The Reading Experience of a Female INTJ

In which I talk of villains, chess, and INTJ portrayals in fiction. 

I started to write about this in my rant about The Infinite Seabut then I realised that it kind of needed to be its own separate rant. Plus, now you can’t escape it on the excuse that you’ve not read that book.

You can still escape it, of course. You will simply lack an excuse.

I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned my love for the MBTI. I use it quite extensively in creating and developing my characters, and it’s just interesting to know one’s own type as well. I may also have mentioned that my personality type is INTJ.

I have never discussed any of this, however, in the context of my experience with reading. I think it’s time.

The Issue

You see, it has long been my experience that what I think the protagonist is going to do (based on what I would do, and what would be the most logical thing to do) is not what the protagonist ends up doing. This occurs approximately 84.98% of the time. (That’s a real statistic. Don’t doubt me.) Consequently, I often find myself unable to relate to or even make sense of the thought-process of the protagonist. But that’s fine. I can deal with that most of the time. After all, who wants to constantly read about people who are exactly like oneself?

I started to notice something slightly disturbing, however. While the hero’s decisions often made little sense, the villain’s decisions did. I could absolutely follow the thought-process. Now, I’m not necessarily evil, and I don’t share the goals of any villains (that I’m aware of). So it’s not that the decisions of the villain are decisions that I would make in my life. However, assuming that the villain’s goal and my goal were the same, we would use the same methods to achieve it.

And Then it All Made Sense

When I took the Myers-Briggs test for the first time a couple of years ago, I looked up INTJ characters out of curiosity. And it suddenly made sense why I so rarely relate, thought-process-wise, to protagonists, or even secondary, non-evil characters.

I must admit, my resting expression does look rather villainous.

First of all, most of the examples were male. I don’t mind this, because a character’s gender does not seem to determine how well I relate to them. Besides, female INTJs are very rare in real life—in fact, according to most of the sources I have read, it’s the rarest type for a woman to have. Therefore, too many of them in fiction wouldn’t be realistic.

So no, it wasn’t the preponderance of males that was the problem.

It was the fact that nearly all of them were villains. And a lot of iconic fictional villains? Oh look! They’re INTJs.

Now, I’m definitely not saying that all fictional INTJs are villains, or that there are no INTJ protagonists out there, or even that there are no female INTJ protagonists out there. In fact, while writing this post, I searched fictional INTJs again. It’s been a while since I did it last, and it seems that there are more good characters being mentioned as possible INTJs than I remembered. There are some that I don’t think are actually INTJs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t. I’m not wrong often, but it has happened once or twice. At least, there are legends.

Anyway, my point isn’t that there are absolutely no INTJs who are protagonists/good guys; I’m simply observing that the scale leans toward the villain side.

And I get it, I  do. It’s not hard to see why an author would reach for this type when crafting a great villain. Here are just a few INTJ qualities off the top of my head:

  • strategic
  • independent
  • intelligent
  • judgemental
  • arrogant
  • can come across as cold or distant
  • deliberate, painstakingly-detailed planners

When you think of an evil mastermind, those are some qualities that might come into your head. In fact, INTJs are often referred to as “masterminds.” (And I can’t say I completely hate being called that once in a while…) So I completely get why those are great qualities for a villain…but can’t they be great qualities for a hero, too?

Because it’s a little bit awkward when it’s always the bad guy’s thought process that makes sense to me. Even more awkward when I watch movies or discuss books with my brothers, because they’ll sit there defending the decisions of the protagonist, while I try to make them see the perfect logic of the antagonist.

Because, let’s be honest: the plan is always sound—even ingenious—in these cases. It’s just their goal that is problematic, you know, by virtue of its being completely evil.

And Now, A Brief Sub-Rant Involving Chess

I’m going to interrupt myself to talk about chess, because if you do any amount of reading on INTJs, you’ll see chess mentioned sooner or later.

I played a lot of chess as a child. My father taught me, but most of the time I just played against myself. (Gotta love child me: she was so asocial that she managed to turn a game meant for two into a solitary endeavour).

School was never quite what I wanted it to be, but middle school was the worst. You would think that, being in honours classes, I would be surrounded by other nerds and weirdos, but actually it was mostly popular kids. There were only a handful who were nerdy, and of that handful, only three of us were truly weird. I was definitely the second weirdest, right under the kid who firmly believed in aliens. I only had one friend (directly below me on the weirdness ranking) and he and I were really only friends for lack of other friend options. So yes, quite an interesting time in my life, and I barely survived, but the one bright spot was at lunchtime. We nerdy kids would go to the library, and we would play chess. It was the only thing in middle school that made sense.

As much as I love chess, I don’t think it has influenced my view of the world. Rather, I was drawn to chess in the first place because it reflected my view in the world. The idea of working strategically towards something, planning for an optimum outcome—that’s how I roll. That’s how I approach things, and that’s why you’ll have an impossible time convincing me to dance at a party, or do something “just for the fun of it!” It’s why I don’t understand why someone would prank someone else’s car, for example. Tell me a story about something like that, and I’ll look at you blankly. What a mess, and what was the point, exactly?

On the other hand, if you can make a solid case for why something needs to be done—and it doesn’t even have to be something that will benefit me, just anything that I can see the worth of—then I’ll come up with a detailed and brilliant plan for you. I’ll probably even help you execute it.

Good Guys Play Chess, Too

I brought all of that up because that is exactly the way many fictional villains see things. It is not a bad idea, however, for some good guys to have this view of life. For there to be a story, the protagonist must have a goal, right? And taking this strategic, chess-like approach to achieving that goal is not such a bad idea at all. I’m all for reading about people who do things for no other reason than the intensity of their human emotions, but I’d like to read about some more logical, methodical people as well. We gotta have a mixture, and we can’t consign solid strategic thinking to the realm of the bad guys. We just can’t. The bad guys will win if we let them have all the brilliant strategists.

And yes, there are some great INTJ characters out there (most recent one I’ve come across who I am pretty sure is an INTJ is Ringer from the 5th Wave Trilogy). But I think there are more stereotypes and villains than there are realistic, good INTJ characters. We might seem a little cold, but we’re not emotionless machines; we might not be your closest and warmest friend, but we’re pretty great in a crisis; we might not be goofy, but we do have a sense of humour. And we’re not evil. Usually. For the most part. Okay, we can be, but just slightly.

So I’d like to encourage writers to not to automatically relegate INTJs (or ENTJs, or any personality type) to the villain club. An INTJ doesn’t even have to be the protagonist, but at least let him be on the protagonist’s side. And consider letting it be a her—female INTJs may be rare, but we’re pretty darn awesome! Maybe partially because we’re rare.

Have you taken the test? What’s your personality type? Do you feel that you are well-represented in fiction?

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37 thoughts on “The Reading Experience of a Female INTJ

  1. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you like the blog. *squeals loudly* (I really did squeal loudly, right in the middle of a dramatic LotR scene…whoops. Sorry Frodo dear). I love love LOVE your blog as well, and it’s given me and my sister so many great ideas!! And on what you said about emotions..yes a thousand times over! I also can turn my emotions on and off, like a light switch, (hmm do I want to be Vulcan or human today?) I compartmentalize and anyalze all my thoughts and keep them all carefully organized in boxes. And I have never ever met a character that does any of this. (Well, any PROTAGONIST that does this. I think I should just join a physophatic villain club or something.) And mind palaces! It’s not as if Sherlock has a monopoly on them! Come on YA writers… Oops I guess I’m ranting again. But I’m so glad you share all my sentiments on this sort of thing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve just got home for the day and I’m going to go visit your blog once I respond to this. Thank you so much, that means a lot that you enjoy my blog! I’m glad you got ideas from it—that’s quite a compliment. 🙂 Haha, the Vulcan or human decision—I relate to that so much! So rare in literature though—if it exists at all. Oh yes, where are all the mind palaces? Ranting is quite encouraged here, and I’m likewise pleased to meet someone who shares these opinions. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely post! I’m an ISTJ in reality but all the tests like to give me INTJ. And amen sister, it IS stereotyped. I mean, all INTJs are pegged as cold, unfeeling sociopaths, but in your posts you have mentioned crying over books. Everything I read blathers on about the boring mechanical ISTJ but I love art, love writing; I love small fluffy dogs for pity’s sake! I definitely want more TRUE introverts in Literature, not those “introverts” who have 15000000 friends and go out and party all the time. *eye roll* I too want more heroes who are cold and unemotional, who at least put logic/the plan/saving the world (!) in front of their complicated feelings for hot boy #1 and hot boy#2. I think that’s a possible character to create without making them overly stereotypical, don’t you? The Myer-Briggs method is actually really fun to use as a writer, as long as you don’t get trapped inside those stereotypical boxes. *winks evilly at self* Anyway, sorry for the rant (I can’t write a blog post in this wonderful person’s comment box!) This all from Hermione by the way…my sister/blogging mate Clara is an INFP and currently off taming unicorns.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I think the thing isn’t so much that INTJs aren’t emotional, it’s that we really value being able to control our emotions. Crying in public is one of the worst things I can imagine doing, but that doesn’t mean I never cry. I think that there is an interesting contrast for many types, especially introverted types, between how they behave in public and private. This should be shown more in fiction, where all too often characters behave the same across the board. I think especially where sites list the interests of different types, stereotypes abound. I never see writing or blogging listed as something INTJs like to do, but that’s what I do all the time. 🙂 And I agree so much with you that characters such as you just described should be possible. Um, no don’t apologise. Feel free to write blog posts in my comment box every day if you like—I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts! I went to your blog yesterday and didn’t get to read much, but I really enjoyed what I did read. I’m planning to read more when I get home!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never thought much about the MBTI in relation to the characters I read about or how I relate to them, so I can’t offer anything to the conversation there–but your perspective made for a fascinating read, and has given me something to think about going forward.

    I took the MBTI test quite a while back, and I’m fairly certain I was pegged an INTJ. Just took it again, and apparently I’ve grown soft as I’ve gotten older; I’m an INFJ. Looks like I’m in good company, judging from the other comments on this post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found this interesting. I think we should unofficially make INFJ the official blogger type. I would definitely say that the majority of bloggers I’ve talked to are INFJs. But then, a lot of writers in general seem to be INFJs, so I suppose that isn’t really a surprise.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, I’ve never seen so many INFJs in one place. I, like you, love the MBTI personality tests, and have always been fascinated with psychology. There is only one time that I took the test and did not get INFJ, and that’s when I got ENFJ the first time I took the tst (which the extroversion was 1%). There really seems to be no shortage of INFJ’s in literature. I believe they make some very compelling characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahh, this is so interesting! I’ve taken the test before, and I continually get INFJ. I’d be quite bothered if I noticed all INFJs were villains: that’s not great at all. But strangely, if there’s reason to, I find myself sympathising with the villain a lot (maybe that’s just a bigger confirmation that I’m INFJ).

    I must ask: have you ever watched the anime Code Geass? I highly recommend it. The whole plot centers around chess and every single move is strategic. It’s incredible. You might be able to relate to the main character a lot?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d explain the plot, but I think Wiki does a better job:

        I’m not sure if you’d be interested in watching it, but the point you made about chess really reminds me of this. The main character is really good at chess, so all of his plans are thought through and brilliant executed. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m actually an INFJ, so close. 😀 I’d never thought about any of this, how because of your personality type you might relate to characters of the same type. Very interesting!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I got the INFJ-T. The results are being sent to my inbox – thank goodness, I need more time/space to absorb it all. 🙂

    “The Advocate” it’s called.

    In a lot of ways, I can relate to what you’re saying about feeling that the “hero” just doesn’t make sense to you, or that you can’t understand the actions/motivations of a lot of characters. I feel that way about so many series/character types, and it means there are several genres I just don’t read at all.

    When it comes to how I feel about stereotypes, and how – unfortunately – the current entertainment market (books, movies, TV) encourages it and makes it even more ingrained, I could write my own post!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Totally understand this! I am INTP, although my P and my J are always just a few points off from each other no matter how many times I take the test. I’ve done theater my whole life and I’ve always found it easier to play the villain than the hero because I usually relate to them more. Only a couple times have I been cast as the main romantic interest lol. In RPG video games, I also prefer the more villainous roles. I love Star Wars and have always said I’d be a Sith, not a Jedi.

    I think this is why Katniss Everdeen is my all time favorite characters. She’s mostly logical and a definite introvert and honestly, a bit of an anti-hero.

    Liked by 3 people

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