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What Type of Writer Are You? Part 1

Every writer is as individual as a snowflake. Having said that, temperament plays a big part in the method to their madness. We will examine how writers can represent the extreme examples of their temperament. A writer's temperament can be a strength or a weakness. The more evenly balanced they are on the spectrum, the easier it is for them to be successful.

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Both types can learn a lot from each other. So when choosing your writing tribe or attending classes or conferences, don't automatically dismiss someone completely different from you.

Jane is free form. Free form writers are affiliated with the Feeling tribe. She writes with an ear to the emotional content of the piece. Whether it is a poem or a novel, Jane goes for pleasing words and meandering flow. She sits down and lets whatever is in her heart pour onto the page. She doesn’t need to know where she is headed. In fact, she’d rather not know. She wants to explore and release the pent up longing in her soul. At worst, she can meander a really long time and go completely off track. At best, her approach results in something uniquely beautiful. She feels bludgeoned if her work is rejected because it is a piece of her heart.

Jane balks when asked to outline or learn structure, be it poetry or novel writing. She prefers free verse to sonnets. That doesn’t mean she can’t be taught how to construct a sonnet, or any of the other delicious sounding names for poem structure. It means her native preference is stream of consciousness. Oftentimes, when it comes to taming that stream or being asked to define it, she gets blocked or quits. She resists the idea of genre and category, though she wishes for the reader to be pleased by her words.

Jane grows as a writer by learning about story architecture. She may never sit down and come up with an outline. However, when she understands the crucial underpinnings of story, she is better able to channel it with her free-flowing approach. She can then bend and twist the structure in creative ways. Free form writers who refuse to embrace the concept of structure often struggle with the publishing game when it comes to story outlines, synopses, and marketing. At the extreme end, Jane may sit at her desk and scribble endlessly but no one ever sees her work. She may enjoy the process more than the outcome.

Dick is structured. Structured writers tend to belong to the Logical family. He likes knowing the plan before he begins. He is less anxious when he knows where the road ends and thinks through all the twists and turns along the way. He likes to consider all the contingencies. Dick can get so lost in the set up, he grows bored and never finishes the book.

Dick enthusiastically embraces structure. He likes having a road map to success. His work may be technically brilliant, but not entirely satisfying. It may lack depth. He is interested in writing well, not necessarily the emotional response of the reader. He struggles with impromptu writing prompts and thinks free verse is a bit suspect.

Dick balks when asked to reconsider a piece. It’s already done. He hit all the marks. What the heck is the agent’s or editor’s problem? They’re just too stupid to get it. Dick is good at handing in a logline, synopsis, and chapter outline. He falls apart when asked to change things. The idea of going back to the drawing board to start over gives him a migraine. He is irritated by the slow pace of the publishing process. He frets and waits anxiously by his in-box for news, especially when the process hit snags and delays.

There are slightly more Janes than Dicks in the writing world. They often bump heads in critique groups, workshops, and classrooms. Jane thinks Dick is too clinical, formal, and wastes too much time thinking and planning before writing. She is put off by his tactical approach. If Dick is her agent, she is frustrated by his demands to firm up her story structure and come up with a logline. Her feelings are hurt when she is asked to cut her darling bugaboos.

Dick thinks Jane is too wishy-washy, undisciplined, and stubbornly shortsighted when it comes to what the industry demands. He appreciates that her heart and soul went into the project, but that doesn’t move units. If Dick is her agent, he may find her work too artsy-fartsy for his taste. When he reads her work and gets to the end, he may state, “But what is the point? I don’t get it. There are lots of pages, but it doesn’t go anywhere.”

Both must push past his or her native inclination to grow and thrive in the business. If they understand their different approaches and are open to the critique, t
hey can balance and aid each other. Dick can help Jane see where her structure is weak. Jane can help Dick see where his work is soulless.

Next week, we will continue to explore the writer's temperaments.

For more tips on how to craft believable characters, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict available in paperback and E-book, and Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook, also available in paperback and E-book.

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