Last week we began studying anew the subject of “Motivation-Reaction Units”. While MRUs are not the solution to all the world’s problems, they are in fact the main solution to the problem of those annoying editors who tell you to “Show, Don’t Tell” without showing you how to do it. If you write strictly following the MRU design pattern, then it is practically impossible to “tell.” You will be automatically “showing.”
As noted, “showing” is not always your best option. However, when you want to “show,” then just write the darn MRUs and you won’t have to worry about it.
It was interesting to see Robert’s example of trying to write MRUs within the point of view of a blind character. My advice to him was to not make a special deal out of the fact that a blind character’s “motivations” will be primarily heard (some will be felt, smelled, or tasted, of course).
One of my loyal blog readers is blind, and I was hoping she might comment on Robert’s passage. I’m glad to say she did, and I thought it would be worth quoting here in full, since not all my loyal blog readers read the comments of this blog.
This response is to Robert. I’m totally blind. I use terms like “I see what you mean” and “You don’t look so good today”, (even though I get my input from my hearing). But, I went blind later in life (I was about 30). So, if your hero went blind later in life, then he will continue to use the same idioms he used earlier in life. If he was born blind, then this is more of a problem. It’s still prevalent in society to “not talk” about sighted subjects to blind children (as if they don’t know they’re blind). And those blind from birth have different ways of “analyzing” events than those who went blind later in life.
Randy sez: The point I want to highlight here is that in writing about any character, get inside that character’s head and experience the world the way they do. A blind character will experience the world primarily through hearing, but because that is their normal way of acquiring information, they probably won’t be constantly thinking “I’m hearing this rather than seeing it”. They will simply experience it. The exception would be if there is no auditory information, and if the blind character can hear other characters reacting to something they can see.
As an analogy, suppose that you have all five of your senses and you travel to a new planet where the inhabitants can see infrared light (which is invisible to us humans). You would continue to experience things perfectly normally in that world and it would rarely occur to you that you “can’t see” infrared light. You would in fact feel as if you are experiencing all there is to experience–EXCEPT when the folks on the planet are all “seeing” something in the infrared spectrum that you can’t see. Only then would you notice or care that you are “infrared blind”.
Karen posted an example from her current novel and asked for an analysis of the MRUs in it. Sean gave an analysis that was as good as any I could have given, so take a look at the comments posted on Friday and you’ll see what he had to say.
Also, author Rick Acker posted a comment thanking us for our analysis of the passage from his novel DEAD MAN’S RULE.
Tomorrow, I’ll analyze another passage for its MRU content.
Tami Meyers says
Randy, Would you analyze a passage that doesn’t contain pistols, fights, or other forms of mayhem? It seems easy to write motivation and reaction when you have action scenes, but how do you create it in a slower paced, non life-threatening situation.
I’ve tried so hard to understand MRUs and the Scene/Sequel concept, but it seems the more I learn the less I know…
Robert Treskillard says
Thank you for helping me with your advice. My character has been mostly blind for seven years, so yes, this occurred later in life. He can see smudges of light and very blurry images, which does help him get around and know some of what is happening–but the main input if auditory. Knowing he can use sighted idioms helps.
Randy, Great example of the infra-red light seeing aliens!