Thoughts on the Myers-Briggs test

So I was reading a blog that talked about the Myers-Brigg’s test. You know, the personality exam that results in you being assigned one of two letters, in four different categories.

Ultimately, you end up with a 4-letter code that tells you who your friends are supposed to be, how you react to stimuli, your zodiac sign, what other – more successful/famous- people are like you, etc.

The blogger mentioned she her code and commented that it was a rare subtype – only 4% of the population. And I thought “Wait, wasn’t my code rare?” and then I thought “Is 4% even rare? How many types are there?”

stalin

“Other people in your type” …Should I be concerned about this?

 

2 possibilities in separate 4 categories. I did the math.

Then a friend did the math correctly, and if each category has an equal chance of being picked, you’re part of a group that composes 6.25% of the population.

So…. you can kind of say ANY group is “rare”. I mean, it’s less than 7% of the population!

Makes you feel good, being a special little flower.

special

Caution: Wanting to feel special is how we get Mary Sues

Further research (clicking the top link of a google search) revealed that it’s not equal distributions. The most common is ISFJ (13.8%), also known as the “conformist losers”, and the least common is INFJ (1.5%), also known as “cliquish snobs.”

On a side note, I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who said they’re “extroverted”. Maybe it’s just the people I know. Each hiding in their cave.

Naming Your Characters

It’s time to break out the baby-names book! Because your protagonist needs a name, and any old name won’t due.

The go-to option is to name your characters after people you knew. Just remember to, later on, change it to something else! Your book may be published with a villain named Timmy Blankencheck, the kid who pushed you in the sandbox back in preschool.

Somewhere, Timothy B.  is on a flight for business, picks up a book he’s heard good things about, and is surprised to discover that he shares a name with a fictional penguin-murderer.

Don't feel bad. All Timmy's are evil

Don’t feel bad. All Timmy’s are evil

I know several people who have named their villains after a teacher or mentor who didn’t believe in them enough.

(By the way, if your instinct is to name your protagonist after yourself, you might consider reading my post about the Mary Sue).

Method number two for name selection is to name them after characteristics.  I like to call this method “Neil Stephenson-ing” because of his brilliant book Snow Crash, in which the main character is Hiro Protagonist. It’s a little strange, but it’s a strange book.

This can also be called “George Lucas-ing.” Seriously, his villains have the dumbest names: “Darth Vader” “Darth Sidious” “Darth Venamis” “Darth Tyranus” “Darth Maul” and “Darth Plagueis”.

Let’s play a game: guess which one of those villain names I made up. Wrong. They’re all real.

This calls to mind one of my favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Space Mutiny. Throughout the movie, Mike and the Robots call out new ideas for the muscle-clad meat-head protagonist.

“Plank Manchest!”

“Splint Chesthair!”

“Dirk Hardpec!”

The slightly-more subtle, but still cliche’d method is name your character Cane, Kayne, Kain, or Kanye. This just telegraphs that the character is a villain.

Similarly, be careful with any name that tells us how dedicated your character is. Detectives or Private Investigators named Hunter or Archer or Spade or Skywalker or Arrow or Captain America.

Full disclosure: my first book starred a homicide detective named Archer.

Damn it, FX!

Damn it, FX!

You will eventually have to change the name of one of your characters because you subconsciously named someone after your favorite ninja turtle (this was, tragically, discovered too late for the DiCaprio family).

Anyway, just remember, there’s something wrong with every character name you choose. And nobody use Principle Illustrion. That’s what I’m calling the lead character of my legal thriller.

The internet is a dick, and not the way you think

It’s come to my attention recently that the internet is really passive aggressive.

No, I don’t mean the people: I mean the internet itself. The technology.

I signed up for a twitter account to participate in a contest. Weeks later, after I hadn’t used it, Twitter emailed me with the message, “Do you know how to tweet?” I couldn’t help but imagine a the implied, sarcistic, “You dumb townie.”

LinkedIn calls itself “the world’s largest professional network.” So when I googled someone on my phone, I got back truncated results from their profile: “John Doe is… the world’s largest… engineer”

I have a facebook now, originally created a few months back to promote my collection of short stories and to prove to people that yes, I do know how to have a “media platform.” I’ve not friended people because there are a lot of people from my past that don’t need to know I’m still alive. Anyway, I scrolled through my feed and after only about 7 posts (each about a line, half about cats the others about trump and one about a cat that looks like trump), the feed ended. I had run out of updates.

Facebook put at the bottom “You’ll have more stories in News Feed if you add more friends.”

“Don’t worry your poor livejournal. I’ll be fine. No it’s fine. It’s fine.”

Duck you, facebook. And your autocorrect that changed my message that was supposed to be “I’ll come along” to “I’ll come alone”.

It’s like Skynet became self-aware and took on the persona of an ex.

“You know, your brother posts every day,” it says. “You’re too busy to instragram your poor world wide web?”

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Story ideas I had today that I’ll probably never get around to writing

An experiment gone awry sends a man back in time. He must live hidden away from the world lest he alter time an prevent his own birth. He risks everything to save a woman lost to history. A woman forgotten by history and no legacy, but someone he comes to love. Their very lives threaten his existence – can they find love?

A scientist builds a robot capable of love…. but does it love too much?

Dammit, scooped again

Dammit, scooped again

A woman with a terminal illness is put to into medically induced coma, never expecting to wake up. Thousands of years later she is awakened from cryogenic sleep into a culture where death hasn’t just been defeated – it’s illegal.

A scientist creates a robot capable of farting… but does it fart too much?

A young man without any ambition in life accidentally achieves nirvana. But maybe that’s not what he wants either (Just kidding. I wrote that story. It’s in my collection VISOLTH: A GIRL AND HER ELDER GOD)

A bunch of interesting ideas without a good writer to back them up

A bunch of interesting ideas without a good writer to back them up

A group of retired law enforcement, lawyers, and hobbyists have meetings in coffeehouses, exchange emails, and trade information about old, unsolved murders. Until one of the pensioners is killed. Which armchair investigation got him killed? Only Peg Fleming, retired columnist, can find out.

Maybe I’ll get around to writing full manuscripts for these. I’m especially proud of the robot ones. Those have legs.

Committing the ideas to paper

Every writer has heard some variation on the following:

“Oh! I had this idea about a story once. It’s about blah blah. You should write about that.”

In my experience, most writers are not lacking in ideas. Today I’ve had sixteen. One of them pretty good. But mostly, that brilliant idea about a robot designed to love who loves too much is followed by the following thought: “I really need to finish the story I’m working on already.”

Plus, that story has already been perfected (I don't know who to credit this picture to. It's amazing)

Plus, that story has already been perfected
(I don’t know who to credit this picture to, but it’s amazing)

The hard part of writing isn’t the idea, it’s the follow-through. Doing the actual writing, the actual editing, the actual telling of your friends and family about how difficult those previous steps are… it’s exhausting.

But why do we do it? Is it that yearning, deep inside, to tell a story? Is it, perhaps, that we want to explore the idea as much as the reader? Is it the hope that, one day, we’ll be published and famous?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. Seriously, why do I do this to myself?

Oh, right. The groupies.

Oh, right. The groupies.

I suppose I don’t mind people telling me their ideas. Just don’t suggest I write it for you, or imply that you may write that story if you have time some weekend.

It takes at least two weekends.

Villains done right (and wrong)

Villains are the best. I spend so much time thinking about them, writing them, wanting to be them, etc.

Recently, the Fantastic Four movie has tried to re-re-reintroduce one of my favorite villains, Dr. Doom. And screwed it up again, but that’s not important.

Writers and agents tend to agree that the important part of creating a good villain is thinking through the character and fleshing them out as their own character. If your antagonist just kills aimlessly, you might not have needed a villain. You might have just needed a disease.

Further, you can sympathize with the best villains. Or even root for them. Take Dr. Doom:

Plus, Mr. Fantastic is a tool.

Plus, Mr. Fantastic is a tool.

I’d argue that his primary characteristic is his genius. Sure, he has that iconic armor. And in the comics he’s kind of a wizard. But when it comes down to it, he actually is pretty much smarter than everyone else.

He has his own country, Latveria. It’s a technological utopia, where the people are well provided for and generally happy. Sure, it’s run by a tyrant. But he’s really good at it.

In one comic, Doom claims to have used his science/magic to look into thousands of possible futures. In all of them, humanity has been destroyed – or just likely – has destroyed itself. Except the one future where he takes over the planet.

For another brilliant take on The Tyrant Who’s Always Right, read any of Terry Pratchet’s books that include the side character Lord Vetinari. Or the badguy from The Watchmen.

My other favorite villain is Mr. Freeze from batman. Specifically, I’m referring to the version in which his wife was killed/frozen. Now he steals diamonds necessary to forward his experiments to preserve her or bring her back to life. Yes, he steals and even kills in his burglaries, but to him, it’s all worth it to bring her back. Nothing is more important.

Unlike most doctors, he doesn't correct you when you call him

Unlike most doctors, he doesn’t correct you when you call him “Mr.”

In this version, he doesn’t kill for the fun of it. His motivations are clear. And in a way, you can root for him. Other villains to check out that have REASON: Magneto, the god-emperor of the Mistborn books.

This is why it’s so disappointing to see a villain whose soul characteristic is to be a dumbass or jerk. The villain who is simply there to be an obstacle for the hero.

So your villain doesn’t have to win. Just make me WISH they did.

Dunning–Kruger effect: not knowing you suck

The Dunning-Kruger effect has been on my mind lately.

A quick refresher: People who aren’t good at things struggle to do something simple. And when they accomplish it, they brag, assuming everyone else has trouble doing that task, too.

People who are good at difficult things assume that everyone is good at them, so they don’t brag.

So dummies are loud about their piddling accomplishments, and geniuses keep quiet about sometimes amazing things. Dunning-Kruger.

I am also very good at expectorating

I am also very good at expectorating

The scary part is that D-K is defined by not knowing that you’re a victim. The internet is FULL of loud monkeys. Every teenager shares their sense of accomplishment when they realize they can be terrible.

The obvious solution is “Don’t be a prideful git. Set aside the braggadocio.”

But I’m a navel-gazer, and constantly second guess everything I think I am. So knowing about D-K makes me doubt my accomplishments. For example, is my vocabulary really above average like I think, or does everyone use the word “braggadocio?”

Does everyone else have to double-check spelling of expectorate?

And does everyone else have to double-check spelling of expectorate?

Anyway, tune in to my next post when I tell you about how I set up my very own twitter account. Hang on, I think I hear Mensa calling.

Getting my sheets together

I’m in the process of putting together materials for agents and editors and well-wishers and not-so-well-wishers.

I read, re-read, do some illicit substances, then re-read again my first 10, 20, and 30 pages.

How do you bribe in an email? And is it too forward to send their loved ones' fingers with the query?

How do you bribe in an email? And is it too forward to send their loved ones’ fingers with the query?

Then I think, “Maybe my YA comedy adventure would work better as a gothic romance. Is there time to retool?”

Then I hit send.

Then I remember that I left the “To:” space blank just to stop myself from accidently sending without the necessary/requested attachments.

Then I repeat all of the above steps before ACTUALLY sending.

Fingers crossed, everyone

Words I hate

On the subject of things I’m supposed to know, and have even been told repeatedly, I hate any words with “ae” in them.

God help me if someone expects me to read aloud anything about daemons or faeries. You couldn’t just call them demons or fairies? I know how to pronounce those words.

"Let's go see *mumbling*-flux! You know, the, u,m,  Charlie Theon movie."

“Let’s go see *mumbling*-flux! You know, the, u,m, Charlie Theon movie.”

I’m pretty sure I know how to pronounce these words. But in my head, right before I say them, I second-guess myself. Then, as I approach the word in the sentence like a car without brakes approaching a stoplight, I panic. The part of the word with “ae” turns into a jumble of vowel sounds nowhere NEAR the noise intended by the writer.

Aerospace engineer becomes “arglespace engineer.”

Algae becomes “Alg-ay-ee-eye-oh-you-and-sometimes-why”

Archaeologist becomes “Indiana Jones – people”

Look at that up there! You're so confused they're melting together!

Look at that up there! You’re so confused the letters melted!

English, ostensibly my native language, is pretty weird. But most of the time I can look at a word and go, “I don’t know what that means, but can probably guess at how to say it.”

By the way, if your name is Michael, I’ll say it the right way, but I want you to know that I kind of secretly harbor resentment toward you.