Studying Types via Fiction

For some time I’ve been very interested in getting an understanding of how types differ, which has meant trying to find my way ‘into’ the interior experience of the type. One tool for this has been literature analysis – essentially, by reading a book you access the authors’ world. Most attempts to talk about fiction normally has focused on taking particular fictional characters, using them as examples of types, however I have been focused instead on determining the type of the author.
Within the text of a fiction novel, the narrative is informed by the author’s personality in a number of ways. In general, the overall design of a story (and/or the fictional world) is an expression of the author’s personality at one level. Within the narrative also exist characters that reflect the author in various ways. The primary protagonist – usually – is the one that is inevitably most like the author, as this will have the most comprehensively designed personality and for the most part unavoidably reflects some of their types’ themes and concerns; what is interesting to one type may be dull to another, or acceptable to one may be unacceptable to another.
Within the narrative characters have to deal with problems, which characters will then attempt to solve with problem-solving methods that are themselves somewhat reflective of type.
Subsidiary characters themselves can reflect fragments of the authors personality (particularly the main sidekick), may be modeled on other living people (in which case, they might be said to have a ‘type’ although filtered through the authors’ eyes, it will be distorted in some ways) or may be constructs whose existence serves to advance the story or plot. The most noteworthy examples here are usually the main BBEG (big bad evil guy/girl) , and sometimes the romantic interest, which may have little real personality and instead be either overly idealized or just a sex object.  (see further below – A BBEG may actually be very interesting in terms of determining type, but can show normal traits of the type when unhealthy, or instead be a sort of inversion of the type [illustrating traits they like the least]).
WIthin a narrative, primary interests or concerns can reflect a type’s primary focus of attention – a Two will more or less inevitably incorporate romantic themes and probably many romance novelists are of the type (Danielle Steel would be a 2w1; in the male version, “vintage sleaze book” and later SF author Robert Silverberg is – probably – a 2w3). Fives and to some extent Threes have particular problems or issues around expressing feelings and so writing love subplots, which can appear awkward and somehow unconvincing. Fours have a tendency toward a ‘dramatic’ style, in which a degree of internal consistency or logic is sacrificed in order to generate drama.
Threes are interested in prestige and power, Ones particularly interested in the conflict of good and evil, Fours in exploring personal and sad themes, Fives in abstract science (same with some Sevens), Sixes loyalty themes, Eights perhaps more action (there may be moral justifications, but main characters also are more amoral than Ones, correspondingly the bad guy’s evil rating has to be dialled up a few orders to provide a contrast. Robert Adams’ [8w7] Horseclans series has the “good guys” be into rape, slavery and torture (although the bad guys manage to be significantly worse). Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” stories [8w9] similarly show uninhibited expression of desire for independence and power.
Beyond this we see within the story wish fulfillment of generally type-specific desires, and avoidance of type-specific fears. These may be quite dark, with the narrative structure itself built to provide further justification of things that would be unacceptable on the face of it – overly convenient deaths or desertions, for example, to allow a change in mate.
Detailed characters that are reflections of the author provide the most scope for analysis.
Stories can have mentions of ‘defense mechanisms’ that are largely unique to the type or other stress responses (Two stress headaches for example) which are fairly characteristic. Note that some ‘defense mechanisms’ can be mistaken – for example, the difference between rationalization [Seven defense] and lying is that the former works for the Seven themselves, whereas any type could lie but be aware they’re ‘stretching the truth’.

A note on the problems of this approach
Literature analysis of this kind relies to some extent on circular reasoning – if I allocate a particular function to a type, that then becomes evidence of that and then will pick up other people of that type solely with that function?
An area that is particularly interesting – if controversial – would be the Jungian function systems of the types – as in the prior post I normally use allocations of [1-Te, 2-Fe,3-Se,4-Fi, 5-Ti, 6-Ni, 7-Ne, 8-Se, 9-Si]; wing determines the secondary function but in somewhat peculiar ways:
These IMHO are expressed through characters with usually the protagonist using the ‘primary’ function, the sidekick the ‘secondary’, while 3rd and 4th may be used to some extent badly. Villains may resemble the main type when deteriorated, but may also be a sort of personification of the inferior function. Other minor characters may not have great depth development, reflecting the main extraverted function but less competently than the protagonist.
Note that this is meant to be a general introduction to the concept only. How this works exactly requires type-by-type examples (we’ll get there eventually…).

Advertisements

One thought on “Studying Types via Fiction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s