Playing to Your Strengths

In school, most of us were taught to write according to the rules. Problem is, when it comes to writing, there are no rules. Or more specifically, for every writing rule you hear, there’s an equally valid rule that says just the opposite.

To follow the writing techniques you learned in grade school (or even college) might be a terrible idea for you. For instance, there are more extraverts in the U.S. population, but more introverts among writing instructors. If you’re an extravert, the natural writing process of introverts may not work well for you at all.

So forget everything you’ve been taught. During the first draft, let your creativity flow. Write according to your natural style. Don’t think about the final product—your first draft is just the clay you sculpt your masterpiece from. First get it written, then get it right.

The “right” techniques are the ones that work well for you, even if they don’t work at all for your coworker or critique partner. Chances are, you’ll be most comfortable and productive if you draft according to the preferences of your personality type. Then, during revision, use your nonpreferred functions to fill in what you missed. In my upcoming posts, I’ll outline the natural tendencies of writers according to their preferences as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Note: If you don’t know your personality type, I recommend the free Jung Typology Test from Humanmetrics, although I’m told it has a slight tendency to skew toward Judging (J) over Perceiving (P). For a more thorough and accurate assessment, you can take the MBTI through a certified practitioner.

Related posts:

Extraverted Writers: Talking It Out
Introverted Writers: Thinking It Over

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.

Do…