Lately, I’ve been talking more and more about developing characters in  novels.

As I’ve mentioned, I use several reference books to choose various characteristics for the people I invent for my stories.

Today, I’ll be talking about Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates.



It describes the  assessment of personality types which was first introduced by Carl Jung then later expanded by Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter Myers in Gifts Differing.













In addition to using them as a reference for developing fictional characters, I’ve used these books in classes I’ve taught to determine the best way to interact with my students and in my personal life to understand myself, my family and friends and get a better perspective on interpersonal relationships.

A brief overview of the Myers-Briggs type indicator is as follows:

There are eight classifications of personality type based on how an individual prefers to:

interact with the world [Extrovert (E)/Introvert (I)]

make judgments and decisions [Thinking (T)/Feeling (F)]

perceive the world [Senses (S) /Intuition (N)]

deal with the world [Judgement (J)/Perception (P)]

Please Understand Me describes all the temperament/personality types listed above then shows how the sixteen combinations of these types manifest in a persons personality.



Like Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, Please Understand Me gives snapshops of various personality types that you can use in the creation of your characters.

For example:

ENFJs tend to be charasmatic leaders (salespeople, ad execs, politicians)

INFJs tend to be involved in interpersonal relations (therapists, social workers)

ENFPs tend to be motivators (elementary teachers)

INFPs tend to be crusaders (activists)

ENTJs tend to be structured leaders (military, law enforcement)

INTJs tend to be innovators (engineers,  scientists)

ENTPs tend to be improvisors (original thinkers outside of the box)

INTPs tend to be designers (architects, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians)

ESFJs are the caretakers of people (ministers, teachers, coaches, nurses)

ISFJs tend to be caretakers of ideas (librarians, historians)

ESTJs tend to be evaluators and traditionalists (lawyers, judges, college professors)

ISTJs are the analyzers and detailers (accountants, librarians)

ESFPs are the performers (actors, musical performers, comics)

ISFPs  tend to be artists (composers, writers, visual artists)

ESTPs tend to make things happen (entrepreneurs, fund raisers)

ISTPs tend to be artisans (crafts people)

Please Understand Me also shows the way the various personality types interact with each other as lovers/spouses, parent/child, employer/employee.

An added bonus to the book is the detailed test one can take to determine where he/she fits in the temperament types.







About Sharon K Owen

I am a fiction writer, a university professor, a copy editor and an online writing teacher. My first Romantic Suspense: Thicker Than Water (Brands Crossing Series) was published in 2011 and the second book in the series, Whatever Goes Around, will be published in 2016. My short stories and poetry have been published in Descant, Concho River Review, Iron Horse, American Literary Review, Trinity Writer's Workshop newsletter and collections of Christmas stories. I am blessed with a loving, supportive family, a multitude of friends and the good fortune to share a cozy sanctuary in North Texas with my two cats (Matt and Cinders).

Posted on October 17, 2011, in Book Recommendations, Family and Friends, Writing, Writing Exercises and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. That is brilliant! I never thought of using books on personality types to help construct my characters! It seems so obvious now, but I never thought of it before. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for all the comments. I go over this in the online creative writing class I teach: Simply Creating Fictional Characters class. the next class starts on February 1, 2012. You can find information on my website

  2. So very interesting!! I wonder which type I am…..probably a combination!

  3. I’ve never read Please Understand Me, but it’s one of the classics in the field. I love stuff like Meyers Briggs, enneagrams, and character archetypes for character development. Also fun to see where we fit in on the types! (I’m an unusual INTJ :D)

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