Elizabeth: Learning with Others

Sometimes mastering a new skill is a breeze; other times it’s like trying to swim through quicksand.

– – -Beats?

– – -Scene escalation?

– – -Conflict lock?

Mastering those basic concepts, especially in terms of my own stories, has been like trying to swim through quicksand in a full suit of armor.

We’ve blogged about all of these concepts multiple times here on the blog, I’ve attended numerous RWA sessions on them, and of course we covered them in our McDaniel romance writing classwork.  Sadly, my grip on them has been decidedly tenuous, with hit-or-miss implementation.

According to a random article I read on the internet today, the problem may not be that these concepts are beyond me, it may just be that I need to find a different learning style.  There are, according to the aforementioned article, seven styles of learning:

  • Visual (spatial) – you prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding
  • Aural (auditory-musical) – you prefer using sound and music
  • Verbal (linguistic) – you prefer words, both in speech and writing
  • Physical (kinesthetic) – you prefer using your body, hands, and sense of touch
  • Solitary (intrapersonal) – you prefer to work alone and use self-study
  • Social (interpersonal) – you prefer to learn in groups or with other people
  • Logical (mathematical) – you prefer using logic and reasoning, and systems

Although I’ve had some success with the “Aural” learning style – I learned all kinds of things that way as a kid, thanks to School House Rock – as anyone who has ever met me could probably guess, “Solitary” is my go-to learning style.

Recently however, I had a chance to shake that up a little and – gasp! – do a little “social” learning.

First was at the recent RWA conference, courtesy of Eight Lady Jeanne, who I was rooming with.  Despite her persistent efforts to get me to talk about where I am with my writing, I successfully managed to re-direct the focus on her.  We spent a lovely dinner one evening talking through two of the stories she is currently working on.  Through the process of her walking me through the stories, me asking questions, her responding . . .rinse, lather, repeat, . . . concepts started to make sense in a way that they hadn’t before when I was studying story craft.  Now Jeanne probably wished me to perdition by the end of the evening after all of my questions, but I learned a lot, not the least of which is that takes a lot of nerve to put your story out there in the light and let someone question it to death.

I had my second “ah ha!” moment recently when I was editing the first three chapters of a book-in-progress by a friend of mine who is brand-new to romance writing.  One of the chapters had a scene between the hero and heroine where he was trying to make her do something and she basically gave some token resistance and then gave in.  It occurred to me (in the middle of the night, of course) that what the scene could benefit from was escalation and conflict and whatnot.  Modifying the scene so that there was push back and escalation, with negotiation and counter-offers leading to an eventual resolution, was a way increase the tension and (I hope) strengthen the scene.  Although the hero would still successfully get his way, he wouldn’t get it without cost and the heroine would end the scene with Agency rather than in weakness, which would make her a stronger character.

I’ve gone through examples like this in writing-craft books dozens of times before and even walked through an example in my own Beat Refresher post a few months back, but it never really sunk in.   This time however I really think I’ve got it!

The shift from reading about craft elements to trying to explain those selfsame elements to someone else seems to have made all the difference.  That’s not a new concept, of course; I just hadn’t really applied it to writing before.

Now I’m off to work on my current manuscript to put this new learning in action while it’s still firmly lodged in my mind.  After that maybe I’ll try to explain Turning Points to someone – I definitely still need some clarity there.

So, what’s your preferred learning style?  Does it depend on what you are trying to learn?

4 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Learning with Others

  1. Getting scene escalation down is huge–congratulations!

    Can’t wait to see your new knowledge transformed into words.

  2. I think we learn at different levels all of the time. For example, it sounds weird, but the beats are still very kinesthetic to me at this point. I can feel when it’s done. I can feel when it clunks (which is more often than not). It’s very hard for me to be literal with the process though, and identify the problem in words, and then come up with solutions in short words. I generally have to go back and re-write the whole damn thing and try not to clunk as loudly.

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