Oct. 29th, 2015

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Every now and then I end up interested in Myers Briggs, the model of personality...this time, I ended up on this page, reading about the four functions: Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking and Feeling (the middle letters in Myers Briggs).

At the same time, I've still been thinking about the article I already linked recently about writing the perfect scene, because by some weird coincidence, I keep seeing this stuff repeated elsewhere. (The first link is still written in an irritating prescriptionist way, fair warning. The others are advice-y but not quite so irritating, IMO.)

And it suddenly occurred to me--

All of these patterns that are being presented in these articles boil down to action-reaction, which is pretty simple, but that's not the sum of what they are about. It's not just action-reaction, it's specific kinds of action-reaction, and the specific kinds model to the four functions, Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking and Feeling.

So maybe these patterns are not just about how to write action-reaction, but how to write it in a way that will have something for everyone, no matter which function they prefer to use, or which function they relate most strongly to? Because these patterns use all of them, which means that within the course of a scene and a sequel, if the writer follows the pattern, they'll have presented any reader with something to relate to, something to latch on to.

The scene - sequel pattern uses both sensing and intuition, which are about how a person processes information, either in terms of facts or ideas. A scene has a conflict, which is clearly dealing with facts, it's having facts pushed upon the character and forcing them to do something about it. It's all about what is there in the here and now. And then a sequel has a dilemma, which is about exploring ideas and generating possibilities.

The motivation - response pattern uses both feeling and thinking (though it does say that either of them is optional, but since the motivation - response pattern is supposed to be the lowest level thing and occur over and over, you can leave something out of a few repetitions of it but still have a lot of it). A response consists of a feeling, followed by a reflex, followed by ration action/speech (i.e. thinking). So thinking and feeling are both right there in the description.

And happily, thinking about it this way helps to make it more general. If you want to write a more intuitive story or character, you can have more sequels, more instances where the character is exploring the world and discovering possibilities rather than dealing with the here and now in terms of conflict. I want to say that you ought to be able to take thinking or feeling up a level and model your scenes after them too, or take sensing and intuition down a level (perhaps to structure the motivation part with either facts or possibilities?)

I think it's really all a matter of focus -- you can write more about any aspect you want, while minimizing other aspects -- but it also provides a way to focus without losing sight of the big picture, the whole that really needs to include all of these things. And by circling around to each aspect and not leaving anything out permanently, you are probably less likely, even in a story or a part of a story with a strong focus, to completely lose whatever part of the audience is going to be paying more attention to certain things.

For example, if you want to write a story with a stronger internal conflict, you'd probably focus a lot more on the thinking and/or feeling parts of it (the reactions, the dilemmas) than on the action parts of it (the motivations, the conflicts). (That sounds weird mostly due to terminology, I think. Internal conflict is not using the word conflict in quite the same way as "conflict" in the scene model, IMO.)

I think this probably also applies to acts, and to the story as a whole. It might be interesting to try to map types of climax to these functions... Achievement, revelation, discovery, realization. Well... Okay, maybe not, the climaxes are more about something final, and the functions are more about process.

On the other hand, if you look at the end point of a process:

Achievement = Sensing
Revelation = Thinking
Discovery = iNtuition
Realization = Feeling


So if the climax is the end point of the process, then a book with a climax of achievement should maybe focus more on sensing? I.e. on conflict? And one with a climax of discovery, more focus on intuition? I.e. on exploring possibilities / working through dilemmas?

Acts could be focused a specific way too... So you could have an act where primary axis of change happening to the character is through what they feel, or through what they think. Or through what possibilities they perceive, or through the facts that they know about.

And what about turning points? Structuring your turning points like this? Hmm, turning points are about the world, aren't they? Everything changes, not just the character. (Or am I misunderstanding turning points? Now that I've written that, I'm not so sure what exactly changes at a turning point.)

But in any case, that leads to the big weakness I see with this: the world as a separate entity almost disappears. It only exists as seen through the character's perceptions. Some, of course, might consider that a strength, and perhaps it is, but I like my worlds. I mean, yes, you can see the world through the characters...or I suppose you can have lots of "motivation" sections that delve more into the world...or you can go full omniscient and see everything through the narrator instead of one of the characters?

Anyway, I think it's got a lot of possibilities as a model.

(Sort of a side note, but I think introversion vs. extroversion can also apply to writing. Introverted writing is the kind that tries to simply show the reader something or share an understanding, and extroverted writing is the kind of writing that tries to make the reader feel or think something.

As for judgment and perception, well, some writing is clearly more interested in structure and some more interested in flow, right? Though...well, it sounds like if you use this model, it ought to be all about structure and not flow, because just look at all those definitions and structures. But...this is about the perception that the reader will get about the writing, not about whatever process that was used to create it. So structure vs. flow is really more how you arrange the pieces, IMO. I think you can do flow in this manner, it's more about how you move from one thing to the next. If it always follows, that's flow / perception, and structure / judgment would be more when you put things out there in little chunks and the structure slowly forms, but you have to wait for it. ...and if you really want to do both at once, with different aspects of the story you're presenting, then you're just really ambitious.)


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