Friday, 24 February 2012

Representation and Conflict

This past few days, I have mostly been distracted from writing ... thinking about how people represent the world...
It's clear we all see the world in different ways and although I (obviously) often think my way is best, even I admit this might limit me. Apart from blinding me to the possibilities of alternative perspectives which might help me through when I'm stuck, I also think I need to consider the idea of alternative perspectives when I am crafting characters. If the key to good fiction is conflict and I know conflict generally arises from people understanding things differently (personal conflict from people not seeing things the way I do!) then, when I'm crafting my characters, I need to think carefully about how they see the world and make sure they understand the world in different ways in order to establish points of conflict?
PLEASE do get back to me if you think I am seriously on the wrong track with this!
I was recently at an NLP training thing, (Neuro Linguistic Programming anyone?) It's the 'linguistic' bit that gets my attention, of course. It's all ALWAYS about the language!
Have you ever said started a sentence with 'don't' to a child only to have them do the exact thing you were trying to ensure they didn't? NLP explains this by reminding us that people (and children in particular) are unable to process a negative at the beginning of a sentence. Who knew?!!
Apart from having the potential to help us phrase things in such a way as to increase the possibility of people listening and acting in the ways in which we want them to, NLP also classifies a range of representational systems which, it argues, are evident in people to a greater or lesser extent in some of the key phrases they use.
NLP is not without it's critics but for the purposes of my thinking here I'm going to work with it...
Basically, we are all predisposed to represent the world in particular ways, its NOT fixed but we can say that someone who uses the phase 'I see' to concur agreement is evidencing a predisposition for a visual representation preference.
There are four main categories:
* Visual or Seeing and likely to use phrases like; 'I see what you're saying' or 'I get the picture.'
* Auditory or Hearing and likely to use phrases like; 'I like the sound of that' or 'That rings a bell.'
* Kinaesthetic or Feeling and likely to use phrases like; 'I follow my gut instinct' or 'There are obstacles to overcome.'
* Auditory Digital = Self Talk and likely to use phrases like; 'That makes sense.' or 'I'd like to consider how that works.'
When dealing with someone is difficult and you just don't seem to be able to understand where they're coming from, it's very likely you have opposing representational preferences.
I don't 'get' high heels - they are impractical, painful, narrow casing for my wide feet is never going to be the comfortable option and I wear shoes to walk - to get from one place to another. How can I do that teetering on spikes? I accept they elongate the figure, enhance shapely legs, which is why I have a couple of pristine pairs in my shoe collection that are rarely worn. I wear slippers around the house and for the most part I wear Wellies when I step outside. Sometimes Wellies won't do; work, a meeting, lunch with friends, going out for dinner - in all these cases I have to wear something else. But I am all too aware that there will always be walking involved, possibly with a little less control and decorum as a result of too many glasses of wine. I need shoes that are comfortable and able, with minimum fuss, to get me from where I am to where I need to be. High heels just won't do it! I'd like to look nice too, a bit of a heel is useful to add a bit of height and makes me stand better but when I am thinking about getting dressed, I am mainly doing so with what's in store for the day/evening in the forefront of my mind and decisions are made on the capacity my clothes and shoes have to get me through it.
Kinaesthetic representation dominates for me, its all about how it feels and how I will feel with decisions I make and have to live with. Thus, I find it difficult to connect with people whose perspective is dominated from a visual representation - they are far less interested in how something feels, for them it's about how things look. I know these people, they're the ones who have the capacity to make me feel scruffy and inferior by just looking at me!
I wonder to what extent our dominating representational systems impact on us as readers and writers...
Do I feel more comfortable with writers who are predisposed to represent the world in ways that are similar to my own? I think I probably do...
When I am writing, am I more likely to represent characters in ways which reflect how I internally represent the world? I think I probably am...
I did a test to 'assess' how I tend to represent the world, kinaesthetic scored equally high with Auditory Digital. I give my characters a lot of self talk, this is typical of the auditory/digital - LOTS of self talk, maybe all writers have this as a dominating system???
In order to build a range of complex characters I need to be able to engage with the world in different ways to allow them to do so... Although I know my way of seeing the world is right and high heels just plain wrong! I do concede that the world would be a far poorer landscape if it were only populated by people who appreciate the world as I do - where would the conflict come from? And without the conflict where would the good stories come from???
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. That's fascinating! I think I'm a visual person with a touch of kinaesthetic...I use the phrase 'I get that' a lot! I also work best with visuals.
    Interestingly since reading your post, it points out to me that visuals are more important to me than I'd thought. Loved your metaphor with the heels...I love pretty things and probably worry more about how I look and what I'm surrounded with than I should!
    Does this affect how we write? My writing is hugely descriptive and imagery plays a a big role. I thought this was how everyone writes, but maybe we all write using different senses?

    Did you take the Vark Test?
    We've had trouble with my son's work at school, so my older daughter told me about the Vark Test:
    It's a list of questions which then show you your preferred method of learning. It really helped to find he was visual/kinaesthetic, (like I am) helped us to work out the best ways to help him to revise.

    Your post has really made me think, fascinating!

  2. Hi Lisa, I am really pleased you found the post interesting... I've done quite a lot of work on learning styles as a teacher myself and supporting teachers' professional development.. Although not without its critics it is fascinating stuff and does give us a framework to think about ourselves and, where appropriate, our learners but this is the first time I've thought about it with reference to my writing and I really think it will help me be more open when writing characters...

    Although I don't think I've done the test you specifically mention (although I WILL be checking it out - thanks for the link) I've done a range of tests over the years. Interestingly (perhaps?!!) I tend to come out as a visual/auditory learner whereas the post refers to a test I did as part of a leadership course I'm studying, specifically looking at how we prefer to re-present the world to ourselves - where I've come out digital/kinaesthetic ... I'm not even going to START to unpick why the difference (or well maybe I will ...!!!)

    Thanks again for having a read and taking time to comment - hopefully I haven't got you as distracted with this as I've been myself the past couple of weeks, the words still need to go one in front of the other on the page whatever the thinking behind them!!!

    MrsT xx