Do you know who you are?: On a certain captivation with personality tests

I am, and always have been, a complete and total personality type junkie. I have taken, I’m sure, tens of thousands of quizzes over the years, all the way back to email-based ones and things posted to AOL chat boards where you had to tally up the results yourself. I recall the heyday of Quizilla, filling entire LiveJournal posts with colorfully graphic results. I made quite a few of those myself back in the day. And of course now we have Facebook for the same purpose. I adore them to bits — and you can be sure I’m already drafting a quiz so that readers can find out which of the nine Elements in Aven’s magical system they align with!

I’m not sure why these things delight and captivate me so entirely. Perhaps it’s because there’s sometimes so much going on in my mind that it’s nice to have something simple to anchor to. It’s a way of making sense of the world. If I know who I am, I can navigate my life more easily. If I know who you are, I know how to approach you, influence you, move you.

In Myers-Briggs/Jungian form, I’m an ENFJ, which is to say, Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging, although I used to test Perceiving rather than Judging, and some tests will still peg me as ENFP. My favorite test is this one; I find its synopses of the various types to be particularly on-point, and I recommend it for any readers interested in this sort of test. I’ve also used Myers-Briggs when thinking about my characters — not when building them, as adhering to those strictures never seems to work out for me. But now that I know who my characters are, I can know their types — and that, in turn, helps me in shaping their interactions, their goals, and their methods. For instance, my hero and heroine have EN in common; they’re both fueled by interaction with other people, and they’re both highly empathetic. But Latona is an F, ruled by her emotions (and suppressing them is part of what’s left her so frustrated in life), and Sempronius is a T, always applying analysis to what he intuits from the world around him. Latona falls on the P side of things, Sempronius a J — she’s more flexible and accommodating; he, more direct and insistent. On the other hand, his sister Vibia is Latona’s direct inverse, an ISTJ where she is ENFP. This has made drafting Book 2, where they have to spend a great deal of time working together, super-interesting to construct.

I’m also quite fond of astrology — about half superstitiously, and half simply as a form of personality theory. I was born in Virgo, but my personality is more dominantly Leo. (For those who are astrologically inclined, there’s a pile-up of Leo and Sag in my other planets, including Midheaven and Venus in conjunction under the Sun); the Virgo-ness mostly comes out in neuroticism and perfectionism, though even that is with a Leonine edge to it. I care because of what other people might think, not for the sake of perfection itself. Being a lioness goes hand-in-hand with my Fire affiliation. I’m someone dominated by my passions, eager to socialize, romantic and sensual, and not always in ideal control of my emotions. And, of course, there’s the creative instinct, which has driven me to both page and stage.

Many quizzes align the Hogwarts houses along elemental lines, but I find that a bit silly and reductive — not least because, despite being Leonine and Fiery, I am also, most definitely, a Slytherin. I have a strong Ravenclaw secondary impulse, but my instincts are Slytherin to the core: proud, ambitious, determined, hellbent on high achievement. I want with peculiar focus, and what I want, I will tear from the teeth of the world if I must. I’ve also eaten up the other personality-associated things from the Potterverse: according to the Pottermore quiz, my wand is maple, though if you go by the Celtic associative system, it’s vine. Both are wood types suited for strong personalities; maple is a bit more adventurous and ambitious, while vine speaks of hidden depths and wells of strength. My patronus is, apparently, a dragonfly. I was skeptical at first, but the idea of this tiny little dragonfly going up to a Dementor and being all “FIGHT ME BRO” in its place quite won me over. (I’m also a Hermia, in Shakespearean terms — “though she be but little, she is fierce”).

A lot of these are a little strange for a writer. I think we expect to find introverts, Ravenclaws, Air and Water among the scribbling set. There’s that stereotypical image of the author in seclusion, needing quiet and peace and much reflection, drifting through their imaginative journey. Of course some of that is necessary — I find it almost impossible to get much writing work done if anyone else is in the room, precisely because I’m such an extrovert. If someone’s there, I want to be interacting! And the extrovert-introvert thing is a sliding scale anyway. Almost no one is all the way on one edge or another, and I do sometimes get overstimulated if I’m in constant company for too long — a side effect of my empathy. As for the others, though, I think it just goes to show that stereotypes are never the entirety of anything. Writers come from everywhere.

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Cass Morris lives and works in central Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

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