Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISTP: How I write

Charity over at funkymbtifiction has been exploring the writing processes each the different personality types uses.  This blog was originally a writing blog, though it's mostly switched to movies. Since I've been kind of burnt out on movie review blogging lately (hence the large gaps between post, sorry about that), I thought I might start sharing more about the writing side of my life here.  This seemed a good place to start.

My sister and I recently became fascinated with the personality types defined by the Meyers Briggs tests, particularly when we found they helped explain why we did things a certain way, and why some of our family members with occasionally inexplicable behavior did what they did.  Learning about the cognitive functions associated with each helped make sense of things and helped us learn to change how we communicate sometimes.  

I am an ISTP.  It took me a little bit to figure this out, (even though it was really obvious in retrospect), and it was the funkymbtifiction site, and her comparisons of how the personality types work that helped clarify things.  She also does an incredible job typing fictional characters and providing reasons for choosing that type.  Some famous fictional ISTP characters are Indiana Jones, James Bond, Aragorn...  (Indy was my nickname for years, and I still get called that by my sister sometimes.) 

But anyway, on to writing.  How do I, as an ISTP, write?


First:  reasons I write.  I have always written stories to escape, to do in fiction all the exciting things I wasn’t allowed to do in real life.  In high school, I wanted to be a submarine captain more than anything.  Even applied to Annapolis.  Only to find out women weren’t allowed to be on submarines at that time.  There went my sub captain career dreams.  So, I wrote stories about submarines instead.  My favorite author, and the most influential writer on my own writing, is Alistair MacLean.  His characters had the skills I wanted and they got to do everything I wish I could do in real life.  If he could write exciting thrilling stories about spies and make a living, then so could I.  If I couldn't becomes James Bond in real life, then I could write stories about spies.  I’ve been writing stories to entertain since the fifth grade.  I’ve been daydreaming forever.

Writing habits:  I don’t know if it’s laziness or if I’d just usually rather be outside hiking or doing something, but I have had to build discipline habits for writing regularly.  I’ve been pretty successful at this over the years.  Deadlines are my best friend.  I am most productive right before a story is due, and I haven’t yet missed a deadline.  I also do really well at Nanowrimo because it’s such a rush.  I’ve successfully completed seven nanos, though I haven’t done it for a few years because my needs are different now than they used to be.  Nano itself, I found, is not hard to complete, but I’m at a point in my writing career where my first draft needs to be on track and usable from the get-go.  If I don’t have a project that I understand well enough to keep on track for the full 50,000 words in one month, then I would end up wasting my time.  Time is way too precious to throw away on reaching the necessary word count just because.

I am both plotter and pantser.  I have to know certain things before I can begin a story (characters, character needs, setting, the ending, at least a couple carrot scenes) and I will plot things out in rough terms.  Too much plotting in advance and then I’ve already lived the story and have no great need to write it.  At the same time, as I get ready to write each day, I tend to think through/plot out the scene I’m writing that day.  A scene isn’t a scene unless something changes by the end of it, so this is just my own personal double-check to make sure I know what the scene is supposed to accomplish, and what the twist is in that scene before I begin, otherwise, I’m not ready to write that scene yet and I need to do some more thinking.  But, there’s still much room for surprises, and I have yet to write a book where the characters didn’t surprise me with unexpected actions or reactions.  The plot will often surprise me, but usually the development is something I’ve subconsciously set up and just haven’t realized until I get there.  I almost always have to know how the book ends, and that ending rarely changes on me through the course of writing the book.  That ending is usually the reason I'm writing the book in the first place, to get to that special point.

I’m a very visual writer.  The story I want to tell unspools like a movie in my head, complete with camera angles, cuts, etc.  I’ve read stories back that I wrote years ago, and I still see the scenes with the original “camera” angles.  My writing is usually described by others as visual, as well.  At the same time, I usually have to be able to get inside the head of the character’s point of view I’m writing.  I have to feel what they’re feeling in order to tell the story the way I want to be able to tell it.  Capturing the emotions is extremely important to me.  I was quite verbose in my youth, but my writing these days is concise and as tight as I can make it.  I have learned to say more with less words.

I have only written fanfic for two television shows, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Combat!.  I write fanfic to give myself more episodes of my favorite show.  Brand new adventures.  I have ZERO desire to explore parts of existing episodes, fill in holes, or answer questions episodes left unanswered.  I really don’t care to explore what a character might have been thinking in Z episode when he made that horribly wrong decision.  I don’t like reading those type of fanfics either because they mess with my concept of the original episode.  Once an ep (or movie) is shown, that’s it.  That’s how it goes.  Why would you want to change or add to it or fill in gaps?  I don’t understand this need.

I do not deal well with symbolism and am a literal reader and writer.  Do not make me guess what happens at the end of a story or I will get pissed off.  I was very good in English and literature class, except when I was asked to analyze the meaning of something.  Oh man, torture.  1) I don’t care!  2) I have a very hard time thinking about a story in those terms.  I can give you plot analyses, character analyses (looking at character motivation is much easier than symbolism/theme), but story as metaphor or things like that... I’m outta there.

I do not like to write or read or watch mysteries, either, mostly because they encourage a reader to guess and figure out the mystery with the protagonist, and I don’t want to guess or figure out anything.  Suspense is fine, mystery is not.  I want action and excitement, not whodunnits.  My goal as a writer is to provide escape to the reader, to take them on a wild adventure with people they care about, and to keep them up until two in the morning to find out what happens. 

These days, I mostly write fantasy (short stories, novellas, and novels), although due to commitments to various anthology series, I’ve written a surprising amount of horror short stories.  I’m not actually a fan of horror, so I’m not quite sure how that happened!  My fantasy stories tend to be dark, suspenseful, heroic, and violent.  I have no problems hurting or killing off even my most beloved characters.  I suffer no pangs of guilt about making my characters’ lives as miserable as the plot requires.  Rather the opposite, I’m afraid.  No character is safe.  However, mayhem and destruction must serve the story the same way romance does, or anything other part of the plot.  I do have quite a few themes that matter personally to me, and I tend to revisit those in my stories.

I also have no problem with criticism, and I need my beta readers really to tear my stories apart.  I do not take critiques of my stories personally.  I don’t feel like my baby is being attacked.  I won't cry myself to sleep.  Everything can be improved, but I can’t fix my story if no one points out that glaring logic gap in chapter 12.  If that means I have to rewrite all subsequent chapters, I am soooooo fine with that!  If the ending doesn’t work, tell me!  I can just rethink and make it better.  Nothing is more annoying than a beta reader unwilling to be honest and give it to me straight because they’re afraid of hurting my feelings.  Dude, my feelings can’t be hurt that way.  They can be hurt in plenty of other ways, but not when someone’s trying to give me info to make something better.  (I finally have the best beta reader ever, so this isn’t a problem anymore, but it used to be before I met her!)


(very similar to my first typewriter)

13 comments:

  1. This is great. Could you submit this to funky for me, using the submit page (and the relevant portions)? :)

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    1. Thanks. I'm really looking forward to seeing the differences. I just attempted to submit... hopefully it worked. LOL I'm not the most fluent user with tumblr.

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    2. Worked perfectly. :)

      I'm a little envious of you not minding criticisms of your writing. The benefits of dominant Ti! :)

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    3. And I've had to learn to be very very careful in how I critique other people's stories to avoid hurting people's feelings.... It took me FOREVER to realize most writers were not like me in the criticism area.

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  2. 1. New header! Love the font.

    2. It never ceases to fascinate me how similar our processes are, and how different. The camera angles thing -- so me. Not wanting to be tied to an outline -- so me. Taking all story criticism impersonally and dispassionately -- so NOT me. No problem hurting or killing off favorites -- so NOT me. Fascinating.

    Also, love the Magneto shot.

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    1. It is fascinating. I might have been slightly misleading on outlines, because I can't work without one and I am tied to it. It's just not very detailed. But like with then novel... I keep separate mini outlines on each character, so there's a Lenzky outline, and one for Reece and Robert. I usually have about 2-4 scenes outlined for each character ahead of where I currently am writing. If I don't do that, I would just blunder about, but if I know in 3 scenes I've got X happening, then I can lead there in the scenes I'm writing currently. Where I've gotten stuck so far has been because I don't know yet what happens a couple scenes down the road for that character. (Then people like Garrett show up and grin and cause trouble.)

      So, I gotta have something outlined, but it isn't the whole book, and it grows as I go. But without it... I go nowhere at all.

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    2. Yes, I think I'm more of a pantser than you are. I do need to know how it ends, and have Scenes to work toward, but I almost always have wastelands between them where it's all unknown until I get there. Writing fiction is a journey for me.

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    3. Yeah, I'm sure you are. You'll start writing a scene without knowing where it's going, right? I can't do that anymore. However, I still have swathes of upcoming novel where I don't know what happens and won't until I reach those parts. But when I get there, I'll figure it out before I actually write those scenes.

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    4. With FC, I did find I write a lot faster if I "watch" the scene all the way instead of just the next little bit, but yes, I'll still jump in without knowing everything or even much if I need to. For instance, I'm still not sure what's going to replace the hole I'm creating, but I trust the story -- it's there. I just have to let it play out.

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    5. You know, I think for me that's the best part of writing: having those holes and then watching them mysteriously, magically, wonderfully just fill in when the time is right. That and having characters take over and lead you an unexpected, but oh so right, directions.

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    6. Indeed. Those moments of things just slotting into place... magical.

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  3. Every now and then I take that Myers/Briggs test and each time I score a INFJ. Sigh, wonder if that will ever change. LOL.

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    1. Hee. The online tests are definitely not the most accurate, that's for sure, so perhaps that is not your type, although sounds like it's a consistent result, at least. :-D

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