An Open Letter to Writers from a Slytherin INTJ

Stop making me the villain.

I get it. INTJs are smart, tactical, seemingly emotionless. We give off an air of mystery, because nobody needs to know our business. We’re aloof, above it all. An easy target for the brooding loner type who doesn’t need you to write us auxiliary relationships and (can I get a hallelujah?) doesn’t need backstory, because that’s just how we are.

Slytherins, too, are cunning and ambitious, easily slotted into the plotting villain type. We don’t need reasons to grab at power, maybe murder a side character or two, because that’s just how we are.

Don’t even get me started on our ability to almost magically manipulate people and bend them to our wills. You don’t really understand it, so your readers don’t need to either. You can almost see the plot holes form before your eyes as I pace in my polished, pointy castle lair.

And yes, I’m a Scorpio, too, because much like your villains, I’m nothing if not predictable.

Stereotypes tend to be stereotypes for a reason, and as much as modern culture would have you believe that all stereotypes are groundless, meritless, and oh my gosh how could you ever say that?!?!, I get why I’m pigeonholed into the role of evil sociopath. I’m good at it.

But do you know what else these traits make me good at? Being a loyal friend. Solving problems. Reading people. Getting information. Learning things quickly: languages, survival skills, magic systems. Making contraptions. Fixing things. Being the calm logic in a sea of stress. Balancing over-emotional protagonists. Keeping everyone on track. Dry humor and snark. Persistence. Sheer stubborn willpower.

Keeping INTJs and Slytherins as villains is, largely, lazy writing. There’s already an abundance of them—Saruman, Tywin Lannister, Emperor Palpatine, Moriarty, Dr. Frankenstein, Magneto, Hannibal Lecter—and most new villains are just tired echoes the greats. It’s also based on a pervasive and frankly irritating stereotype that feelings = good and no feelings = bad. Perhaps it comes from the notion that people who express their feelings openly are easier to read and thus less likely to betray or surprise you, or maybe it’s as simple as equating not expressing feelings with not having feelings. The unknown is scary, sure.

You know what else is scary? Villains who are moody AF and likely to change their minds on a whim. Villains who are haunted by childhood trauma and focused single-mindedly on revenge. Villains who do everything out of sense of misplaced love. Emotional villains.

But those are hard to write. Those require backstory and character development and consistency. They require getting to know a character instead of relying on the tropes built into every other story. Unlike me. I’m easy to write. As a villain, that is. A bad guy. Someone whose head you don’t have to get into. A gaunt, angled face you can attach to a master plan.

Plant me as a good guy, however, or God forbid, a protagonist, and suddenly you have to know how I operate, what I’m thinking. How I manipulate people and process feels. If, like most writers, you think primarily with your emotions, that’s not going to be easy. Nobody ever said writing was easy, though.

I know, I know, I’m a small subset of the population, so why even try to do the hard thing and make me a complex, good-willed character? It’s not about appeasing one cranky person on the internet, I can tell you that.

See, even when I do see myself in a protagonist, he (always he) is also unlikeable, barely sympathetic, and just basically an all-around terrible person—Sherlock, Dr. House, Batman, etc.—he just happens to be working for the right side. This doesn’t inspire much confidence in how other people see me, a real person. We did a personality typing exercise at work a while ago in an attempt at some team building, and the comments I got were: “nobody cross her!” and “so you’re taking over the world when?” Ha ha. It’s funny. But it’s also a little worrisome. Constant media portrayal of quiet, smart, unemotional, and ambitious as the villain gives people the notion (even if they immediately dismiss it) that I’m plotting something nefarious, when mostly I just like to drink coffee and make crafts.

And no, I don’t like my coffee black like my soul.

Slytherins aren’t always bad people. INTJs aren’t always planning world domination. Scorpios aren’t always intensely focused and vengeful. People are the sum of their choices, and characters don’t have to fit into an already full trope.

I like looking at flowers. I cry at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. I’m awkward around other people. I bake cookies in my spare time and go out of my way to help people. I’m still a Slytherin. I’m still an INTJ.

Stop making me the villain.