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Titles: What the Books on Our Characters’ Nightstands Say About Them

As I mentioned in my post on Monday, a writing prompt on Writers Write sparked an inspiring thread to my current fiction WIP. I began to consider several aspects about my characters and began to research the types of books they would choose based on what I already know about them.

  • Personality Types: One of the first things I asked myself was how each of my characters would choose a book based on his or her MBTI type. Yes, there are actually lists that exist with this category in mind. It is important to note, however, that not every personality type is an avid reader. This distinction becomes part of the character’s personality. Another consideration is whether there books that some certain personalities choose or avoid. Are these books chosen based on theme or genre? Are they avoided based on length? It is an interesting way to research characteristics of characters, especially for someone like me who as a side-interest in MBTI.
  • Relationships: Personality types react to one another differently. Sites like and provide insights into which relationships are most compatible and which ones are bound to create tension. But, in developing a list of books for some of my characters, I realized there was a connection to choices in reading material. Yet, I wondered would an INTJ read The Fountainhead with the same insight as an ENTP? Do some types resonate with one Dostoevsky novel more than another? Which Orwell is most appealing to specific types? Which types might avoid these authors altogether?
  • Occupations: Who we are as people often results in our career choices. And this is why some career choices are ones we should not make. In considering my characters, I am thinking about which titles may appear on their nightstands depending on what they do for a living. Or does a character refuse to read any books related to a particular career because he or she hates his or her job? Is there a topic a character loathes because another character has achieved fame and riches from it?
  • Interests: How do our interests influence our book choices? Are these interests affected by our faith and politics? What about music, animals, and gardening? Is there an interest in carpentry, history, arithmetic, science? How do these interests build conversations between characters?
  • Generations: One of the main factors I needed to consider about which books would be on the nightstands of my characters was when the books were published. Because my WIP has a fixed timeline, I had to eliminate books written after the current year of my story. That made some of the selections easier than others. It was disappointing to see more recent books eliminated. It was also helpful to define the historical influences based on the literature of the time. A bonus was discovering that because of my own interests based on my personality type, occupation, relationships, and generation I was able to add several books to my personal to-read list. Some may even impact this WIP.

The exercise of determining my characters’ reading habits has bolstered my enthusiasm for this WIP. I hope other writers are encouraged by doing the same.

Categories: Between the Lines: This Writer's Journal

Tagged as:


From A-Z

Book Reader and Reviewer
Home Educator
Labrador Retriever Owner
Mother of Three Boys
Quiet Moments (a rare commodity!)
RV Camping
Singer in Church Choir
Wife of My High School Sweetheart
Yarn-Lover (the wool kind and the story kind)

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