Thinking versus Feeling

I’m a big fan of the Myers-Briggs personality test. Part of this is because I’m the type of person who likes to categorize people I meet. Are they an only child? A youngest child? Did they go to school X? Did they grow up in that part of town?

Yesterday, after reading this post  about writing a character’s feelings, I realized that the comments Lynne received resonated with ones I had received as well. That’s when I remembered my Myers-Briggs rating. On the Thinking/Feeling scale, I am a strong T (thinker). For those of you unfamiliar with the T/F scale, it means the following:

“Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.” (Wikipedia)

The moment I re-read this, I realized this is the biggest problem in my writing. My characters are constantly thinking. They are opinionated about everything, but they don’t express enough feelings. For example, if my character heard about another character’s dead dog, she might say:

Bob’s story reminded me of the time I lost Winkie when I was twelve. It was a Tuesday.

This is thinking. Feeling, on the other hand, would be this:

The moment Bob finished his story, a lump grew in my throat. I hadn’t thought about Winkie since I’d cried myself to sleep when I was twelve.

There are times when your character needs to think, but there are also times when they need to feel. Knowing which is which is part of the challenge.

My advice is this: if you haven’t taken Myers-Briggs, take it. Once you have your rating, read the definitions and use them to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a person. You will probably find these same strengths and weaknesses in your writing.

Category: On Writing