Creating Characters and Plots – Secrets if a Jungian Toolbox to Guide Inspiration
by Roger B. Burt, Ph.D.
People Who Write Fiction
Who are the people who write fiction anyway? And why do we do something which is so demanding?
Can you answer those questions about yourself if you are a writer? And now I’m laughing. Do you care to answer the questions? But I assume you care about what you produce and finding tools to help you.
We Do Need Tools and Skills
There are tools we need to write. Certainly we also need inspiration and motivation which may be called skills. But they are not enough because the story has to be given viable and engaging form.
My interest in these questions came from a number of sources. I’m not sure I can rank them but I can enumerate them. I think.
First there is my personality type. I’m an introverted intuitive type first of all. Introverted means my energy and inspiration tends to come from deep within me. And the intuition means I explore and ask “what if”. My auxiliary conscious function is thinking which means I have the capacity to organize what I find and want to do. Otherwise an intuitive type might flounder endlessly. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I entered graduate school at Duke I found the department was very interested in the work of Carl Jung. And part of that work was his stunning development of a personality typology. It is his system I referred to in saying what my personality type is like. I’ve been running and am presently running a series about this typology. If you wish to go deeper into the typology simply Google Carl Jung’s Personality Typology and it will open before you.
My interest was enduring and led me to a dissertation probing the personality types of artists (meaning painters). The literature in psychology and psychiatry about artists of all kinds tended to focus on psychopathology. I do not believe artists are inherently pathological. I wanted to know who they really were and found out. The majority were intuitive types who sought novelty and exploration. And the degree of the type was less important than the type itself. My research demonstrated that their personality had a significant impact on their work, how it was structured and how it developed.
That in turn led me to consider inspiration and, since I was studying psychology, I wanted to know about such things as where the characters came from, how they interacted, motivation and conflict. I also began to look at the operation of inspiration in the unconscious.
My personality type led me to begin to try out writing fiction as a way to portray some of the things I was seeing in people and the unconscious.
Tools for the Writer
In the end I was inspired to write Creating Characters and Plots (available as an ebook from amazon.com.) because I came to understand that the typology offered a useful structure. In fact, it seems I intuitively know the personality of my characters and in writing the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I found I could clearly state the type of each character and how that led to the interaction they had with other characters. I could see there were useful tools as part of the writing process.
To be real, it is probably inspiration which comes first as something stirs within us, but we do need to have tools of all kinds. I found Dara Marks’ Transformational Arc very useful because it fostered an engaging process for the reader. It can be found at her website www.DaraMarks.com. It is clearly worth some study. You will immediately recognize that it is fundamental in most movies you see.
But I also realized that Carl Jung’s personality typology offered useful skills and procedures to aid the writer in organizing and building fascinating interactions among characters.
In all I find the writing process fascinating as we weave inspiration, what emerges from our own unconscious and life experiences together in our chosen story. There are so many sources and it is hard to characterize origins and, in many ways, it is not necessary to know where it came from. But we do have to put it together and tools are very, very useful.
What composes your inspiration and toolbox?