(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*)
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.
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.’
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.
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).
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.
And you? Does anyone else type their characters? And like what they find…?
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
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/