Words to Describe Your Characters: The SJs

neatly styled woman in a business meetingCPP Blog Central has posted a series on words associated with each MBTI personality type. If you’re an author, and you know your characters’ MBTI types, these articles are a great resource to generate ideas on how to describe them. Or, if you don’t know the character’s type, these lists might help you figure it out!

The SJ types (Guardians) share several characteristics in common, such as scheduled, organized, practical, and focused. For more specific descriptions of each type, check out each individual article:

The Personality Page type portraits also offer good descriptions. Are there any other words you would add to these lists?

Related posts:
Words to Describe Your Characters: The SPs
Words to Describe Your Characters: The NTs
Words to Describe Your Characters: The NFs
The Truth about the Myers-Briggs Personality Types

Image Copyright: samotrebizan / 123RF Stock Photo

Words to Describe Your Characters: The SPs

woman playing and electric guitarCPP Blog Central has posted a series on words associated with each MBTI personality type. If you’re an author, and you know your characters’ MBTI types, these articles are a great resource to generate ideas on how to describe them. Or, if you don’t know the character’s type, these lists might help you figure it out!

The SP types (Artisans) share several characteristics in common, such as fun, resourceful, and present oriented. For more specific descriptions of each type, check out each individual article:

The Personality Page type portraits also offer good descriptions. Are there any other words you would add to these lists?

Related posts:


Words to Describe Your Characters: The NTs

man thinkingCPP Blog Central has posted a series on words associated with each MBTI personality type. If you’re an author, and you know your characters’ MBTI types, these articles are a great resource to generate ideas on how to describe them. Or, if you don’t know the character’s type, these lists might help you figure it out!

The NT types (Rationals) share several similar words, such as logical; driven or determined; and thought-provoking, innovative, or outside-the-box. For more specific descriptions for each type, check out each individual article:

Are there any words you would add to these lists to describe the types?

Related posts:

Words to Describe Your Characters: The NFs

woman reading a book on a park benchCPP Blog Central has posted a series on words associated with each MBTI personality type. If you’re an author, and you know your characters’ MBTI types, these articles are a great resource to generate ideas on how to describe them. Or, if you don’t know the character’s type, these lists might help you figure it out!

The NF types (Idealists) share several words in common, such as creative, compassionate, and caring. For more specific descriptions for each type, check out each individual article:

Are there any words you would add to these lists to describe the types?

Related posts:


Deep Characterization Using the Myers-Briggs Personality Types

RWA-WF logoWould you like to learn about using the Myers-Briggs personality types for creating fictional characters? I’m offering an online workshop November 30 – December 14, 2014. The workshop is offered through the Women’s Fiction chapter of the Romance Writers of America. It’s free for members and just $20 for nonmembers.

Workshop Description

While plot may keep an audience on the edge of their chairs, it’s the characters that make readers fall in love with a story. The better you know your characters, the more depth you can reveal, creating a bond with readers that lasts even after the book ends.

In this course, the instructor will challenge you to apply the principles of the Myers-Briggs personality types to deepen the character development in your work-in-progress (WIP). She will explain the four scales used by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) to assess personality, and how those scales combine to form sixteen personality types.

For instance, is your character an introvert or extrovert? Is she a stickler for details, or does she prefer to look at the big picture? Does she consider logic or people first when making a decision? Does she like to plan out her day, or follow opportunities as they arise?

The instructor will show how you can apply knowledge of the sixteen personality types when developing characters: their strengths, their blind spots, and the potential for conflict with other types. Using a combination of theory and exercises, this fun and interactive class will give you yet another tool for bringing your characters to life.


Registration is through Eventbrite (https://rwa-wf-2014-12.eventbrite.com/). After you sign up, you’ll receive an invitation to the Yahoo Group where the class will be held. I hope you can join me!

Words | Dunning Personality Type Experts

INFPs have a special relationship with words. INFPs focus not only on the meaning of words but also the feelings they create. In this blog post, Paul Dunning explains his love for words. — A.J.W.

INFP Reflections

By Paul Dunning

After reading Tolkien’s quote – “I often long to work at my nonsense fairy language and don’t let myself ’cause though I love it so it does seem such a mad hobby!” – in my previous blog, I started to wonder if other INFPs have the same affiliation with words.

From an early age I have thought about their genesis, speculating that a word like “ugly” came about because it is a natural verbal response to something unpleasant to see.

Words can be a lot of fun. It seems Tolkien loved the creativity of word play. As an INFP, one of my fascinations is with the feelings certain words emote when spoken that go beyond their intended meaning.

“Cantankerous” jumps out at you, laden with emphasis, each syllable a heavy footstep on the floor.

“Theme” seems to stick to the roof of your mouth, like a spoonful of verbal peanut butter.

“Auspicious” sounds as if it can’t contain its meaning, spilling hope in all directions.

This may not be an INFP thing at all, but I wonder. Our dominant function of Introverted Feeling focuses us on inwardly evaluating ideas according to our values. And words are ideas, so by playing with words we refine our tools to communicate. And that can be fun.

What is your relationship with words?

via Words | Dunning Personality Type Experts.

Know Your Audience: Emotional Resonance in Fiction

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first rule of technical communication is know your audience. In fact, this is the first rule of all effective communication. Yet in other fields, writers may not realize it.

Beginning novelists have a lot to learn about craft: showing not telling, the three-act structure, developing characters, crafting  effective dialogue, using sensory detail to immerse the reader in the scene. Yet even if all these elements are in place, the novel can still fall flat.

When I rate a novel on the Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble websites, the difference between a 4-star and a 5-star review is often emotional resonance. In short, how happy or uplifted or moved do I feel at the end of the novel?

In fiction, knowing your reader goes deeper than simply understanding the expectations of your genre. What do readers want from the experience of reading fiction? In a post on Writer Unboxed, Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story, explains it this way:

Story is an internal brain-to-brain, emotion-driven expedition…about how the plot affects the protagonist. The good news is that protagonists are people. Just like you and me. They live and breathe and make decisions the same way we do. The bad news is that writers often tend to leave this crucial layer out, giving us only a beautifully written rendition of the story’s external shell – the plot, the surface, the “things that happen” — rather than what’s beneath the surface, where the real meaning lies.

The story is in how we decide to do things, not simply in the things we do.

As an author, your goal is to create a fictive dream and immerse readers into it. At the same, you must lead readers (baby ducks, as Heidi Cullinan calls them) down the path you want them to go, focusing their attention on things that matter, downplaying things that are less important, and imprinting them on the characters they’re supposed to sympathize with.

For instance, you don’t want your minor characters to be cardboard cutouts, but you don’t want them to be fully realized, either. At a meeting with the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Sue Winegardner of Entangled Publishing talked about seeing submissions for YA novels where the main characters are well-developed but the minor characters are stereotypes like “mean girl” and “nerd.” Even walk-on characters should have some trait that makes them real. When a barrista hands your protagonist a cup of coffee, the protagonist could notice the barrista’s chipped nail polish and silver bangle bracelets. This gives life to the story. But you don’t want the protagonist to overhear the barrista talking to a co-worker about how her mother is having a double mastectomy the next day, when you have no plans to go anywhere with that story element. A glimpse into the emotional life of a walk-on character leads readers to imprint on the character, and creates the expectation that the character is somehow important to the story.

Similarly, the antagonist should not be a villain with no redeeming characteristics, yet you don’t want to create too much sympathy him. During the final battle, readers should be rooting for the main character (even if they hope the antagonist can be redeemed). Otherwise, the ending will be unsatisfying, and they’ll be less likely to buy your next novel.

Balancing reader empathy among your cast of characters is essential if you want your stories to linger after the reader has finished the book. Yet it’s difficult for authors to judge this quality on their own. Ask your critique partners and beta readers for feedback in this area. Tweak as needed until your most trusted readers agree you’ve given them the satisfying story they crave.

What to Tweet

Twitter is an ideal tool for technical communicators like me. We like to write, we like technology, and we like to share information about how to do things better. Many of us are introverts, and so enjoy building networks through written communication. We can stay in daily contact with people we may see once a year in real life. These people become our friends and supporters, though they’re scattered around the globe.

Creative writers, I’ve observed, often find Twitter a less natural fit.  Some do quite well, reaching out and sharing relevant information with a wide network. Others connect primarily with people they already know and tweet primarily about what’s going on in their life. And if that’s their goal, then that’s fine.

But if you want to use Twitter as a marketing tool to build your fan base and your network of supporters, you have to do more. Twitter is about adding value for your followers. How do you do that? Figure out what your followers want, and offer them solutions to problems.

Branding Yourself

Before deciding what to tweet, it helps to have a clear concept of your brand. For instance, my interests include gardening, scuba diving, and travel to exotic islands, but those things aren’t part of my brand. So I don’t (usually) tweet about them. My brand focuses on communication: technical writing, creative writing, and public speaking. My unique value proposition is viewing those activities through the lens of personality type. So those are the things I tweet and blog about. Those are the things my followers expect to see from me.

Adding Value

In social media, the unwritten rule is that no more than 20% of your communications will be aimed at self-promotion. The other 80% will focus on other activities that are of interest to your followers. These activities might include some of the following:

  • Articles on the Internet that your audience might find informative
  • Books you enjoyed reading
  • Publications by members of your network that might be of interest to your followers
  • Local networking events
  • Conferences relating to your area of expertise
  • Tweets by members of your network that bear retweeting
  • Pithy observations or quotations
  • Breaking news

Remember, though, that tweeting is to some degree a conversation. If someone retweets you or promotes your activities, then thank them. And if someone follows you, follow them back if you think they’re communicating worthwhile information. Read their tweets and look for something you can retweet, to show them your appreciation. Think about how you can contribute to the Twitter community.

Also, be sure to consider the signal to noise ratio. Twitter is not the place to rant about getting stuck in a traffic jam, unless you’re warning your followers to take an alternate route. It’s not the place to rave about a terrific meal, unless you tell your followers the name and location of the restaurant. If you’re tweeting about your life, be sure to give your followers a reason to care.

What Not to Tweet

Here are my two favorite examples of what not to tweet, both by self-professed social media marketers.

1. “All men are idiots, and I married their king.”

Why this is bad: Rhetorically, this tweet has a certain wit to it. Unfortunately, the author has now insulted half of her prospective clients, and alienated women who do not consider their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, or male associates to be idiots. Moreover, if this author married the king of idiots, doesn’t that make her their queen? I wouldn’t take advice on social media from the queen of idiots.

What she could have tweeted instead: “We all make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.”

Why this is better: A platitude? Yes. But it may be something that one of her tweeps needed to hear that day. Instead of blaming her (ex?) husband for whatever negativity she’s experiencing in her life, she’d be sending a positive message into the world.

2. “Why is everyone watching the Whitney [Houston] funeral?? People die everyday.”

Why this is bad: It’s not hyperbole to say that Whitney Houston was the greatest vocalist of her generation. But even if she’d been a flash-in-the-pan pop diva, it’s insensitive and insulting to trivialize someone’s grief.

What he could have tweeted instead: “Many of my tweeps are watching the Whitney funeral today. My condolences to her family, friends, and fans.”

Why this is better: Twitter isn’t about you. It’s about community, and how you can contribute in a positive way. This requires empathy. If you have nothing positive to say, then say nothing.

That doesn’t mean you can never be critical. You can denounce ignorance and repression without offending too many people. But always consider your brand. Are politics or religion part of your brand? If not, either say nothing, or approach the subject obliquely. For instance, to oppose excessive taxation, post a quote from Abraham Lincoln on personal responsibility. To support gay marriage, post a quote from Martin Luther King on civil rights.

Doing Twitter well isn’t hard, but it does require a strategy. Know the message you want to send. Then, follow the Golden Rule of Twitter: tweet unto others as you’d have others tweet unto you.

Finding Your Voice in Fiction

Copywriters blog about it. Literary agents yearn for it. Budding writers may know they need it, but they may be unsure how to get it (or even what it is). In a sense, voice is your platform. It’s the reason that you alone could write this story—that no one else could write it the way you did.

Many things contribute to an author’s voice. Word choice and sentence structure are part of it. But voice is also much deeper. It’s your world view, your values, your passion. In short, it’s your personality.

The websites of literary agents make it clear that they’re looking for a unique and compelling voice. If your manuscript sounds like every other submission in your genre, then no matter how well written it is, the agent will likely pass. Your personality must shine through.

Here are some of the components of voice:

Your values

David Keirsey grouped the 16 Myers-Briggs types into 4 temperaments, and identified the values unique to each. For example, the Idealists (NFs) and Guardians (SJs) value cooperation, while Rationals (NTs) and Artisans (SPs) value autonomy. But while the cooperative efforts of Guardians focus on preserving traditions and social institutions, Idealists seek to build stronger communities through personal growth. And while Artisans want autonomy so they can take advantage of immediate opportunities, Rationals focus on building systems and long-term strategies.

Think about some of your favorite novels, and consider how the voice might reflect one or more of these values. For example, I might argue that in The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Aibileen expresses Guardian values, Minny expresses Artisan values, and Miss Skeeter expresses Rational values. Yet the novel itself expresses Idealist values. The voices of the three point-of-view characters come together to give the novel a voice that’s different from the sum of its parts.

Your experiences

I’m a Pennsylvanian who’s made a home in North Carolina. I know how disorienting it is to leave your support system behind, and start a new life in a strange place with customs you don’t understand. My experience with this sense of alienation plays a role in my fiction.

But note that your experiences aren’t limited to things you’ve personally lived through. We’ve all been listening to stories—through books, TV, movies, and conversation—since we were born. The people you know also have a unique set of experiences that they can share with you. The old caveat, write what you know, is backwards. It should be know what you write. Research. Interview people. Travel if you have to. Draw on your past, but continue to build your store of knowledge.

Your interests

If you love jazz, set a couple of scenes in a jazz club. Include dialogue that could only be spoken by a jazz connoisseur. If you garden, include descriptions of trees and flowers that demonstrate your specific knowledge. These kinds of details add depth and authenticity to a scene.

Your interests may also affect the theme of your work. As a writer of women’s fiction, I’m fascinated by the effects of human evolution on behavior, particularly in the differences between men and women. In most primate societies, to avoid inbreeding, females stay in the troupe they were born into; males, on the other hand, are forced out when they reach sexual maturity, and must make their way in the world. Modern human females largely define themselves in terms of their relationships, whereas males define themselves in terms of identity. My fiction explores the conflicts that naturally occur as a result: for instance, the woman is trying to preserve the relationship but her partner is trying to preserve his identity. Or, conversely, a woman’s search for identity creates problems in her relationships.

Voice is one of those things that’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. The best way to ensure that your voice shines through is to be authentic, to write from your core self, and to be fearless. If you’re not willing to take chances in your fiction, to expose the deepest parts of yourself, you won’t touch the reader’s heart. It’s that emotional connection to the characters that keeps readers engaged. A story without voice is a story that won’t sell. So don’t hold back. Write for all you’re worth.

Can You Make a Living As a Novelist?

A reader asked whether I thought it was possible to make a living as a novelist in the current environment. We’re seeing deep changes in the publishing industry. That can be scary, because change creates uncertainty. But I believe that this is the most exciting time ever to be a novelist. We have more publishing options, more delivery options, and more ways of connecting to potential readers. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to make a living as a novelist. In fact, it may be more difficult now, because readers are more demanding and sophisticated. So what can you do to increase your odds?

1. Write a stellar book.

Whether you choose traditional or self-publishing, your manuscript must have no major flaws. Major flaws include:

  • Numerous grammar and spelling errors
  • An opening that doesn’t hook the reader
  • No distinct voice
  • A plot that doesn’t move
  • Characters that readers can’t identify with quickly enough
  • Wooden dialogue
  • Overblown descriptions
  • Events that seem to happen at random without a connection to the main character’s journey
  • A contrived ending

The gatekeepers in traditional publishing will keep you out if your debut novel has these flaws. But if you go with self-publishing, you can publish your manuscript anyway. The problem is, no one will buy it. You won’t get the word of mouth endorsements you need in order for the novel to succeed. And anyone who does read the book will avoid your future ones.

2. Write another stellar book.

Very few people can make enough money to retire on from their first novel. It’s likely that it will take 3 or 4 novels before you build a fan base. You must be in it for the long haul. Ideally, you should follow up your first book with your second in six months to a year. Readers who love your book, and are panting for more, will give up on you if you keep them waiting too long. Bob Mayer recommends that you don’t self-publish until you’ve got three books ready to go. Only then will your promotion pay off in sales.

3. Don’t put more time into promotion than you do into writing.

These days, even fiction writers need a platform before most acquiring editors will consider them. If they Google your name and don’t find you, that’s bad. You should be on Facebook and Twitter, maybe LinkedIn and Google+. It also helps to have a blog with a decent number of hits. But none of that matters if you’re not focusing on your manuscript first, making it the best it can be. Read books in your genre, study the craft, and write every day.

4. Eliminate non-essentials from your life

Writing a novel is a full-time job. If you’ve got another full-time job to pay the bills, then you need to eliminate things from your life that don’t contribute to your writing practice. That doesn’t mean giving up your social life. If you and your spouse enjoy throwing a Super Bowl party every year, don’t let your writing get in the way of that. But if the only reason you watch the big game is to see the commercials, then maybe your Super Bowl Sunday would be better spent in front of a keyboard than in front of a TV.

5. Get feedback on your work (from someone who’s qualified to give it)

Chances are pretty good that your mom will love your novel. After all, she loved those crayon drawings you did when you were three. Were those crayon drawings masterpieces because your mom loved them? No. The same is true for your manuscript.

Join a critiquing group, either local or online. Participate in events offered by writing organizations, and seek out fellow writers you can trust to serve as beta readers. Keep in mind that the first few times someone critiques your creative writing, it will be excruciating. But in time, it gets easier. You start looking forward to the feedback because you know it will make your work stronger.

6. Want it more than you’ve ever wanted anything

Chances are, writing your first salable novel will be a long-term commitment. It requires you to pour in your emotions, to be more honest than you’ve ever been. It means giving up your leisure time. These sacrifices are hard, so ask yourself: can you go to your grave satisfied if you never become a published author? If the answer is yes, then you may not have the drive and the passion it takes to see this thing through.

Success in publishing is about 30% talent. The rest is timing, perseverance, and luck. A lot is out of your control. But if you want it enough, you work hard enough, and you keep at it for as long as it takes, you may just have a chance.