Writer’s Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow is best known for his theory about human motivation, aka the hierarchy of needs. He believed that basic needs must be fulfilled before an individual can progress to higher levels. For example, an individual cannot realize their self-potential ( the highest level ) if the basic necessities of food and shelter are not met.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Anyone who’s ever taken a Psychology 101 class is familiar with the conceptualized pyramid denoting the levels.

Well, it struck me that writers have a hierarchy of needs of their own that must be satisfied  before they can hope to achieve creative greatness.

Writers hierarchy of needs

 

Physical needs: Writers don’t need much–our minds are full enough. However, coffee to awaken the Muse, snacks for feeding the Muse, a computer ( or notebook and pen in a crunch ) and the happy hormones found in chocolate are writing staples.

 

Safety: Internet connections help us research and connect with friends. With a flash drive or Cloud we rest easy knowing our masterpiece is safe from virtual viruses. Any writer losing their work or revisions to a computer crash remembers the agony of their genius vanishing like dust in the wind. ( cue “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas )

Love & Belonging: We might be solitary folk, happy retreating into our creative cave, yet we need the fellowship of FaceBook , Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We seek validation not only from other writers but from reviewers, readers, and  friends. There is safety in numbers, in belonging to groups where the written word reigns supreme and reading is revered!

Esteem: We are fragile sorts, our egos crushed daily by plot flaws, meager word count, and scenes refusing to flow. So thus we turn away from the story, casting our attentions to the Likes, Tweets, ReTweets, and hits on our social media. Sadly, they validate us, at least for the moment. And when our confidence is lifted by enough Likes and RT’s we venture back into our novel.

Self-Actualization: Having attained our needs we are now eager to plunge into the story. We conjure the Muses and force them to do our bidding. Words flow from our brain, pass the heart, and course through our fingertips. Reality vanishes and we are happy, our Zen restored.

 So should you experience the horrors of writer’s block, fear not!
It’s not you!
Your Pyramid of Writer’s Needs is not being met! 

 

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’ & Rx for Writer’s Block

Characters with Humor

This is not a post about funny characters. This is about creating character personalities based on the 4 humors.

The what?

Here’s a quick refresher course on the ancient Greek categories.

Hippocrates ( 460–370 BC) is responsible for taking an even more ancient Egyptian theory and developing it into one that categorized temperaments into 4 basic types. These personality types were attributed to an excess of certain ewww-worthy body fluids.

A surplus of:

1. Blood corresponds to a sanguine personality. The best of all the temperaments, these extroverted folks are fun-loving, carefree, optimistic, kind, caring, and loving. They are easily distracted but also forgive and forget just as quickly.

2. Black Bile is associated with melancholia. These introverted and idealistic types are prone to introspection and depression. They can also be neurotic, obsessive perfectionists. They are the quintessential brooder.

3. Yellow bile is linked to the choleric traits of aggression, decisiveness, ambition, and vengeance. These quick-tempered types are cunning and quick to blame others.

4. Phlegm is associated with phlegmatic traits. Lazy, slow, cowardly, and lack of ambition are the negative aspects of this type. Patient, docile, and peace-making are the positive aspects.

Note: Yes, one could be a balanced personality and have all the requisite amount of fluids, but what would be the sense in creating a character without flaws?

See chart at end of post for more associations.

It’s easy to find evidence of humor types in TV, literature, and film. From  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ( Ferris = sanguine; Cameron = melancholic; Sloane = phlegmatic; Jeanie = choleric)  to The Hangover ( Phil = choleric; Stu = melancholic;  Alan = sanguine;  Doug = phlegmatic) scores of characters are created that fit the 4 humor types.

Why create characters that conform to some ancient weird-gross body fluid classification? 
A good story requires:
  • a cast of characters with distinct personalities. The 4 humors help a writer “see” their characters’ strengths and flaws with more clarity.
  • interesting dialog. Knowing your characters’ type helps create authentic dialog.
  • lots of conflict. What better way to add conflict then have these personalities be at odds with one other. Ninja Turtles, anyone?  Seinfeld?
  • character growth. One type learns from the others. Whether that growth is positive or negative is determined by your plot.

Other types of categories for sussing out characters: Western astrological signs, Chinese zodiac signs, Greek/Roman gods, and the Meyer-Briggs categories.

Have fun creating your characters!

4 humors

Related links: Rock Your Writing

Dog Days of Writing

bradley at computerHas your writing gone to the dogs? Are you in need of some insPAWration?

There are days when—doggone it—writers feel like they’re workin’ like a dog with nothing to show for it.

 

 

IN THE DOG HOUSE

  • Is your manuscript on a genre leash?
  • Are you chewing on the bones of a plot devoid of meat?
  • Does the manuscript need to be groomed and the adverbs trimmed?
  • Does the diction needs a good brushing with tone?
  • Does the manuscript need a dose of Frontline weak verb repellent?
  • Are you trying to breath life into an old dog manuscript instead of romping away with a new one?
  • Dog-tired with editing?
  • Growling at a plot snafu?

bradley readingBEST IN SHOW

  • Feeling like you have a dog’s chance of getting an agent?
  • Not getting any ” hot diggity dog” replies after sending all those queries?
  • Feel like you’re barking at the moon when you send those queries?
  • Are you showing a dogged determination to have your query and ms be the pick of the slush litter?
  • Are you barking up the wrong agent tree?
  • Are you sniffing around for the best way to build your author platform?

AT THE DOG PARK

  • Do you have a bone of contention with someone in your critique group?
  • Are you still licking your wounds over a beta reader’s comments?
  • Did you join a writing group expecting belly rubs and “atta boys” only to play fetch with another pup’s manuscript?
  • Feeling a breed apart from all the authors and wanna-be’s?

THE POUND

  • Suspicious of writers making up shaggy dog stories about their successes?
  • Feeling meaner than a junk yard dog after being bitten by a troller?
  • Are you inadvertently biting the hand that feeds you with posts and tweets that insult your readers ( or potential readers) ?
  • Is your tail between your legs after a social media gaffe?
  • Are you guilty of begging for Facebook likes and Twitter retweets?

Howl if you must, but it’s time to put on the dog, play “Who Let the Dogs Out” and let loose the dogs of writing!

A bark of thanks goes to my daughter for sending photos of her very cooperative poodle!

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’ and Rock Your Writing

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Candy, Clarity, & Creativity

candy
Standing in front of candy-filled shelves is a good place to contemplate, because therein lies every writer’s story.

 

A WRITER’S TALE

 

Once upon a time, you heard the
snickers of your friends upon announcing you were writing a novel.
They didn’t realize that writing provides your creative
 lifesaver
 and that when you gaze up into the
milky way you dream of plot and character.
But hey, you’re just one of many writing

nerds

striving to live the dream.

Each writer’s path is different. Some stop and start, while others experience the 
 skittles
of plot flaws and banal characters. Attending writer’s club meetings or conferences helps because you take advice from savvy

smarties

and learn from the mistakes of 

airheads

Back home, in the glow of the LCD screen, you practice the craft of writing, making sure to give your story that creative

nestles crunch

Months later, you hand your manuscript over to a beta  reader only to have a creative meltdown, your

starburst

as you are told that plot holes and pacing flaws riddle your manuscript.

More months pass while you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite some more. Only after wiping the sweet sweat of editing from your brow do you believe your manuscript is

good and plenty
with conflict and characters. Now it’s time to take the publishing plunge.
With anxiety you use your trembling
butterfingers
to send that first query.
And you wait…

twix

the time of querying and the
whoppers of rejections you  manage to carry on undaunted. Maybe you even begin writing your second novel.

But in the end, long weekends spent in writing caves, dark nights obsessing over plot, months of research, and countless hours of slavish devotion  are done for one reason. It is the hope that your words will provide delight to a reader.  Because, after all, isn’t that a real writer’s 

payday Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’

Character Morality

KohlbergWriters love creating characters. Personality. Physical Appearance. Dress. Mannerisms. Dialog: It’s what we do!  It’s how authors bring characters to life.

But did you stop to think about your characters’ morality, or more specifically, what level of morality they have achieved? Creating a character with moral issues, flaws, or strengths can add depth and understanding, often justifying and explaining why the character did what they did.

Let’s look at Kohlberg’s Levels of Moral development:

Pre-Conventional Morality

Stage 1: Obedience & Punishment Orientation:  Age: 9 & under. Standard of behavior is determined by adults and the physical consequences of following and breaking the rules. Child avoids punishment by good behavior. Child believes that if a person is punished they must have done something bad.

Stage 2. Individualism and Exchange. Child realizes authorities ( parent, teachers etc) may have more than just one right view and that different individuals will have different viewpoints.

Conventional Morality

Stage 3: Good Interpersonal RelationshipsAge: Most adolescents & adults. Moral standards are internalized by those authority figures the individual deems right/moral. These authority figures are not questioned. Any and all reasoning conforms to the group’s perspective. The individual is good because they want others in the group to view them as good. They need the approval of their group.

Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order. The rules of society are important to the individual. Rules are obeyed to maintain law/rules and to avoid guilt.

Post-Conventional Morality: 
Individual judgment is based on self-chosen principles, and moral reasoning is based on individual rights and justice. This occurs in only 10–15% of adults and not before the mid-30s.

 

Stage 5. Social Contract and Individual Rights. ONLY 10-15% OF ADULTS REACH THIS STAGE and rarely before their mid-30s. The individual idealizes that while laws/rules serve the good of the majority, the laws/rules can also work against specialized groups/minorities. Thus, Right and Wrong are not clear cut.

Stage 6: Universal Principles: Individual understands that justice, equality, and human right issues are not law/rule governed. These individuals will break rules/laws to defend the greater moral principles even if if it means imprisonment or society’s disapproval. Very few reach this stage.

6 ethical typesNow let’s look at 6 ethical types. This is courtesy of The UK Times.

Philosophers are good at solving tough ethical dilemmas. They will break the rule/laws if a higher principle is at stake.

Angels  believe being good to others is important. They give people the benefit of the doubt and give second chances rather than stand on principle. 

Enforcers enforce the rules. They often lack empathy

Judgers believe moral principles are important. They’re good at solving tricky moral principles, yet tend to lack empathy.

Teachers do the right thing for humanity because it’s the right thing to do. They may break the rules if they think they know what’s best.

Guardians believe in doing what they are told to do because it’s the best course of action for everyone. Greater moral ideals are rarely considered.

Does your story require delving deeper into your character’s morality?
  • What is your character’s ethical type?
  • Where do they fall on Kohlberg’s moral development scale?
  • Are your characters acting inconsistently with their type or moral level?
  • What self-revelation causes them to change?
  • Is the change good or bad?
  • Do you need to flesh out a character’s morality?
  • Will you be able to convince a reader of their epiphany?

Related links: Readin’ & Writin’

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