Creative Writing - Creativity In Conflict

Posted at 22:53pm on 5th September 2008


Ever felt that you fall out with your partner / colleague / mother about the same thing, over and over? Not sure why this happens? Even less sure what to do about it?

This Post will, I hope, be of interest to anyone reading it, not simply to aspiring writers. I wrote a couple of days ago about the need to bring credibility to the characters we create. Now I’m going to show you how you can bring creativity to the way you manage conflict – in your own lives, as well as the lives you write about.

What I’m about to tell you has its roots in the turn of the last century, when two remarkable women, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Cook Briggs, developed what, today, is known as MBTI – Myers Briggs Type Indicator. MBTI is widely used in many aspects of life. It certainly revolutionised my way of thinking, and I hope it will yours, too.


The theory is that there are 16 personality types. These types are founded on combinations of four elements, each of which describes the way in which we prefer to operate when it comes to our own lifestyle. It’s important to note that no one type is better or worse than another. They are all simply different.

ENERGY = What energises / invigorates us
Extroverts (are energised from outside influences, people, experiences) OR
Introverts (are invigorated by own thoughts, ideas, reflections)

PERCEPTION = How we receive information about the world
Sensors (via the five senses, smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing - fact-based) OR
iNtuitives (by instinct, sixth sense, considering future possibilities rather than facts) NB: An N is used for iNtuitive to differentiate it from the I for Introvert

DECISION-MAKING = How we evaluate and process what we’ve taken in, so as to reach conclusions
Thinkers (use an analytical, impersonal evaluation system) OR
Feelers (base the process on own values/ideals, impact on others, harmony)

BEHAVIOUR = How we deal with the world
Perceivers (like flexibility, spontaneity, open to plenty of options, tomorrow) OR
Judgers (like organised lifestyle, structure, boundaries, closure, today)

I must stress that this is only a taster. I highly recommend the following books: Knowing You, Knowing Me by Goldsmith & Wharton, and Gifts Differing by Isabel Myers. If you can find a practitioner, I would, also, urge you to attend a workshop. And if you’re looking for a novel with a plentiful example of conflict in it, buy a copy of A Painful Post Mortem. It’s inspired by a true-life story, and all profits are for charity. Anyway, back to MBTI.


The 16 personality types, based on a combination of any four of the elements above, determine our characters – the sort of people we are. They also determine the sort of job we are best suited for; the kind of person we may be attracted to; our strengths and weaknesses; how we are perceived by others; whether we make good employers, leaders, friends. Crucially, they also tell us those with whom we have a natural affinity and harmony; and those we’re likely to fall out with.


They say that opposites attract. It’s probably true to say that some Extroverts who enjoy being the life and soul of the party wouldn’t want competition. Therefore they may well find an Introvert more appreciative of their outgoing personality. And the Introvert, unable to socialise, may well enjoy the attention and interaction they receive, living in the shadow of an Extrovert partner. But what happens if the Introvert tires of the Extrovert’s talkative nature when all they want is a bit of peace to think? Or the Extrovert becomes bored with the time needed for an Introvert to reflect, when all they want is a decision NOW.


Similarly, the Sensor and iNtuitive (S&N) may well be compatible. As an (N) I certainly appreciate my husband’s (S) when it comes to giving me detailed and methodical directions for a journey I have to undertake alone. Likewise, he values my ability to think through the possible consequences of any course of action we’re contemplating. But the potential is there for us both to infuriate each other in other respects. When I ask a question, I usually want only ‘the bottom line’ – not the detailed discourse I get. And when I answer his queries with a leap of logic, he’s lost. However, as I explain below, knowing this enables us to be patient with one another.


Thinkers and Feelers need each other when it comes to decision making, and there is often a gender-divide in this respect. To arrive at a balanced conclusion, we may need to apply both logic and emotion. But if either person is an extreme Thinker or Feeler, the likelihood for conflict may be acute, the T feeling that the F is too soppy and sentimental; the F believing the T to be cold and hard.

J’s from the table above, like predictability and structure, whereas P’s like to have umpteen projects on the go, are often untidy in the process, and may finish none of them. I know of men who are driven to distraction by the untidiness and complete indifference of their wives when it comes to the state of their home. Conversely, though we look upon it with benign good humour, neither my husband nor I could cope with the structured lives of one of our daughters and sons-in-law. And I’m sure, from their point of view, that the feeling is mutual!

In the analysis above, we’ve looked only at opposites. But the potential for conflict is also present with those of identical Type. Remember, we’re looking at the causes of conflict rather than harmony, because it’s conflict which is at the heart of story-telling. That’s the topic later in the week.


Conflict – whether we like it or not – is central to human relationships. It is also the pivotal point of all creative writing. That is fiction, true-life inspirational stories, and testimonies. To some extent, it is also what defines humanity. The diverse ways in which each of us handles conflict is down to personality. And that, as we all know, is derived from our nature and our nurture.

It’s important to point out that MBTI is far more complex than the simplistic table I’ve given above. Equally significant is that none of us is wholly one Type or another; the elements are preferences only, and we are all capable of operating from our least preferred mode when required. In fact, if we’re to grow as individuals, and have a balanced view on life, we need to learn to value differences of opinion and diverse ways of doing things in those around us. No one Type has the answer to the problems of life. Not even mine! (But don’t tell my nearest and dearest).

Understanding the personality types and the differences between my husband and me, has enabled us to identify – and therefore deal with – the flash points in our relationship. Those occasions I alluded to above when the potential is there to misunderstand, or become impatient with one another. We’ve had to learn, each of us, to accommodate and profit from the other’s differences. And additionally, we’ve had to make some attempt at adjustment, changing the way in which we would naturally prefer to operate.

There certainly isn’t space in this Post to do justice to what Goldsmith & Wharton and Isabel Briggs have taken entire books to expound upon. I hope you’ll look further into the whole subject. I promise you it will enrich your life. And it will bring new creativity to your writing.


What are the flash points between you and your partner, or colleague? Could it be because of a difference in temperament? Can you identify your Type and theirs? Post your findings below in the Comments box.


If you feel you’ve benefited from this free tutorial, why not do one or more of the following:

1. Subscribe (free) to receive further tutorials by RSS (click the little orange icon at the top of the screen to the right of my website address)
2. Tell a friend and ask them to subscribe (free)
3. Make a donation by purchasing a copy of A Painful Post Mortem. (All profits for charity)


We’ll be looking at the centrality of Conflict – and Plotting the story using Theme and Characters.

Related topics: Introduction ;Plot ;Theme ;Characterisation

© Mel Menzies, September 2008

The author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No. 4 Bestseller,
Mel is also an experienced Speaker
and has addressed live audiences of between 20 and 700+
in addition to participating in TV and Radio chat shows.

Her latest novel ‘A Painful Post Mortem’ may be purchased online on my books’ page, at: Booklocker ; or at Amazon

ALL Profits - approximately 35% of book sales - are for charity.

To book her as a Speaker, contact her at:

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