Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Keeping Things In Order

Hmm, I got exactly zero comments with my last post. Maybe it was too confusing.

Randy Ingermanson talks a lot about the snowflake method, scene and sequel, and motivation-reaction units (MRUs). Now I'm mostly a seat-of-the-pants writer, so the whole idea of planning and plotting an entire book in detail before I start makes me want to keep reviewing books. And trying to figure out scene and sequel is equally paralyzing. Not saying anything against Randy or his methods (btw, I do really like his books); they just don't work for me at this point.

MRUs are another story. It's just an educated way of saying, "Write what happens in the order that it happens." (For Randy's better explanation, scroll halfway down this page.) In other words, don't have your character scream in pain and then hit his thumb with a hammer. Or even write: "George screamed in pain because he hit his thumb with a hammer." What happened first? The hammer hitting the thumb. So you need to write something more along the lines of: "George swung again at the nail, missing it completely and hitting his thumb instead. The instant pain jerked an involuntary scream from his throat." Of course, if George isn't the point-of-view character for the scene, an onlooking character would most likely hear the scream, then realize its cause.

Randy's insights were a good refresher. I figured out that I'd been following the basic formula of MRUs in my writing without consciously thinking about it. I'd just been writing things in the order they would naturally happen. But not every writer does this. Not even published ones.

I just finished a series of books by Jeanette Windle - CrossFire and FireStorm. Both were over 600 pages long, but since I read an average of 100 pages an hour, I wasn't too worried. Fifty pages in, an hour had passed. Something was wrong. The story was moderately interesting, though I found the heroine's blind assumptions improbable. I looked closer. There was a bit of head-hopping, but it wasn't too bad. The thing I found eating up my reading time was that I was having to go back and reread sentences. A lot. Why? Because the author was putting reactions before motivations. She wasn't writing the story in order.

I ended up enjoying the last half of the first book (once the blind assumptions were gone) and the second book. But I'm still pondering how such a little thing made a profound difference in my reading experience. And I wonder how much better the books would have been if the author had mastered MRUs.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

MBTI and Other Random Thoughts

Saw Dave's meme, and decided to try it. Since I've lived in a Christian music cocoon most of my life, I didn't think I'd recognize many of the songs from 2001. I was right. I knew only two of the songs (though I did know many of the artists). Instead of posting the whole list with oodles of strikeouts, here are the two:

1. Hanging By A Moment, Lifehouse - one of my favorite songs of all time. Glad to see it at number one.
66. There You'll Be, Faith Hill - know this song solely from the movie Pearl Harbor. Great music video.

Reviewing is going really well. I have about 3 hours worth of writing to do, then I'm all caught up with the books I have - and no new ones are on the way. The last three books I'm reviewing were all exceptional in different ways, making them a lot of fun to write about.

Of course, I'm still getting books for the roundup I'm doing. Most of the work is in reading the books, and I'm ready to dive into espionage, terrorism, exotic locations, CIA agents, intrigue, Marines, daring rescues, drug lords, and the like. Should be enjoyable.

One thing I've been studying with Myers-Briggs is how people introvert and extrovert different functions. The functions are divided into two groups - the perceiving functions, sensing and intuition, and the judging functions, thinking and feeling.

It's a bit confusing, since introversion, extroversion, perceiving, and judging are used to describe the first and last letters of Myers-Briggs type. But the functions (the two middle letters) and how you use them determines the other two type dimensions.

Everyone uses all four functions. Feelers think sometimes, and intuitives use their senses. But people are more comfortable with one perceiving and one judging function, and those are their dominant and ancillary functions. Yes, one of the functions in your type is dominant over the other. The other two functions (those not represented in your type) take third and fourth place.

For example, I'm an INFP. Feeling is my dominant function, followed by intuition, sensing, and thinking. The dominant and fourth functions are always the opposite functions, likewise second (ancillary) and third. But how does the NF of my type determine the IP of it?

You use different functions for relating to the outside world (extroversion) and in your own private thoughts (introversion). Introverts use their dominate function (in my case, feeling) with their private world, while the outside world gets only their second best (in my case, intuition). Extroverts put their best foot forward by using their dominate function to relate to the outside world, while their ancillary deals their inward thoughts.

The third and fourth function are also extroverted and introverted, but to a much lesser extent. INFPs introvert feeling, extrovert intuition, introvert sensing, and extrovert thinking. But what about perceiving and judging?

You might notice that my dominant function, feeling, is a judging function (used to make decisions, while perceiving functions take in information). Why am I a perceiver, then?

The judging/perceiver variable in type refers only to how you order your outside world. So extroverts with a dominant judging function (thinking or feeling) are judgers. But introverts with a dominant judging function extrovert their ancillary, which is a perceiving function (sensing or intuition). They (including me) are therefore perceivers.

The opposite is also true. Extroverts with a dominant perceiving function are perceivers, introverts with a dominant perceiving function have an ancillary judging function and are judgers.

I'm sorry if that's more confusing than helpful. Feel free to ask questions.

One interesting insight I've gained from understanding this: I'm a feeler, so I make decisions based on my personal values rather than logic. But I use this primarily in my inside world. I hadn't noticed it before, but the hierarchy of what I value is very clear-cut in my mind. Friendships, beliefs, past events, feelings - it's all ordered so well that it's nearly a shock to my intuitive perceiving side. If I deem someone or something important to me, it takes quite a bit to pry that person or thing from that rank of importance in my mind.