Novel Writing—A Study of People

            Of all human endeavors storytelling is one of the occupations most involved in the study of people and why they do what they do as well as to whom—including themselves.

            Oh, how noble that sounded. Really, we’re third person busybodies. However, being the thinker I am, I made myself and enticed/coerced my sister into going to a communication seminar. That sucker was two days long and we had to go ninety miles each way to attend. It was fabulous!! During that seminar I discovered there are four main types of human communicators. There are subtype mixes as most people are not pure in their type, but each person is mostly one type. Turns out I’m a thinker. There are also, relaters, directors, and socializers.  And they all drive each other crazy.

            Oh ya-uh.  Stark. Mad. Bug-nuts.

            The idea behind the seminar is to communicate in ways to these other three types they will want to listen instead of bite, snarl, or cry.  We got to try different scenarios and be other types. Well…I got to find out I misbehave in every conceivable way—didn’t want to find that out. But they say education is broadening—or was that travel? The best part about the seminar was finding out that my dearest darling husband is a socializer.  Oops! No wonder I can’t get detailed information out of him without him acting like I’m drilling his head open! He and I are opposites in types. Now that I realize his inability to find a can of peaches in the pantry comes from the fact it doesn’t speak up, I can live with it. He can’t help it. He will NEVER be able to change. He CANNOT change for more than ONE day. Being snarky with him is the worst possible thing I can do as it gels his little gray cells into inactivity.

            Being a thinker, I tested the theory. Yup. He failed. Dismally. Or rather, he performed as now expected. So, I no longer give him any attitude if he can’t find something—even when I tell him exactly where it is and go find it exactly where I told him it was while he watches. I just cheerfully go get it. We have now reached a much calmer state in our household. We are also enjoying each other a lot more. Calm is good.

            Communication or relating is using the Platinum Rule not the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule, if you remember, is to treat others as you would wish to be treated. The Platinum Rule is to treat others like they’d like to be treated.

            So. With a Socializer—talk a story. Allow plenty of time to chat. Make it a story mission. They can persuade and get the word out. They don’t work well alone unless they have some of their own to work on that comes from their own brain.
            With a Thinker—have facts and figures and use cold hard logic. They aren’t going to get anything done unless it is right and all of their dominoes fall in order. They are not going to make a decision in a hurry. Do not mess in their piles. If they ask your opinion, realize that they are comparing it to other things they know. Your opinion is important to them, but sometimes will not be used as expressed.
            With a Relater—feel your way. They feel your pain, your joy, your whatever. They also expect you to feel theirs. They will not put themselves forward. Don’t tick them off. They won’t like you again and that’s a bad place to be.
            With a Director—expect to feel ran over. They are doing more in ten minutes than most people do in a week. Cut to the chase. Don’t give them the whole story. They are busy and likely to delegate. So, if you don’t want to help with whatever they have going—don’t get in range.

            Socializers and Directors talk. Relaters and Thinkers don’t.  Relaters and Socializers feel. Directors and Thinkers, not so much. Socializers and Directors tend to talk fast. Relaters and Thinkers talk slower, if much at all.  What good is all of this? Because if I find out what is the main character trait or main way these people relate, then I can try to bend the information I must give them or get out of them in a way that is easiest for them to understand and cooperate with me. Like learning a few French phrases when visiting Paris. Not to bend others to my will, but to cut frustration down for me and others.

            What good is this blog post in the written world? Because we write about people and the tensions between them. If you look at any given set of people, think about the things that would drive them crazy even if the other person wasn’t the light of their life. Imagine what it is like for my poor husband whenever he gets that, why don’t you want to go to a whole room full of people you’ve never seen before and know nothing about? attitude from me. He’s panting to get there. And when he does finally drag me there, he finding out what people are doing, going to do, have been doing. He even has the capacity to remember their names. I can’t remember his half the time. Other people’s? Oooeee. No. Now give me a bunch of people doing things and I’ll ask them in depth questions about how to do whatever it is they do. I want facts, figures, where it goes, how it works, what do you use to peel paint from aluminum, whatever. There is nothing so obscure I won’t want to know what you do with it. Like the famous line of the guy eating the bat, “needs garlic”. What else do you do with a bat? Stuff ‘em? Boil ‘em? Are they dark meat or light?

            This kind of stuff makes writing so complex. Is it the meat of our writerly work. Maybe, but it plays to motivation quite a bit as well as how our characters go about solving their problems and why they have to find others to help them. I believe information like this also plays to what will smooth out stories somewhat as we help characters stay true to themselves.

Oh, and to what will help through the Holidays as far as organization tips that I’ve been occasionally blogging about: Um. We only have ten days. Read on for explanation.

11.     Use a timer-do your tasks in fifteen minutes at a time.
a.      Keep the kitchen clean including the table.
b.     Keep the bathrooms clean and uncluttered.
c.      Keep your car gassed up.
22.     Make your life easier by:
a.      Already answering likely questions
                                                    i.     Write down guest directions, on lovely card stock or a giant label and attach to mirror with tape:
1.     Towels/ washcloths/extra toilet paper in ? cabinet
2.     Aspirin in ?
3.     Lotion in ?
4.     Tums in ?
b.     Buy spare batteries-hide them. Write hiding place on Calendar
33.     You only have ten effective days until Christmas-use them wisely. I don’t care how many weeks. You have your regular life’s stuff to deal with too. Twelve days is all you’ll be able to carve out.
44.     Keep plenty of your favorite beverages on hand.
55.     Get one decoration put up each week.
66.     Get your Christmas wrapping paper found, and tape and labels.
77.     Get your must do thing found. My ‘must do’ is Christmas cards. I must get stamps, cards, list, addresses all put in a small thing I can carry around to do as I wait someplace.     
88.     Remember that list for writers? It works for writers in Holiday Mess too.
a.      Unclear big picture vision. What’s your vision for the Holidays and your writing?
b.     Fear. Don’t limit your possibility of success. Plan for success.
c.      Trying to force productivity. Don’t wait until the last minute. You have ten days.
d.     Shabby systems. Pick up after yourself. In your office, in your bedroom closet, in your car, in your purse. Life is easier if you’re not standing on your own foot.
e.      Lack of awareness about time. You have ten effective days.
f.      Transition turbulence. Minimize turbulence by keeping a master notebook with you at all times. One page is your day to day life now. Work the Holidays from a different place in the notebook. Tab the page with a piece of tape so you can turn there easily. Keep the book small enough to keep with you at all times. Like in your pocket.
g.     Perfectionism. Let go of it. Go for fun instead.  Even God made bugs to eat holes in petunias.
h.     Isolation. You have WARA. You are not alone.
i.       Negativity.  Do you remember you have ten days? Lack of time at the last minute can make anyone nasty. Delegate. Use your timer and make sure you take 15 minute real rest breaks that’s with a beverage, sitting down, as if you worked at a factory—doing nothing you don’t want to do.
99.     More advice:
Grandma said if the Kitchen is clean and the bathroom is clean then company can cope. Another woman I knew said to keep an onion, a bottle of Windex, and the front door and family entrance door window clean. The onion goes in the oven to make a homey cooking smell, even if you don’t use it immediately. The Windex gets sprayed as you answer the door so they think something is being cleaned. Clean door windows give everyone a hopeful attitude. Don’t do everything yourself. Offer to swap with someone duties you enjoy that are different from theirs.

I’m off to panic. I’ve only got ten days….



Pat Davids said...

Okay, I need to know more about this communication seminar. Who gave it? Great post. I see this now but I never knew this.

I never panic at Christmas, I always know I'll be shopping the day before. It's who I am.

If the bathroom and kitchen are clean, I must have died and gone to heaven.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Nina! I have attended several seminars for work on this subject and found them fascinating. This was something I could use at work, at home and with my characters.

The first one was about Emotional Intelligence and featured this kind of info, using different names for each type.

I've since been able to see several variations on the subject and always find them fascinating. I just wish they'd stick with the same names so I don't have to struggle to remember which one is Lion or Chief or Bus or Relater.

One of these dates I'll get all my notes in one place so I can remember how to identify and relate to each type.

Thanks for the reminder, Nina!