The witch. The mentor. These characters tend to be INFJs… and INFJs tend to be these characters. As an INFJ myself, I generally like these characters… but no one likes seeing themselves as a stereotype for long.
INFJ (Ni, Fe, Ti, Se) is one of sixteen ‘personality’ types the Meyer Briggs Test Indicator® identifies. Every type has its stereotypes, especially when it comes to fictional characters.
Since I mostly read and write in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, those are the stereotypes I’ll be addressing. I don’t know how INFJs are usually portrayed in other genres, but from what I’ve seen they’re either the mystical witch who can know the future even without prophesying, or the wise mentor helping the (usually Fi-dom) hero on their path to glory.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see someone with my thought process as the hero, or even better, the kick-butt character usually reserved for ISTPs. Here’s some things to consider when crafting an INFJ character, or a character you think might be an INFJ, but isn’t in the traditional role.
Explore Inferior Se
Se, or extroverted sensing, sees the world as it shows itself. It focuses on getting the most out of every situation, and is usually portrayed as having great fighting skills, spacial awareness, and adaptability. Inferior Se, especially when underdeveloped, is that at its weakest: impulsiveness, running into doorframes, etc. In times of stress, it also tends to binge on sensory experiences.
In stories, characters with inferior Se (INFJs or INTJs) generally manifest it as impulsiveness, binges, and great fashion sense (especially the witches) when younger, and superior fighting skills or a clear understanding of the world when old.
Something that’s not talked much about, though, is that a moderately healthy Se-inferiors can get ‘caught up’ in their Se function and act… silly. This usually happens around close friends or family, and it makes us super giggly, or loud, or otherwise ‘crazy.’ It can either be deeply uncomfortable or pretty fun, depending on how mature you and your functions are.
That would be a great trait to explore in your story. Imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi meeting up with an old Jedi buddy and falling over in a fit of giggles, or jumping on a table and singing a ballad.
It would be a great way to show how close a relationship is between two people, and a lot of fun to explore with your INFJ character.
Cast the Main Character
Personal preference, here, obviously, but I would love to see a YA INFJ lead. Instead of leaping into a situation like most SP (dominant or auxiliary Se users) leads, or knowing exactly how they feel about everything like Fi-dom characters, it would be excellent to have a main character have a clear vision of the problem/their goal/whatever (Ni), instinctively be attuned to the harmony of the group (Fe), and analyze things constantly, but not necessarily know what to do with the analysis (tertiary Ti). Just having a main character who would be more likely to miss an opportunity because of overthinking it than having one take crazy risky chances would be a cool change.
Don’t Make them Wise
There’s nothing wrong with wise INFJs, but that seems like they’re only portrayed as wise and far-seeing, mostly because of the mentor role they usually fill. Ni in general has a strong stereotype attached to it that it’s almost always right. But just because a character uses the introverted intuiting thought process doesn’t mean what they intuit is correct. Ni-doms can be stupid too!
Jane Austen’s heroine Emma is a perfect example of an ENFJ using Fe and Ni to come to a ridiculously wrong conclusion. Rather than have your INFJ be the one to sense the danger, or always guess a stranger’s intentions, let them get completely turned around thanks to the data they’ve gathered.
Kind of connected to this one…
Make Them Messy
Literally messy. Either with spaceship grease, or sweat and blood (not just the one dramatic cut across the face/ribs), or food, or just mud. I don’t know why, but I can’t imagine the INFJ stereotype ever getting dirty (that’s usually reserved for ISTPs). They’re just so put together normally.
Great INFJ Characters:
Ra’s Al Ghul from The Dark Knight trilogy; Valentine Wiggin from the Ender’s Game Saga; Remus Lupin from Harry Potter; Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars (if you didn’t know what he was from, you’ll have problems on this blog)
Different people have different strengths, and that can definitely be due to their type. These strengths often get exaggerated into stereotypes, though, and when characters are nothing but stereotypes, they get boring. Don’t do that.
Consider these ways to break out of stereotypes for INFJs… and then ignore them. Or follow them. Whatever works with your story. But I hope it got you thinking about ways to get rid of INFJ stereotypes in your characters.
Do you have any favorite INFJ characters?