My Reading

Music: Santana—Amore (Sexo)

I was trying to explain why I love Gone With the Wind so much, when it suddenly hit me that half my favourite reads feature truly awful antiheroines empowered by their amorality. Strong statement, I know. It concerns me.

Let’s look at these books, then. I’ve mentioned a couple of them before.gonewiththewind

Scarlett of Gone With the Wind and Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair are the epitomes (if more than one are permissible) of self-interest. But while Scarlett has a few sensitivities (notably her unrequited crush for Ashley) that make her an interesting character to invest in, Becky is so utterly unredeemable that it must be a conscious decision on Thackeray’s part. Her biggest crime, beyond unvalidated lies and manipulations, is her neglect of her son. The fact that she continues to be fascinating is a testament to great writing—or perhaps she satisfies the guilty, erotic side of readers’ greed.

A recent favourite was Gone Girl. The unforeseeable twists, the utter divided feeling on both Amy and Nick throughout the narrative, ending with a simultaneous hatred of Amy even while you can’t help but marvel at her sheer genius. It’s just a massive ‘eff you’ to happy endings.

An old favourite dates back to my school story collection. For some years my favourite was Winifred Norling’s The Worst Fifth on Record of 1961, which documents an epidemic of illicit smoking, make-up-wearing and boy-dancing at a conservative boarding school. It transpired that the character, Philippa, who’d been dragged into the affair, was nice, but at any rate some of her contemporaries were awful people. Maybe that book was a guilty pleasure, too, a fresh read compared to many of the admittedly priggish depictions of adolescence on my shelf.

thebookoflies

I must mention The Book of Lies, which is set on my own home island. Catherine admits on page one that she pushed her best friend off a cliff, and that she’s amazed she got away with it. The horribleness of the friend, who mentored Catherine in her own image, later goes to explain the action. The second clause is just a delicious admission that she was willing to destroy herself in order to destroy someone else. Immediately, she seems a very human character.

To me, anyway. Others might argue she is sub-human. The thread running through all these books is the amorality of the protagonists. I recently read Francoise Sagan’s A Certain Smile and Bonjour Tristesse and their amoral undercurrent was really quite singular. It was presented in so many ways: as a path to happiness, or at least contentment, as enabling to create adventures and experiences beyond those of the morally conscious—but in the end the character’s apathy fails and leads to her suffering.

These explorations, so often conflicting, are what I love most: ambivalence, self-contradiction and plain confused dismissal of societal morals. These characters don’t reject morality over a lifetime of thought and argument; they simply don’t connect with it. Just as sometimes I struggle to filter what I say, and will more often keep quiet for fear of being unwittingly rude.

That is human, is it not? It is my peculiar interpretation of what it is to be human, at any rate—as I assume I am, if anybody is.

In any case, it explains why I have such a penchant for writing saboteurs, even self-saboteurs. Drina: deliberately destroys her own life to impress her mother, that ultimately fails due to the disillusionment caused by her obsession. Flavie: deliberately destroys her bread-baking family business to ‘feed’ her self-destructive eating disorder (inappropriate verb, I know). My latest protagonist, Dani: deliberately destroys her own social skills to justify her inability to bring her unrequited crush into fruition. It’s a sick list.

thecatcherintherye

Dani reminds me of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, in that she is so unpredictable when it comes to activity and passivity—he worships the elusive Jane, but throughout the story is divided between fantasy and action. It’s a page-turning combination. Then there’s Scarlett’s book-long unrequited crush, that acute combination of pain and hope most of us recognise from some point in our youth (says me, at eighteen).

Dani takes me right back to that awkward fourteen-year-old stage. In a comforting, nostalgic way, as well as an embarrassing one. I’m revisiting my old diaries, and it’s a bit of a slap to the face to realise how little time ago I was stuck in those crazy thought patterns. Dani’s soundtrack, by the way, is the Franz Ferdinand album Tonight. Not my favourite of theirs, but I like the way it reflects the evolution of a house party (I could write a blog post explaining why I imagine it this way…), with a couple of fairly insightful musings on the limitations of the teenage mindset. Dani’s climax takes place at a house party, so this album in the background eternally reminds me what the whole story is accelerating towards.

I digress. Anyone else see disturbing themes in the books you gravitate towards? (I reiterate, all the books above fall into the LOVELOVELOVEKEEPFOREVERTHISBOOKISMYLIFETHISBOOKWASWRITTENFORME category.)

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Four Learning Styles

Another interesting branch of interpersonal psychological differences. This time it isn’t MBTI, but learning styles (though there’s nothing to say the two theories aren’t related).

Up until about a month ago, I’d thought there were three recognised learning styles: Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic. They’re pretty self-explanatory, but for purposes of completion and self-satisfaction, I’ll explain anyway.

Visual Learners:

  • Are often good at visual art forms and enjoy excursions to art galleries
  • Remember things by picturing or visualising them
  • Perceive others’ meanings through their gestures, body language and facial expressions
  • Are distracted by sights
  • Are likely to take notes, draw mind-maps and ‘obsess’ over colour coordination
  • Are likely to dress for fashion and take pleasure in aesthetic ‘perfection’
  • May visualise the worst-case scenario in case of a misfortune
  • You like my emboldenings and italicisings? I’m doin’ that for you, Visuals!
Pretty picture? Well, it's certainly colourful.

Pretty picture? Well, it’s certainly colourful.

This is a common type, probably the most common. We many of us rely very heavily upon our sight, so that’s not surprising.

You might be able to perceive from my style of writing that I am not a Visual. No, sir; I am not. Not to say I don’t like pretty vistas et cetera.

Auditory Learners:

  • Are often good at speaking, debating and have a high appreciation of music
  • Remember verbal instructions and may have the ability to repeat speeches word for word
  • Perceive others’ meanings through their diction, articulation, dynamic and tone of voice
  • Are distracted by noise
  • Are likely to sing, whistle or hum…a lot
  • Are likely to enjoy talking on the phone
  • Easily perceive subtleties of voice and music
Yup, an ear.

Yup, an ear.

We all tick boxes in other categories. Meself, I can whistle the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ at full speed. And so can all my protagonists 🙂

(By the way, if this sounds like you, go and listen to Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony. I am at the moment, and I’d forgotten how much I love it. Probably the nostalgia—the soundtrack of Barbie Rapunzel is basically Dvorak. Anyway…)

(Is it just an inconsequential theory of mine that many Visual and Auditory learners are also MB Sensing types? Okay, forget that.)

Kinaesthetic Learners:

  • Are often good at practical tasks such as crafts, mechanics and sports
  • Remember things by acting out and trying for themselves
  • Communicate through ‘touchy-feely’ gestures such as hugging for affection or a firm handshake for respect
  • Mostly buy clothes for comfort
  • Must often endure a traditional school learning environment favouring Visual and Auditory learning styles (let’s have a big loud ‘awww’)
  • According to one source, they have high intuition (hm, interesting, though I’d like to know exactly where such a conclusion came from)
Yes, he's pushing a chess piece. *shrug* Well, if it helps him learn how to play chess, what are you looking at?

Yes, he’s pushing a chess piece. *shrug* Well, if it helps him learn how to play chess, what are you looking at?

Okay, I was always awful at Science practicals. But whenever someone touches me—say, they tweak my elbow or measure the circumference of my wrist (yeah, seems pretty meaningless)—I feel automatically better about myself. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m just starved of physical contact because I pretend to be detached and independent.

But no, I don’t believe I’m a Kinaesthetic learner, either. I just discovered the fourth learning style.

Auditory Digital Learners:

  • Can be difficult to identify (is that why I’d never even heard of the type before?)
  • Work best with information and data
  • Remember things by creating steps and procedures
  • May struggle with social interaction
  • Apparently the Socratic-debate style of question-and-answer might help with learning
  • I don’t know where the name comes from

Well, how else was I supposed to illustrate it? Nothing like a good tunnel of binary.

This is brilliant for characterisation. Understanding a character’s learning style is just as vital as nailing their personality—one might even argue that learning style is an integral part of character personalisation. Probably is. All these tests, we do them for ourselves because we’re interested in who we are and how we operate–and how we operate in relation to others who don’t necessarily understand or relate to us. Is it not just as vital to understand our characters, since we conceive every part of them ourselves, and set ourselves the task of determining all their goals, motives and methods?

Let’s have some characteristic words for each type: (Yes, I lifted these straight off http://mymindcoach.com.au/communicate-better/, which has frankly proved the basis for most of my observations. So, yeah, thanks for that.)

Visual: see, looks, appear, view, show me, dawn, reveal, imagine, illuminate, crystal clear

Auditory: can you hear, that sounds good, listen, make music, tune in, be all ears, that rings a bell, it resonates

Kinaesthetic: feel, touch, grasp, get a hold of, slips through, catch on, tap into, concrete, solid

Auditory Digital: sense, understand, think, learn, process, decide, consider, change, perceive, insensitive, conceive, distinct, know (each of these words I would probably use at an average of five or six times a day, depending on the conversation, whereas those in the other lists no more than twice or thrice at the very most)

Yes, we all use these terms all the time. But perhaps one particular person will pop into mind when you read each list. Or, even better—a character.

My thoughts linking to MBTI: we live in a Sensing world. We also live in a world of predominantly Visual and Auditory learners. Draw your own conclusions. I don’t mean to generalise.

My good friend dictionary.com details ‘learning’ as ‘the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill’ (definition two).

My definition of the second MB dimension according to my first post on the subject claims it relates to the ‘methods we use to intake information’. (Yes, that was poorly worded. I should’ve edited that better. …Is this my Auditory Digital side asserting itself—feeling uncomfortable when something isn’t done to its best effect?)

In any case, I don’t think anyone will disagree that learning style and method of information intake are closely related.

That’s right. Have fun thinking about that a bit more. I’m going to bed.

___

Visual learner picture: http://www.wallcoo.net/paint/Jean-Marc_Janiaczyk_Painting_1600x1200/wallpapers/1600×1200/Jean-Marc_Janiaczyk_Art_Painting_cabanon%20aux%20lavandes.jpg

Auditory learner picture: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-c_c4pr3yvsk/Tx8a6xCVbuI/AAAAAAAAAKA/CZKl-ftNdIw/s1600/Ear_14439206.jpg

Kinaesthetic learner picture: http://members.tripod.com/teaching_is_reaching/images/j0078744.gif

Auditory digital learner picture: http://doktorspinn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/digital-tunnel-wallpaper1.jpg

Too many tags? D:

CampNaNoWriMo July 2013

(Again, a post less general and more personal to me [than some]. Factual/theoretical dissertations may resume shortly.)

Well, that’s done. You want some figures?

My first serious attempt at NaNo was in November 2011. I set my target at 33,333 words (two thirds of the full 50K, since I had school to contend with) and wrote 34,133.

My second serious attempt was Camp July 2013. I set my target at 25,000 words (half of the full 50K, because I knew I’d be away a lot of the time) and wrote 35,125.

That’s the whole story. I’ve only tried it twice with a definite personal goal in mind, and both times I’ve been stinted by other commitments. Someday I’ll get 50K. I write at a quick enough rate… It’s just when it takes place in a month I’ve nothing better to do.

Oh, I complain. So many people with full-time jobs get well over 50,000 year after year. How hard can it be, if you’re truly motivated?

After all, on day one I wrote over 7,000 words! By day two that was up to 11,000. And then I got lazy… But these past few days I’ve been trying to make amends. I’ll snapshot my graph and you can all bear witness to my erraticness/erraticism/erraticity(?!). My ‘friends’ always chide me for inconsistency.

Mm, as you can see...

Mm, as you can see…

Yeah, my cabin wasn’t the best. Only two of us got past the 5K mark, and the other girl reached her target of twice that and didn’t continue. I am the proud contributor of seventy percent of my cabin’s words. Unfortunately I couldn’t get everyone else’s targets for them as well as my own.

In the past week I’ve experienced several surprise revelations—sudden unexpected plot twists and characters spiralling out of control. Does this always happen on first drafts? I’ve never noticed it before—but to be fair, I’ve always been such a pantser it hasn’t mattered.

This time, however…

To put all this in context, my WriMo novel is something of a detective story, with the relationships constituting the sub-plot, and elements of action, romance and mistaken paranormal thrown in for good measure. And the good old boarding school returns again!

For a start, there’s my foremost supporting character. In the first story, she was just another character thrown in for contrast and remote moral support. She didn’t even speak till the epilogue. Yes, it sounds amateur, but I’ve brought her back for a larger role in the sequel, to make her previous appearances just a big set-up.

And what a role! Her character has been the steadiest and least changeable of everything in my life this month. Before last Friday, I didn’t even realise quite how enigmatic she was. I thought she was shy or nervous, or incredibly self-conscious. ‘Insipid’, Drina calls her. (Very nice of you, Drina.)

Well, she’s not. She’s not at all. If she’s quiet, it’s because she has nothing to say. And that’s only deception, too! She knows things the rest of the cast would give anything to know, too. She never asks questions, and rarely answers them straight. She tells no two people the same things, but never lies. And she never ever tells the whole story.

Sims 3 doesn't have the right hairstyle, so I cropped out the one I was forced to give her.

Sorry I don’t have a better picture.

Much of the plot hangs upon both her silence and her words, and she is the source of most of the story’s revelations. Simply because nothing anyone else says affects how she communicates. She won’t be coaxed, threatened, tempted, trained…

She’s a strange character—one of the most interesting I’ve ever created. And she wasn’t even supposed to be interesting. Plus because she doesn’t express herself properly (and doesn’t care whether she does or not), I can do exciting and terrifying things with her relationships…

Secondly, my long-time lovers separated. And I never saw that coming. They’ve been engaged for four and a half years, and I thought they were so attached, ultimate soul-mates…

But the more gentle and compliant one of the two suggested it, and my MC was so surprised she just walked away. Sad, eh?

And the funny thing is, I scarcely even know how it happened. One moment they were all lovey-dovey and apologising for I-don’t-know-what; the next minute they’d parted. And all done so gently and shockingly I hadn’t an idea what was bound to happen before it actually did.

It’s so shocking I can scarcely say more about it. So I won’t. I don’t even know if they’ll get back together again. Fortunately I’m only halfway through the story, and though they won’t meet again till the end, if the rest of my plan decides to hold out(!), they’ve plenty of time to think it over.

campnanojuly13target2And thirdly, the crazy idea came to me to bring back to life a character who’s been dead twenty-five years (storywise). I’m not sure if I’ll actually do it or not…but my imagination presented it to me in such a way as to make everything else work perfectly. Hm, this requires no mean thought!

This next fortnight I’m back to editing. Wish me good fun!

MB Character-Typing: Drina Connelly

(If you aren’t remotely acquainted with either the story or the character, or know little of MBTI, this post will probably not be of interest to you. If so, I hope you like the pictures instead *wink*)

Drina daydreaming (taken on Sims 3 a while ago. For the record, her hair isn't supposed to be red, but due to graphics difficulties I can't correct it)

Drina daydreaming (taken on Sims 3 a while ago. For the record, her hair isn’t supposed to be red, but due to graphics difficulties I can’t correct it)

In typing all my characters, which I did on the second edit of my latest manuscript, the most troublesome has been Drina Connelly. This, alongside the fact that she is my main character, causes me a little worry, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that many people are cast regularly in several different Myers-Briggs types.

At first, because I modelled her on myself, as I do originally with many of my MCs, I thought she was an INFJ (Introvert-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging). Then I started to evaluate her journey more thoroughly, and realised that over the course of the story she goes from pure rational to accepting her romantic side. She’s not an F at all. She makes most of her decisions based on logic—and gets herself tied in knots because she sees every side of the situation. And though she works for others’ feelings, is that a result of true compassion, or her desire to make herself appear worthy of the distinction she craves?

So, I thought, she’s an INTJ (Introvert-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging). And that made more sense.

Calculating Drina

Calculating Drina

I took a few more tests, and she came out as an ISTJ/INTJ, where the S and the N conflicted at fifty percent each. It wasn’t a very accurate test, to be fair, but I kept her as an N because I see her as easily able to perceive the bigger picture. Another reader might think differently; I don’t know.

(In addition, J being the one letter that didn’t fluctuate, my explanation is that Drina hates matters to be up-in-the-air. She’d rather a quick resolution, even if it were an unfavourable one. She has difficulty in adapting to new situations. Besides, I haven’t yet come across a Perceiving-type who’s been recommended as a leader, so Drina will just have to remain a J.)

I did a bit of research on INTJs, and liked what I found. In particular a description of how they react under stress made me giggle. I quote:

‘INTJs are used to living in their minds, mostly disregarding their physical and emotional needs. Therefore, love and romantic relationships can take them by surprise and the intensity of their own emotions usually represent the main factor that throws them in distress. They may feel out of control, restless and tormented…managing to isolate themselves not only from the outer world, but also from their emotional and physical self. They become misunderstood loners, cryptic and enigmatic to the rest of the world.’

 

Flattered Drina

Flattered Drina(!)

If you knew Drina, you’d be giggling with me. This is exactly what happens to her: she falls in love, can’t deal with what it’d cost her ‘self-control’ if she gave in, which she can’t help doing, and gets in a right tizz about it all. ‘Enigmatic’ is a word mentioned in relation to her in the actual story, coincidentally.

But after a while I began to doubt my verdict. Her love interest came up as all sorts of things in different tests, but the one recurring type was INFJ. And I thought, so he’s like me, and she’s almost like me… It wasn’t right. Maybe it had the potential to work, but I don’t like to be discriminative, and to have two of my most important characters to be virtually the same really didn’t flatter my characterisation.

Besides that, Drina is supposed to be a leader. This is something that made me baulk, when I first realised it, because I didn’t give her any friends! She was, in her own words, a ‘hopeless introvert’ most unfit to expect to become Head Girl. It was a ludicrous idea, and yet that expectation is just about the entire plot. Well, obviously I had to do something about that.

So I went back to my lists. (Ironically, though I’d had worse trouble with the love interest, I left him as INFJ, and assumed my MC’s type was awry.) And then I did her an Enneagram test.

She came out as a Type Three, the Motivator (or Performer on some sites). Threes’ basic need and focus of attention is to achieve and get results. To others and to themselves they promote an image of success, whether it is accurate or not, and they fear failure. They are competent and informed, and desire to be seen as such, and to compare positively with others around them. Efficiency is of the utmost importance. They also have difficulties with arrogance.

Drina all over. And, as another coincidence, the issue of success and failure is one of the primary themes of my novel. But it came as a surprise to me to find a table laying Enneagrams side by side with the MBTI types with which they’re commonly associated. Well, that wasn’t a surprise in itself, but what I found in the Type Three row threw me off balance.

Drina: decisions, decisions... But maybe we're onto something...

Drina: decisions, decisions… But maybe we’re onto something…

The Performer did not correspond with INTJ, or even INFJ. No; the suggestions were ENTJ and ENTP. Well! I thought. I know there are exceptions—I’m an INFJ types Three, Five and Nine myself, and those don’t even go together very well!—but if Extroversion is so strongly recommended, maybe I’m wrong again…

And I’m truly grateful for all this to-do, because I’m more satisfied with my present ‘conclusion’ than with any typing exercise I’ve done for any of my characters. Drina is an ENTJ (Extravert-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging).

Shocked Drina

Shocked Drina

According to one of my favourite type-grids given to me by my mother (I don’t know the source):

ENTJs [are] Frank, decisive leaders in activities…Good in anything that requires reasoning and intelligent talk, such as public speaking. Are usually well informed and enjoy adding to their fund of knowledge.’

And upon research, I found the most wonderful website, called ENTJ Personality.info, which has provided for me comprehensive descriptions of how ENTJs get on with the other types. And, oh! my goodness! They’re all exactly as I’d imagined—and exactly as I’d written, moreover. Depend upon it, there’ll be another post about Drina’s inter-type relationships.

But why in the world did I think she was an Introvert? There’s a simple explanation, for which we go back to the whole stress thing. At the bottom of the list of pages I’ve used most extensively in my research, is a link, and at the bottom of the page in that link there is a single bullet point: ‘[When under stress, ENTJs…] May withdraw, feel hurt, trapped and become overly emotional’. And here I lay all my justification.

We do not see Drina, at any time during the novel, in the social environment which she feels is natural. At the beginning she has already been deserted by her dearest friends, and has been thrust into the process of withdrawal without our getting a chance to see her in the comfortable zone to which she had been accustomed since she first found her confidence at boarding school.

When I did those prior tests for her, of course I wouldn’t describe her as ‘sociable’! She didn’t have any friends—and that’s an essential plot-point (and one I struggle with for its exclusion of dialogue!). To get to her current place of prestige, however, she must’ve been more sociable than I may have implied.

But this shows me a flaw I must remedy. In my next edit, I resolve to make it clear that Drina is operating under circumstances which she feels to be unnatural.

And I can’t convey how useful it’s been to have taken this journey to discover her type! I would never rely upon a test such as this, with all its imperfections, but perhaps the trouble I’ve had suggests she’s a more rounded character than I’d hoped. Or else the conclusion I have reached has reassured me that my relationships are realistic, and helped me to solidify my characterisation.

Drina thanking me (I'm in the sky, of course) for typing her.

Drina thanking me (I’m in the sky, of course) for typing her.

And you? Does anyone else type their characters? And like what they find…?

Bibliography

Myers-Briggs types under stress: http://pstypes.blogspot.com/2010/01/myers-briggs-types-under-stress.html

An amusing story/description of an Enneagram Type Three: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/starclm.htm

A PDF about the simple needs of Enneagram types: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/EnneagramTheorySummarized.pdf

Enneagrams and MBTI: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/flauttrichards.htm

http://www.entjpersonality.info/

http://www.entjpersonality.info/2010/07/entj-under-stress.html

And my own introductory post to MBTI, in case you need a reminder of what the letters mean: https://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/an-introduction-to-mbti/

A Note on ‘Head-Hopping’

(Just to clarify, I don’t pretend to follow all my own rules! I’m still learning to do that…)

‘Head-hopping’ is the name many writers give to the act of switching between different characters. I like to think of it visually as moving the fictional camera from behind one character’s eyes to behind another’s. This crops up a lot in collaborations, which isn’t so bad, because they’re good practice, but rarely go much further, and in third person omniscient, which I find a lot in the traditional classics. In many cases the character’s thoughts are included in the perspective (a POV can be in first or third person–or second, indeed).

As a reader, I feel spoon-fed when I know the exact thoughts of every character. I like to contrive my own elucidations of supporting characters–it builds so much tension! Actually, my favourite characters in books are rarely the protagonists. There’s always one supporting character whom I love to be surprised by, or who I imagine I can relate to.

As a writer, it takes a good deal of deliberation to create a unique style of thought for each character. It’s a bit of a trap, really–we have so much to tell our readers, and everything we have to tell is dreadfully interesting. But we also profess to appeal to an audience of young people just as intelligent as we are, and who can draw generally accurate conclusions from the smallest details.

‘Less is more’…‘quality not quantity’… I used to despise these sayings. I wanted to write at length. I wanted to write everything in my mind and more besides, going off on a tangent at every turn. But writing is a deeply rational process, and it’s rare I’ve seen writers make head-hopping work.

An Introduction to MBTI

A prequel post to (I’m sure) many more.

I’m an INFJ.

And what the heck does that mean? most of my acquaintances would say.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most widely used personality sorting test, according to some sources. It is, though, the only system used on the counselling course my mother is currently taking, so I think I’m safe to say it’s a popular tool.

The more astute of you may deny that such a thing can exist. How can something so contradictory and unfathomable as the human character be put to the test? How can such an incredibly diverse population—over seven billion people, spread across 149 million kilometres squared of land—be divided into a mere sixteen categories?

Well, you’d be right. It’s not so simple as that. Most people have at least two or three types they get in tests on a regular basis—and no, that doesn’t mean they suffer from multiple personality disorder.

I may be an INFJ, but I don’t have all the characteristics of the archetypal INFJ—and most people who know a thing about it perceive me as a T type. It’s true, that’s my weakest scale, but perchance I wish to be seen as a T (a Thinker makes decisions based on rationality rather than emotion), but if I answer the questions based on what I believe I truly am (hard to know), Feeling wins out. And if I am too aware of the test process to get an accurate result, after all, then maybe I should just give up and retreat into a dark hole and learn Russian. (I’ve always wanted to do that.)

Still, sceptical though you might be, Myers-Briggs never ceases to surprise me. Just recently I found a wonderful website about ENTJ relationships and compatibility. And upon scrawling through the pages and pages of how an ENTJ typically gets along with other people, I suddenly came to realise that my protagonist wasn’t an INTJ—no, sir! She’s an ENTJ, who withdraws from social contact under stress (which is most of the story). That’s why I thought she was an Introvert (as I’ll explain). And it was incredible to find this website describing her relationships with the supporting characters exactly as I’d envisioned them.

(It is worth noting that there are many other personality tests on the web, and many are very useful. Enneagrams, for instance, study why people behave as they do, rather than merely their behaviour. Useful for main character motivations. And Socionics are a comprehensive system of social relationships: while eliminating several of the shaky bits for which MBTI is criticised (though confusing MBTI users as to type-casting), a theory of interaction has been assembled to outline how people of different personalities get along with one another. But it told me I had a big nose, and I took offence, being small-minded and sensitive on these points. So I prefer MBTI.)

Anyway, what about describing the four scales, or dimensions, as they’re sometimes called? Bare in mind they’ll all be rather wide generalisations. As I said, circumstance plays a huge part in our behaviour, regardless of personality. But, generally speaking, this is what I’ve gleaned: (sorry about the image quality and green squiggly lines, but I can’t be bothered to do it again)

MBTIfirstdimension

The first dimension can be defined as where you get your energy from. Most people know already whether they’re an introvert or an extravert, but possibly by defining the words in terms of energy source, rather than that loose ‘oh, I don’t have a problem with talking to people’ or ‘oh, I never tell anyone anything’ to which we’re all so accustomed, some difference may be evident.

An extraverted person, according to MBTI, turns themselves outwards, for want of a better description. They would usually speak or act spontaneously, without prior reflection, and like doing and discussing, rather than just sitting and inactively theorising. They have a wide breadth of focus; but none of this means they lack depth. Extraverts, according to one study, make up 72% of the population.

Introverts are basically the opposite. We think things through, prefer mental exertion to action, in most cases, and reflect before doing. Sometimes introverts are wrongly interpreted as having slow reactions, but in reality, we just react in a different way.

MBTIseconddimension

The second dimension relates to the methods we use to intake information. This is the one I struggle most with, I admit. To put it simply (in theory), Sensing types like specific evidence, whereas iNtuition types see the ‘bigger picture’.

That doesn’t make much sense to me, either. I may be an N, but that doesn’t mean I understand what the ‘bigger picture’ is, and how I use it.

In more detail, Sensors like facts. They trust their own experience, and approach life in a step-to-step manner. That doesn’t mean they’re fixed in their ways; it just means they operate upon practicality—if a theory isn’t realistic in their daily lives, then it isn’t worth the trouble. They rely upon what their five senses tell them, hence the name ‘Sensor’. Like Extraverted types, approximately three in four people are Sensors.

Intuitive types fall in love with ideas whether they’re practical or not. We trust our instincts—and don’t know entirely why, most of the time. We live in a world of abstracts, patterns and inferences, and are focussed on the future.

Though, of course, it is essential not to forget that Sensors can Intuit—and do—and, equally, Intuitors can Sense. The extent to which a person is either a Sensor or an Intuitive is usually expressed as a percentage—and likewise with the other dimensions.

MBTIthirddimension

The two extremes of the third and fourth dimensions are split almost equally in regard of population distribution. The third is how we make our decisions. This is fairly straightforward, I think. Thinkers practice objective logic, looking for flaws in their own and others’ logic and proving what they find. They work on a basis of cause and effect, and apply their rational principles to the people with whom they interact.

Feelers, on the other hand, base their decisions upon their core values and convictions. We see each personal as an individual—with individual logic, if you like, rather than all people being subject to our own (not sure if this is correct or not!). But, more problematically, Thinking can be put to the purpose of Feeling and vice versa. That’s where it drifts into the functions of each type…but that’s rather more complicated, and I’m afraid I’d get everything horribly wrong if I tried to explain it.

MBTIfourthdimension

The fourth dimension is considered by some to be the ‘grey area’. For example, as an INFJ I am a Judging type, but my dominant function (sorry), Ni, is a Perceiving function. This creates somewhat of a conflict; but when you have all the theory under your belt (I must confess I don’t), it makes sense. (Socionics professes to clear up this ‘grey area’ in the fourth dimension, but it types people rather differently, and should not be lightly compared to MBTI.)

But, indeed, I haven’t even explained the two sides of the coin yet. Judging types like things to be planned out and executed according to the plan. We organise our lives in a scheduled manner—or we like it so, at any rate.

Perceivers are more open-minded. Judgers criticise them for being disorganised, but Perceivers like to keep their options open, so that they’ll be free to take up a better opportunity should one arise. But the real difference is their adaptability to new situations, and quality of being energised by surprises and time pressure.

You may claim I’ve mixed the dimensions up in places, but really they ought to be taken separately. Remember:

  1. E/I – where you get your energy from
  2. S/N – how you take in information
  3. T/F – how you make decisions
  4. J/P – how you organise your life

People change types, too. It’s said as we become more tolerant, through the wisdom life’s experience brings us, we gravitate towards the opposite end of each scale, and become more balanced people as a result (it is to be hoped).

But am I any the wiser for knowing my ‘personality type’? Reading the descriptions of the other fifteen types, I can visualise myself as each of these different people, in various situations. I understand how they think, and why they think like that. But is that my ‘psychic’ NF nature fooling me into thinking I’m someone else, or my characters, who are just as much a part of me as INFJ, struggling to get to the surface?