Developing Realistic Characters Part 2 – Guest Post by Pamela Collazos

Your characters are still giving you the cold shoulder, huh? Or worse, they’re only concepts floating around, ghost-like, too intangible to give you anything like a shoulder. Don’t worry! Try to flesh them out with these four functions before giving up entirely.

I wrote about the Jungian functions before, so check out part one of this blog post if you haven’t already. But as a quick refresher, the Jungian theory states everyone has eight functions, but some are more dominant than others and thus better describe who your character is. Now let’s dive in!


Extraverted Sensation (Se) v. Introverted Sensation (Si)

First, ask yourself how your character treats an old sword by the wayside. Does he get out a whetstone and use the newly-sharpened blade to take out his enemies? Maybe he paints it or gives it a dramatic flair. If so, he’s using Se because he’s thinking resourcefully.

But maybe he looks at the old blade and gets nostalgic, thinking of other blades he’s seen, the first time he learned to fight, or of ancient days long past. If so, your character probably uses Si because he’s comparing the present to the past.

Se “occurs when we become aware of what is in the physical world in rich detail” and choose “action in the present.” [1] Se measures the worth of an object from how useful it is in the moment.

But Si measures the worth of an object from how useful it was in the past. That’s because Si likes “reviewing the past to draw on the lessons of history, hindsight, and experience” leading Si-doms to pay “great attention to detail.” [2]

Se measures the worth of an object from how useful it is in the moment. But Si measures the worth of an object from how useful it was in the past.


The new Star Trek version of James T. Kirk exemplifies Se. In Star Trek, he shows his Se desire to excite the senses when he rushes into dangerous heroics, like jumping to save Sulu from crashing into the ground without a parachute, or using (untested) technology to beam aboard the Enterprise ship, or purposefully angering Spock (a Vulcan 10 times stronger than humans) to show that Spock’s not in a fit emotional state to command the ship. He risks his life in every movie that follows, too.

Most of Kirk’s brilliance (and foolishness) is in the moment.

Kirk shows Se in a less heroic light, too, when he’s an incorrigible flirt and brawler. In fact, when he first meets his mentor Christopher Pike, Pike has to put a stop to the bar fight that Kirk started with two guys that were stronger and taller than he.

Writing application: Your typical action hero will be an Se, simply by virtue of their resourcefulness and immediacy of action. Even Batman has Se as his tertiary function. So if your hero needs to rush into battle, Se is the way to go. Of course, Si could work if your fighter’s moves are automatic, not because of a constant awareness to the present surroundings, but because his training has sunk into his bones and becomes automatic. To explain, let’s go back to Stark Trek.

Leonard McCoy exemplifies Si. Because of this, he likes order, details, and what he has experience with. Hence, he runs the medic team with precision and excellence that only comes with habitual practice. Unfortunately for him, his hospital is in in space (the unknown). But he hates the unfamiliar and unknown because they lack all the things Si likes (the familiar). —

The only thing that keeps him coming back to this wild adventure is Kirk because Si-doms tend to hold those they count as “family” closely. Even familiar faces are a consolation.

He shows Si when Kirk asks him to do something outside of his prescribed duties, saying he is a doctor and not a mechanic or whatever else he’s assigned to do. McCoy is competent where he’s at and is all too happy to stay there (Si). In fact, he’d really prefer to stay there than start trying his hand at something new (as Se and Ne types like to do).

Spock exemplifes Si, too, though he’s less prone to angsty space-dialogue since he 1) is a Vulcan and 2) has a different background that creates a different sense of what is familiar.

He is not an Ni-dom (at least, not in the new series), though he does have a good handle on that function. The modern rendition shows Spock as more of an Si-dom, mostly in how he does not like stepping away from his familiar and beloved rules, even if the situations call for a plan B.

For example, Spock brings Kirk to trial for changing the code of the unbeatable Kobayashi Maru test, kicks Kirk out of his ship so he may follow Commander Pike’s last directive, and cites the Prime Directive when he saves the natives and lets the volcano kill him (of course, Kirk refuses to let him die, but that’s another matter).

He likes order, and often advises Kirk to not be so hasty and predicts the success rate of their dangerous missions to the last decimal number.

Writing application. If your story hinges on a character who reflects and looks before leaping, you should probably go with an Si character. They are less flexible than Se characters, and that can be a way in which your character grows throughout the story. Maybe, it’s his ability to recall details from the past and stay grounded that saves the day.

Also, introducing various personalities can make your characters grow together as a team, bringing out parts of their personalities and characters you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. This is why Kirk, Spock, and McCoy—when they get over themselves long enough to realize each other’s valuable contributions—make such a legendary team!


Extroverted Intuition (Ne) v. Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Ne and Ni are related to Se and Si in the way feeling is related to thinking. They can complement and build on each other, but they focus on different things. Se and Si focus on what their senses perceive. That is, the concrete (either as it is or as it was). But Ne and Ni focus on it means.

Jungian psychologists say, Ne is “noticing hidden meanings and interpreting them, often entertaining a wealth of possible interpretations from just one idea” or instance of behavior. [3] Ne sees multiple possible implications from one scenario.

But Ni is the opposite, seeing one possible implication from multiple scenarios. Hence why Ni has a “sense of the future” and realizations stemming from it “have a sureness and an imperative quality.” [4]

Ne sees multiple possible implications from one scenario. But Ni is the opposite, seeing one possible implication from multiple scenarios.

Chronicles of Narnia’s Lucy Pevensie exemplifies Ne. She’s open to wild and imaginative possibilities (Ne), like happily accepting this world of Narnia, the existence of a faun (Mr. Tumnus), and talking beavers. In fact, her reaction to finding woods in a closet was too feel a little scared, but mostly “very inquisitive and excited.”[5]

And continuing to use her multiple-possibilities function (Ne), when her siblings and she have entered the magical land of Narnia, she says, “We can pretend we are Arctic explorers,” [6] to add more Ne-imaginativeness to the whole adventure. Notice that, unlike an Se (who’s also likes exploring) she’s not focused on the concrete.

Writing Application. If your story has a crazy plot, and you want a character who accepts the craziness, your best bet is an Ne-dom. A character with this function will be open to almost anything. If nothing else, they’ll get your adventure started, just like Lucy gets her siblings involved.

Ni-dom is also imaginative, but more controlled. To see this in action, we need to go to a different book series. Especially, Sherlock.

Sherlock exemplifies Ni, and he uses Ni whenever he correctly predicts a series of events and plans around them with great precision. Not that he isn’t ever surprised—that would ruin all the fun—but his leaps in logic, deductions (properly called “inductions”), and ability to think ten steps ahead of most criminals are all signs of an Ni.

Think back to the times when he makes conclusions about people. He never cites one specific thing. He lists numerous bits of information. When Sherlock was dealing with the Dominatrix. He concludes that she fell in love with him because he took her pulse and saw her eyes pupils dilate.

And when noting that Mary Watson had once been in the assassin business, he remembers she reacted strangely when she got a friendly note from a person she used to affiliate with, that she instantly recognized code, and that her face had the numerous tell-tale signs of a liar.

When Sherlock tells Watson that assumptions are damaging to the mind, he’s showing that he’s not using Ne (which is responsible for creating multiple possibilities). He’s clearly an Ni, for he likes to get all the facts in before making a final decision. Between the two, Ni is always more controlled, cautious, and decisive. And once Ni-doms make a decision, it rarely changes its mind.

Consider how Sherlock chooses the most likely deduction (Ni) instead of considering multiple possibilities with varying degrees of likelihood (Ne). He has a one-track mind, even to the point that he won’t see the other available alternatives until Watson shows him a different way, like reading the victim’s notebook to find out where the victim had gone rather than trying to deduce it.

Sherlock also doesn’t care about knowledge that doesn’t have to do with his goal (Ni), hence his disinterest in the solar system. Not to say that Ni-doms only care about knowledge they can use, but usually they’re too focused on pursuing their goals to go out of their way for side interests.

Writing application. Ni likes to envision things for the long haul. That’s why they focus on one or a few likely possibilities. If you want a character who fixates on one thing, is determined to accomplish that one thing, or who always sees things as they could be or will be, then try making him an Ni. But remember, iNtuition isn’t concrete like Sensing. Ni will sometimes make leaps of logic that miss the mark because they’ve passed over some concrete data, like when Sherlock fails to suspect that Magnussen’s files aren’t in some room that he can show to the police, but in that villain’s mind palace. Ni predicts the most likely outcome from the information they’ve gathered, but it isn’t as concrete as Si and thus the magic gut feeling and leaps between bits of information can backfire.



That wraps up the Jungian functions! I hope you’ve gotten something out of it. And once you’ve developed your characters, you can see what functions contrast between your characters in order to magnify conflict. This way, the tension will seem realistic because it comes from your characters’ core natures.

If you make a comparison chart between your characters, it’ll really help you to see how your characters will interact and the differences will help you more readily see the uniqueness of each of your characters (or if you need to stop making an army of clones).

But while differences show each character’s individual quirks and standards, similarities show the characters as a cohesive group. Take the Harry Potter golden trio for example. Though Harry is different from both Ron and Hermione, they all united under the Gryffindor banner. This showed that, while these three looked different on the surface, they all acted—as best they knew how—under the guidance of daring, nerve, and chivalry. Their goal was the same.

Common goals are important when characters are as different as night and day. There must be some force greater than their differences, or else the slightest wind of tribulation will separate the group’s friendship or alliance.

Also consider that each function correlates to specific skillsets. The correlation isn’t always direct, but it’s there. If the correlation is not immediately obvious, make it obvious. For example, if your character is a scientist who is an Fi-dom or Fe-dom, you should have some explanation for why they are in that field and show how others perceive this oddball.

I’ll give my sister as an example. She’s studying Nursing, which involves a lot of science, including classes like Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, and Nutrition. As an Fe-dom, why would she be in this field? Well, she likes science, but not enough to study it this deeply. Not without a proper Fe motivation, which she does have: caring for other people.

When picking her career, she prayed a lot for God to help her choose a career where she’d be able to help other people. God guided her to Nursing, and she’s been studying her heart out ever since.

She sometimes feels like an oddball in her classes, not because they mind someone different, but because Fe seeks others like itself. Still, as an Fe-dom, she can adjust perfectly fine, though she still feels just how different she is at times.

My friend Lance is an example of a Ti-dom. In fact, he uses Ti more than most people I know. But he’s studying Graphic Design, a profession largely dominated by Fi-doms. How does he do it? He mathematically figures out the proportions of what he’s going to draw, analyzes the colors till he can understand the minute variances between tints and shades of the same hue, and edits and refines a piece of art until it matches the internal picture he has in his mind.

Basically, he’s hijacked his Ti to work as Fi. Crazy, right? He stands out amongst the Fi-users, not that they mind much, because Fi-doms are often crazy (I say this as an Fi-dom and with much love) and appreciate others’ differences. So, he’s an oddball, but an oddball among oddballs.

Whoever your character is, in whatever world he’s chilling in, make sure he has layers. And once you start dissecting your character’s perceives and interprets information, he may surprise you by standing on his own two feet in no time. He may even give you the warm shoulder (if you get my drift).

Pamela Collazos is a Professional Writing Student seeking to grow as a writer and to help others do the same.





[5] The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p. 8

[6] The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p. 56

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