Totem Animals for Personality Types

Hello. My name is Tucker and I am a Maltese. I have short legs and soft white fur and I am sweet. The poodle who is locked in the bedroom right now is not sweet. She bit my ear once and it hurt. She tries to herd me around and snaps at me. I do not like her. I am not sure if she is German or French but either way, I am scared. She is barking a lot right now and it is very loud. I want to be the dog to introduce our novelist for once. Most of the time if I get near the computer, the poodle charges at me and I do not like that. It makes me nervous. I do not like being nervous. I like being calm like when I lie next to my novelist and watch the big shiny rectangle. My novelist tells me I am an ISFJ. I am going to introduce my novelist now. Are you ready? Okay…what was I going to say…?

I am nearing the end of rewriting and polishing the fifth book of my series for publication and will soon be moving on to book six. I am still on schedule to publish the first book of the series this summer. In the meantime, I thought I would talk a bit more about personality types for characters and focus on totem animals for each temperament.

Towards the beginning of chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6 in David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me Two he has assigned each of the four temperaments a totem animal. I like to think of them as mascots. What is great about this for a writer is it gives you ways to describe your character both externally and internally. Let’s look at all four.

Artisans or Dionysians (ESTP, ISTP, ESFP and ISFP) are represented by the fox. The fox is a predator and an intelligent one. They do not often spend time on prey they cannot catch. I cannot emphasize this point enough: they do not often spend time on prey they cannot catch. And in future posts I will go into deeper analysis about this salient point. They themselves are difficult to capture like the Roadrunner or maybe someone like Tom Sawyer or Bart Simpson. A lot of them are athletic. In fact, ISTP personalities are the most likely to receive a sports scholarship. This would be a hint on how your SP character moves. They would not be clumsy. They may be graceful dancers or wily magicians.

Artisans live in the now and rely on their senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. If you are looking to create a villain like say Hopper from A Bug’s Life, or Stanley Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire you would be wise to create an extroverted thinking artisan. Another couple of great examples are Lalo Salamanca from Better Call Saul and Tuco Salamanca from Breaking Bad. If you are looking for a more discretely clever character like say a musician or songwriter or artist, you might look to creating an introverted SP such as Schroder from Peanuts Pip from Great Expectations.

Guardians or Melancholics (ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ and ISFJ) are represented by the Beaver or the Squirrel. They tend to be hoarders so if you see a Got Junk truck backing up to someone’s house with a film crew in tow you can bet you have got an SJ on your hands. They have two great traits. First, they are extremely hard workers. And second, they are assiduous about saving up for a rainy day, a famine or say a pandemic. They tend to do things for their community so if say a predator (see Artisans) is on the loose they will send out a warning to the other beavers or squirrels.

If you are going to write a story with an SJ character you want to think of that character as always serving the institution whatever that may be. It could be a school, club, corporation, whatever. They will always put the institution first. Think of Richard Vernon from The Breakfast Club. And they are nuts about their money. Life is about working for and saving money like Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins. And they like to embrace doom. Think of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

They too are like the Artisans in that they rely on their senses. If they cannot detect something from sight, sound, touch, taste or smell it is hard to convince them it is real. However, unlike the Artisans who live in the present Guardians live in the past constantly embracing tradition. Because of their sensory nature both Guardians and Artisans alike may have strange fixations on food or spas or massage parlors or getting their hair done because they are sensory driven.

Idealist or Cholerics (ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP and INFP) are represented by the Dolphin. The dolphin is highly intelligent, friendly, and collaborative. Idealists like to have tight knit groups of friends and family they associate with. They are people-people. They understand people and like to be around people like Cher Horowitz (aka Emma Woodhouse) from Clueless (and Emma from the novel)and Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. And they look towards the future like Atticus Finch Luke Skywalker and Captain America. They love to be told the same story repeatedly and tend to have large imaginations. They are whimsical people who make excellent counselors and great writers. And most importantly they understand and have a love for the abstract. Idealists are popular choices for lead characters will physically lead with their hearts when they walk. They may also lead from the top of their head if you are looking to create an ethereal type of character.

One major drawback to Idealists is their tendency to often be attracted to narcissists like Benjamin Braddock (The Graduate from the novel) or Rapunzel (Tangled from the fairytale). This makes them excellent as both heroes and victims to put in your stories. For best results you will want to put an extroverted NF with an introverted NT narcissist and an introverted NF with an extroverted NT narcissist.

Rationals or Phlegmatics (ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP and INTP) are represented by the Owl. Keirsey noted that owls are amongst the most competent winged predators. They can see in the dark and have great big oversized talons which allows them to seize their target adroitly due to their keenness of sight, speediness, and timing. Like the owl, Rationals dive into the darkness of nature to retrieve its answers. They excel at grasping the abstract with their keen intellect. And they are exceedingly rare. Especially the introverted ones. Collectively they take up only 5-6% of the population. So, if you are one of those gleefully naïve women like Elizabeth Bennett determined to find your Mr. Darcy, hah! Good luck.

Rationals can be great villains. But be careful here. If you are thinking of making your villain a psychopath, you better to make them an ENTJ (Evil Overlord) like The Master from Doctor Who or an ENTP (Mad Scientist) like Doctor Strangelove. The three best personality types for psychopaths are in order: ENTP, ESTP (Con Artist) and ENTJ. If you are planning on making your psychopath an INTP or worse yet an INTJ you might rethink your choice. INTPs and INTJs do make great villains they just cannot be that type of evil. Making introverted Rationals villains is tricky. I will explain why in a later post. Rationals also make intriguing heroes and antiheroes like Beatrix Kiddo (ENTJ) (Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2) and Jean-Luc Picard (ENTJ) (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Picard) Tyler Durden (ENTP) (Fight Club from the novel), and Doofenshmirtz (ENTP) (Phineas and Ferb), Walter White (INTJ) (Breaking Bad) and Clarice Starling (INTJ) (The Silence of the Lambs) or Kylo Ren (INTP) (Star Wars), and Doctor Who (Doctor Who)(INTP).

While you’re waiting for my next post you can check out my novel Chicane available on Amazon.


For my last installment for movies that are actually funny, I thought I would focus on some of Will Ferrell’s work. I have never understood why Step Brothers gets a 55% at Rotten Tomatoes. This film is hysterical. And not only is it hysterical everyone in it is hysterical. These are some seasoned actors here: Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott, and John C. Reilly. Reilly I might add did True West on Broadway; a Sam Shepard play also about dysfunctional brothers (blood brothers in this one) with Philip Seymour Hoffman. They alternated their roles every night. What is not to like here? Step Brothers is supposed to be ridiculous and shocking! That’s part of its charm. I have laugh out loud every time I’ve seen it. Some critics have a cricket bat up their bum. Screw them and watch it anyway.

The Other Guys is a master class in droll. The tomato critics seem to embrace it better giving it a 78%. I think it deserves higher. I re-watched it recently and it holds up great. Will Ferrell and Mark Walberg have terrific buddy chemistry as two detectives who are desk jockeys (one by choice and one by unfortunate circumstances) who choose brains over brawn to crack a case involving a scummy businessman played by Steve Coogan. The deadpan jokes are laugh out loud roll on the floor funny and the dialogue throughout is sharp and smart. A comic sleeper.

When I saw Stranger Than Fiction in the theatre, I honestly thought this smart comedy/drama was going to get a writing nomination. Instead they decided to nominate and give the Oscar to Little Miss Sunshine. Just the same Stranger Than Fiction is a wonderful change of pace for Will Ferrell who does a great job here. And he is surrounded by an outstanding cast consisting of the wonderful Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifa and Emma Thompson. Stranger Than Fiction the story of an IRS accountant named Harold Crick who one day begins hearing an anonymous woman’s voice narrating his life as he lives it and that’s all I am going to tell you.


Ian Fleming best known for his James Bond books wrote one and only one children’s book and it was a home run called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He penned it for his only son Casper. It is the story of the eccentric Pott family and their wonderful adventures with their magical car which, because of its unusual sounds they name Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The movie is somewhat different from the book, but both are outstanding. The wonderful Dick Van Dyke plays Mr. Pott and Sally Ann Howes sparkles as his love interest Truly Scrumptious (in the book her character would be the mother). They and the two Pott children take the car for a wonderful whimsical journey. It is an absolute must see for all ages and the book is a classic must read.




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