Using Personality Type Theory to Develop Fictional Characters

index boxIn her 1929 novel Murder Yet to Come, Isabel Briggs Myers used her knowledge of personality type in creating her fictional characters. The novel won the national Detective Murder Mystery Contest, beating out a work by Ellery Queen. Her success suggests that personality type theory can add depth to fiction and help authors develop more believable characters. But doesn’t the author also risk stereotyping characters? What’s the best way to use personality type in writing fiction?

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created—nothing.” In my experience, starting with a personality type in mind is the hardest way to create a character. It limits you. You end up making choices based on personality type rather than story. A novel is an organic thing. If you don’t let it evolve naturally, it will never breathe.