Sunday, March 1, 2015

Once Upon a Type

Before I get started on this post, allow me to tell a brief story to demonstrate the differences between the thought pattern of a Sensing type and an iNtuitive type.

My mom is an ESTJ. While working at IBM, some consultants came and tested mom and her colleagues to find out their Myers-Briggs types. After the test, they arranged a demonstration to help them understand the differences between Sensing and iNtuition ways of thought. Everyone who scored Sensing on the test was placed in one group, while everyone who scored iNtuition was in the other group. Both groups were given the exact same picture to examine, and they were told to work with the other members of their individual group to describe the picture. When the time was up, mom's group presented a bullet list that said things like...

  • One horse
  • One man
  • Three trees
  • Snow on the ground
  • Snow falling
  • Storm clouds
The iNtuition group, on the other hand, presented a long paragraph that said things along the lines of...

"A young man, perhaps twenty years old, who lived in the 1700's, is traveling home after a long journey. He is tired and worried about the incoming storm. His horse is in need of rest, and they are both looking forward to adequate meal and shelter, something they have both lacked for at least several days..."

Both groups were shocked at the other's definition of the picture, but neither completed the task incorrectly. They simply thought about it differently. The Sensing group took the literal aspects of the paper and noted them, the whats, if you will. The iNtuitives read into the picture and decided upon the most logical reason for the picture, the whys. Neither type is more intelligent than the other type. The Sensing group missed the story behind the picture, while the iNtuitives missed the literal aspects of the picture. Or, more positively, Sensors tend to notice more concrete details, while iNtuitives tend to notice the meanings for the details, even while never consciously noting the concrete details. This is the difference between S and N types. 

And now, without further ado, let's explore the fascinating world of ESFPs and ISFPs!

Brittish designs and Sahlin Studios

ESFP- The Performer

"Everybody look left. Everybody look right. Everywhere you look I'm standing spotlight!" -Simba, The Lion King

ESFPs are fun-loving, generous, and vivacious people-lovers. They enjoy socialization, they love helping their (many) friends out, and they are always up for a surprise. Spontaneity and flexibility are ingrained into their personalities. This, coupled with their tendency to desire peace and to create that peace, tends to make them extremely gravitational and likable. The downside to this is that ESFPs sometimes struggle with commitment, often placing present enjoyments over long-term stability.

ISFP- Often called 'The Composer' but I prefer 'The Passionate'

"People down here think I'm crazy. Well, I don't care." -Tiana, The Princess and the Frog

ISFPs are quiet, sensitive, and kind-hearted individuals. They are typically extremely laid-back, but when they feel an emotion, they feel it extremely deeply, perhaps more deeply than any other Myers-Briggs type. They are sometimes withdrawn and difficult to know, perhaps because they fear hurt and rejection, but they are also extremely loyal and tolerant, so that the friends they allow to get close are very close. Their sensitivity sometimes causes them to struggle with critique.

ESFP Fictional Characters

Anna (Disney's Frozen), Donna Noble (Doctor Who), Fred and George Weasely (Harry Potter), 11th Doctor (Doctor Who), Simba (Disney's The Lion King), Finnick Odair (The Hunger Games), Pippin Took (The Lord of the Rings), Jack Harkness (Doctor Who, Torchwood), Breeze (The Mistborn Trilogy) Chewbacca (Star Wars) Naveen (Disney's The Princess and the Frog)

ISFP Fictional Characters

Tiana (Disney's The Princess and the Frog), Remus Lupin (Harry Potter), Arwen (Lord of the Rings films), John Watson (BBC Sherlock), Belle (Once Upon a Time), Jane Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Aurora (Disney's Sleeping Beauty), Rubeus Hagrid (Harry Potter), Mercedes (Count of Monte Cristo), Melanie Wilkes (Gone With the Wind)

What This Means in Fiction

As I researched these different types, I noticed something odd about the fictional characters who, in my opinion, fit into these personalities. Both ESFP and ISFP fictional characters seemed to be extreme exaggerations of the types they fit into to. The exaggerations went either way. Sometimes they were romanticized into vivaciously friendly or silently powerful heroes (11th Doctor and Arwen), and other times they were parodied into obnoxiously outgoing or kindly angelic allies (Breeze and Jane Bennet). I labeled this post 'Once Upon a Type' because of this strange phenomenon. These types very often become 'fairy tale' versions of themselves in fiction. This is probably because of their natural tendency to extremes in certain aspects of their personality.

For example, ESFPs are truly extremely personable. They love people and they love fun. ISFPs are truly extremely internal. They feel deeply and they care deeply. These aspects of their personality seem extreme in relation to most of the other Myers-Briggs types. I can only assume that writers have subconsciously noticed these extremes, and so they went ahead and made the rest of the ESFP and ISFP personality extreme. Not only does Jack Harkness love being around people, but he also loves parties and drinking and dancing and adventuring and flirting and danger and risks and "planlessness" and, and, and. Mercedes not only feels sorrow over her betrayal of Dantes, but she also feels guilt and shame and love and hurt and self-pity while simultaneously pining after Fernand and worrying constantly over her son. ESFPs do enjoy fun, but Jack is certainly an extreme ESFP. ISFPs feel deeply, but Mercedes takes "feeling deeply" out of rational capability and into the realm of unending hot mess.

Have I Ever Written an ESFP and/or an ISFP?

Flake Frost from Hail Frost is an ISFP. She is, without a doubt, the most difficult character I have ever attempted. She feels very deeply and cares very much, but she is often reluctant to take action. Showing the reader her "feeling" over and over again will not raise the likability of Flake, compelling action will. Problem is, Flake is not overly keen on compelling action. It is a constant battle of finding an emotion strong enough to force her to act. She is tiring to write and I am often mentally exhausted after trying, but, after reading over the scenes, I always feel like it was absolutely worth it.

Captain Pepin from Esprit de la Rose is an ESFP. I'm not going to elaborate on him just yet. :)

Common Cliches

As stated above, fictional ESFPs and ISFPs are often exaggerated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the character is secondary. However, if you want to create a realistic ESFP or ISFP, you'll need to pay very close attention to which aspects of the personality are exaggerated, and which aspects are kept at a "normal" level. Yes, ESFPs and ISFPs often have seemingly extreme traits. Pick a trait to make extreme, and then carefully try to keep other traits "normal". This is a bit harder than it sounds.

For example, Donna Noble's sass meter is off the charts. She is extremely sassy. However, she is NOT extremely thoughtless, fun-loving, careless, etc. She sometimes rushes into situations, but she also is capable of solving puzzles. She likes fun, sure, but she also likes peace. She's a bit silly at times, but hey, aren't we all? She's a very good example of an ESFP.

(This paragraph is a SPOILER for Harry Potter) Remus Lupin is good example of a well-balanced ISFP. He is laid-back, but he has one thing that he feels incredibly intensely about: his friends. He has few friends, but those he has he cherishes extremely. One could argue he loves them too much. His friends cause him to ignore his morals to gain their approval. His love for Tonks makes him push her away, even after she assures him that she doesn't care about his being a werewolf. He feels like any other person on most subjects, but when it comes to his friends, he is extreme.

To summarize, if you want to write a realistic ESFP or ISFP, pick ONE aspect of the defining trait (ESFPs- outgoing, ISFPs- feelings) to make extreme, but leave the rest set at "normal". Make your ESFP incredibly fond of goofy puns that he JUST HAS to share with all of his friends, but make him enjoy parties about as much as the next extrovert. Make your ISFP overwhelmed with intense memories and feelings at the sight of a sword, but don't make her flashback at the sight of daggers and burning houses and clouds and grass etc.


Romantically, ESFPs and ISFPs get along with just about anyone. For them, a romance could work with almost any type. However, it takes a special type to love them, to handle the extremes. For ESFPs, ESTJs could probably keep up, and of course, ISFPs would help calm their impulsiveness. ISFPs would definitely need someone capable of understanding their intense feelings, so I would suggest either an ESFP, who could help bring some sunshine and fun into their world, or another ISFP.

As said before, ESFPs are well-liked and personable. They make friends very easily. However, they might prefer to hang around people who can at least attempt to keep up with their adventuring, and they likely would not appreciate someone who criticizes their lifestyle (ahem, see below)

ISFPs are usually withdrawn before you get to know them, and they usually only let certain people know them. They would probably become good friends with people who sympathize with their feelings, or who make an effort to understand and respect their feelings.

ESFPs and ISFPs would dislike (surprise, surprise) ENTJs and INTJs. ESFPs and ISFPs would likely find the analytic cynicism unappealing, and ENTJs and INTJs would likely find ESFPs and ISFPs shallow and uninteresting.

Closing Tidbits

ESFPs and ISFPs are NOT shallow and uninteresting. Sometimes, the people who say the most or feel the deepest are the most conflicted and paradoxical individuals. This can apply to anyone, but I feel it has special meaning for ESFPs and ISFPs.


Are you writing an ESFP and/or an ISFP? What do you think about them? Just for fun, can you think of a villain ESFP or ISFP? I tried and came up with nothing!

This next question will help me determine which type to write next. In honor of Leonard Nimoy, who do you like better, Spock or Uhura? I'm voting Spock! (sniffle)

Thanks for reading! :)


  1. SPOCK! Definitely.

    That is the best explanation of the difference between Sensing and iNtuition I have ever heard. Thank you! (Helped a lot with a character I'm struggling with currently).

    I am not sure I'm right, but Rupert from Quest for Camelot strikes me as an evil version of an ESFP

    1. I have not seen Quest for Camelot. I might have to look into it. I would be very interested in seeing a villainous ESFP.

      I'm glad the story helped! The differences between S and N were always the hardest for me to grasp until mom told me about the study they did at IBM. :)

  2. I don't think I have written an E/ISFP. A E/ISFP villain would be very interesting, though I have no idea how you could make a person with that personality a villain.

    1. Same here! I was trying to figure out how one would go about it. I don't think either type would be a very effective villain in a fantasy novel, but I could perhaps see an E/ISFP villain in, say, a contemporary novel about high school. I don't read much in that genre though, so I have no idea if it has ever been done. :)

    2. Yeah. A 'villain' with that type in a contemporary novel. I have never really read contemporary novels, especially YA ones. They tend to be inappropriate and over loaded with love-triangles.

    3. Yeah, I'm not really a fan myself. Not into romance. Give me Brandon Sanderson over Stephanie Meyer any day!

      I just thought of a semi-villain who might be an ESFP. There's a character in Stephanie Morrill's 'Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt' series who might be one. I don't know though. *shrugs* :)

  3. Interesting; I love a good paradox.

    I feel I aught to apologise to Uhura, once again I choose the other option. Spock was awesome.

    1. Oh, I love Spock so much! And I'm sure Uhura would accept your apology. Odds are, she'd vote Spock as well. ;)

  4. This was really interesting. I don't think anyone in my family is either of these types (although my brother COULD be an ESFP...but he's only nine, so it might be a little too early to tell) However, I find it interesting that you mentioned fairy tales, because my only ISFP heroine is actually my "Sleeping Beauty" character in a fairy tale retelling I'm working on. So...I guess i ended up being a little typical without realizing it ;)

    Keep up these types of posts! I'm really liking them :D

    1. Hey, there's a reason these types are often used for fairy-tales! They work really well. It's more 'logical' than it is 'typical', I'd say. :D

      Thanks! It looks like I'll be doing the "Spock" type next. That should be fun. XD

  5. Definitely Spock! Great tip about not overdoing every characteristic of the type- they usually make very exaggerated, but not very realistic characters :)
    Ruth Newton

    1. I'm looking forward to writing about Spock's type! Some of my absolute favorite characters are in it! ^_^

      Thanks! It's hard not to exaggerate ESFPs and ISFPs, but I think it's worth it to at least try not to. :)

    2. I think you've got the right idea going! Looking forward to reading about Flake more :)
      Ruth Newton