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How To Write A Manic Pixie Character.

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Why do we hate them? Why do we love them? How can we take these flat characters and make them more rounded in storytelling? With the help of Myers briggs personality typing we can make this happen. You probably already know what a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is. If you don’t know, let me elaborate.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a trope defined as a free spirited girl who is quirky in her dressing and mannerisms. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl was coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in an attempt to classify Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown.

You know them when you see them. They are the kind of character that is child-like, and adventurous. She doesn’t take life so seriously, but chooses to live in the moment. Nathan criticizes that the character “Exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

Since then, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a term that’s used to discredit movies with a magical, adventurous female who only comes to bring happiness to a depressed man; the perfect woman. Maybe in movies someone who is free spirited is considered the perfect person, but people like this are usually shunned for their personality. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope has been controversial because it depicts this unrealistic standard of how some men envision the perfect woman.

But is it really unrealistic for a girl to dance in the middle of a crowd, spinning around and loving life?

I am aware that the Manic Pixie is a flat character, but is writing a flat character a bad thing? What is a flat character but someone in your life you never truly gotten to know. All acquaintances in our life are flat. The Manic Pixie is just part of an individual's personality who is waiting to be fully understood. Some of us see a character like Star from Star girl, or Sam from Garden State and feel like you met a person like that before. An individual who makes you want to dream again. Maybe that is all you know about them, yet that one dimensional experience is only half their story.

For those who write these Manic Pixie love stories, it kind of speaks volumes about the writer, and how much they actually don't know about the individual who inspired them to create their Manic Pixie love story. So it's unfair to say the Manic Pixie Dream girl isn’t realistic. To those who only see the surface of people like this, this is who they are to them, and Myers Briggs calls it the ENFP.

They are the girls and guys who seem to live by their own rules and are quite happy living a non-conventional life. They are the types that enjoy getting to know Individuals' stories, and dreams, to the point of rooting for that person's dreams more than their own. In reality the Manic Pixie is just a stereotype of the ENFP or the campaigner personality type.

Now that we know that Manic Pixies are real, how can we make this ENFP character more real in a story? A good start is looking at strengths and weaknesses for the ENFP.

The strengths and weaknesses aren't the say all, be all for this type of person. Using Myers Briggs, or any other personality typing system is just a guide to help develop a character for your story. We are going to use 16 to help conduct an interesting Manic Pixie.

The list of strengths for ENFP’s are; curiosity, perception, enthusiasm, excellent communication skills, festiveness, and being of good nature.

Their weaknesses are ;people pleasing, unfocused, disorganized, overly accommodating, overly optimistic, and restless. When developing a character it's better to focus on one main strength and weakness to build your story around. Looking at all of the strengths and weaknesses gives you an idea of what kind of person this is. The other personality traits that aren’t the main focus should be used if it becomes relevant.

So as an example, focusing on perception as a strength, and restlessness as a weakness for developing a character. Someone who is strong in being able to shift their perception for all kinds of individuals in the quest to truly understand them, but is restless from the high standards they have set for themselves. They are able to see the value in other people, and can easily encourage them back into hoping again, yet their pursuit of doing fantastical things they have seek out in their own life creates a high standard that prevents them from giving that same grace to themselves. Someone like this uses empathy naturally to tap into how others are feeling, making them excellent at connecting with anyone in a way that searches for deep, valuable truths in a person.

That same strong awareness works even more deeply in themselves, but instead creates a nagging feeling of not being good enough. Their internal world is consistently being measured for perfection by their own personal idealism. Their Manic Pixie persona is their strength and their weakness.

This would probably be a story of a girl, or a guy who is the ideal Manic Pixie; free, and finds purpose in people, advocating against the lies, fears and hopelessness others feel, yet struggles to advocate for themselves against their own demons. Although they come off as always in a good mood, being positive, and always wanting to help others with their own internal world, they are the ones struggling with depression. Because it seems like they have all the answers, no one sees them, and when they speak about their pain no one hears them.

They are the symbol of hope to the outside world, and seeing them down in the dumps makes people uncomfortable. So they hide their struggles. Maybe part of the reason they even focus so much on others, comes from the fact that they are trying to avoid solving the problem in themselves they can’t seem to find a solution for. If the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope had these kinds of layers more people are able to relate to them. Not only that, it's a great opportunity as a writer to help people find answers to life's problems.

These kinds of stories are important because when someone like Robin Williams took his own life, it shocked the world. He brought smiles, laughter, and joy, but it seems like no one could see that he wasn’t happy and that he was really struggling. He was an ENFP. The one who helps everyone find their way, but is left alone to figure things out by themselves. All the bright places, and Lily and Dash are really good movies about ENFP Characters who are very manic pixies, but are either struggling with depression or struggling to be their true self. Writing means so much more when there is purpose behind the words. Revealing the truth of the world we live in . Not only to entertain, but to transport us into someone else's shoes.

The best people to write these kinds of stories are other ENFP’s. Our experience is how stories and characters become more realistic. We tend to want to develop characters that are opposite from ourselves because we believe that is what makes a good writer. But who better than you to tell the story of a character that is similar to you, then yourself. It’s a good place to start if you don't know where to begin.

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Gabrielle Travis
Gabrielle Travis
Sep 06, 2021

this is so true. manic pixies love to see beauty bc they have been through pain, and are often crying out for help through the way they help others. they believe they can fight against the bad in their lives by being a force of good in others'. And the fact that they often disappear in stories means that they're on to the next mission to search for what they seem to give everyone else but haven't found for themselves. she's also afraid that if she sticks around too long people will get close enough to uncover the brokenness and be disappointed. thanks for the encouragement to write! would like to see a happy ending for a manic pixie grea…

Patricia Gulzar
Patricia Gulzar
Sep 06, 2021
Replying to

Thanks for your input.

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