Words & Tools with David Keirsey: Day 10 of Project 365

Please Understand Me

The four types [of personalities] are most likely derived from the interweaving of the two most basic human actions, how we communicate with each other, and how we use tools to accomplish our goals. Clearly, what sets human beings apart from other animals are two advantages we have over them: words and tools. And what sets us apart from each other is the way we use words and tools.” — David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II

David Keirsey discusses the foundations that create the four different personality types in humans at length in his novel, Please Understand Me II (an elongated and updated version to the much shorter Please Understand Me, published several years previous).

As a side note, this book is highly recommended. When I picked up the book (recommended to me by a writer’s reference text, for use on creating “real” characters), I devoured it cover to cover. I then proceeded to annoy my family for weeks by relating everything in my life and in theirs to what I had read in the book.

His perception on different personality types and how those different types go through life is absolutely mind-blowing.

Back on the subject, one of the first essential points Keirsey makes in his book (aside from the assurance of four general personality types) is that humans go about their lives using to ways to interact with their environment: “words and tools”.

Aside from a slight ‘hoorah’ for all writers (we tend to love validation of our personal belief that words are pretty damn important), this is a very important realization when writing a story. There are only two things our characters can do other than think to themselves (and often streams-of-conciousness stories are filled with thoughts about…guess what? words and tools). Characters may use their words, either creatively or poorly, to attempt to get what they want. Or characters may use tools at their disposal (be it sticks and rocks, a ladder, or a brand new laptop computer) to get what they want.

So, you have your character. You have that character’s motivation. But do you get stuck on finding varying and unique ways in which that character can carry out their motivation?

Think on the words and tools that character has available. Mix and match to your heart’s desire.

What words and tools do you find you rely on too heavily? What words and tools have you never tried before?

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One thought on “Words & Tools with David Keirsey: Day 10 of Project 365

  1. I would offer that the 4 Jungian personalities are inadequate as a structure from which to develop characters. I would assume they are compartments designed by psychologists and certainly have efficacy as does Jung’s theory on archetypes. When studying civilization with social anthropology as the historical axis we see that people and civilizations may develop an ethos based on environmental, geographic, climatic, cultural norms and mores, et al. As societies take on personalities based on these non psychological categories so do individuals. I suggest that factors outside of a psychological model of thinking may may color the expressions of character personality types wherein they are little directed by clinical personality types in a character’s use of the words and tools. For example, a farmer thinks like a farmer not psych categories. A warrior has unique patterns as would a dessert inhabitant or sea coast inhabitant. As a history teacher (not a novelist or fiction writer)it is practical I would see it this way as I am thinking from an anthropological historical perspective or a sociological one not a clinical psychological one or a literary one so we may be discussing apples and oranges. In Gone with the Wind, the war made the characters who they were and the way they thought and acted as the over riding character developer. Scarlet and Brett would have been very different set in 18th Century Paris or 3rd Century Rome. I wish there was a way to get Keirsey’s response. Or Jung’s.

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