“I’m a shy extrovert who married an outgoing introvert.”
That statement gets me funny looks. Why? Because most people assume that outgoing, talkative people are extroverts. Not true. Being an introvert or extrovert has nothing to do with how chatty you are – it’s a reflection of whether you get energized from the inner world or outer world. I do not like to meet new people, but I LOVE hanging out with the people I know. My husband enjoys meeting new people, but once he makes the connection, he’d prefer to spend the evening at home alone rather than with a crowd. It’s important to know the difference, because you can’t create a realistic introvert if you don’t know the characteristics of an introvert.
There’s nothing more frustrating than reading the story of a character who can’t decide if she’s meek or strong, confident or timid. Or, even worse, the always-capable person who never falters. It’s important to know that your hero will start stubborn and become more compassionate, but you need to make sure the circumstances and transition are believable.
You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to create realistic characters, but you should do a little bit of research. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a well-known, often used research tool. I opted for What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are by Renee Baron. It’s only 170 pages, and it’s full of statistics, illustrations, and descriptions that take the complexity of Myers-Briggs 16 personality types and summarizes them in easy-to-understand, easy-to-use information.
There are other personality tests and systems out there. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you make the investment and do some research. When your audience loves your characters, you’ll be glad you did.