Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guest post- Qwillia Rain- Learning Styles for Characters

It's time for another guest post to close out 2012. Let me introduce you to my friend Qwillia Rain

I met Qwillia one long weekend on the Isle of Palm, South Carolina. I met up with her again over the years at Moonlight and Magnolias.  She's a free spirit and the author of the Diablo Blanco series. A former teacher Qwillia has decided to give us a lesson today in learning styles.

Learning Styles for Characters
Even characters have to learn, so what better way to help them grow as “people” than to know how they process information and how it effects their perception of other people or situations.

I originally discovered learning styles when I attended my first RWA National Conference in Denver in 2002. I used the information in my teaching and it only made sense to apply it to my writing. So, I’ll try to make it painless to understand.

Learning is done using three elements of the mind: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. When you take information in in order to store it to your memory, it requires the use of the subconscious and unconscious as well as the conscious. The way it usually works is you take the details in through your conscious, use your subconscious to create an image, action, or words that allows your unconscious to make sense of the information and store it away to be used later.

Now that you understand the parts, here comes the next bit. There are three methods of input: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Each of your inputs apply to one of the parts, so you can be: 
  • Kinesthetically Conscious, Visually Subconscious, and Auditory Unconscious (KVA); 

  • Kinesthetically Conscious, Auditory Subconscious, and Visually Unconscious (KAV); 

  • Visually Conscious, Kinesthetically Subconscious, and Auditory Unconscious (VKA);

  •  Visually Conscious, Auditory Subconscious, and Kinesthetically Unconscious (VAK); 

  • Auditory Conscious, Kinesthetically Subconscious, and Visual Unconscious (AKV); 

  • Auditory Conscious, Visual Subconscious, and Kinesthetic Unconscious (AVK)
…and what does this mean?

A KVA learner takes in information through emotions or movement (Kinesthetic), processes it by drawing or creating a picture (Visual), and stores the data with words or sound (Auditory). Example: KVA students in a dance class, will stay completely still so they can see how the teacher demonstrates the movements and listens to the step by step instructions until they can connect the words and images before they actually move.

A VKA learner takes in information through watching (Visual), processes by movement or emotions (Kinesthetic), and stores the data with words or sound (Auditory). Example: VKA students in a dance class will watch the teacher at the same time they move through the steps slowly and talk to themselves, repeating the instructions quietly to themselves.

An AKV learner takes in information through words (Auditory), processes by movement or emotions (Kinesthetic), and stores the data by creating a picture or drawing (Visual). Example: AKV learners in a dance class will listen to the instructions (Auditory), move through the steps slowly, repeating the more complicated steps (Kinesthetic), and they will create a visual record to refer back to (Visual).

You can deduce the other three learning styles from these three.

When you look at these learning styles for your characters it means that depending on their input and parts connection, how they react to a situation is going to be different than another person who may have a different learning style. And that is a good thing, it means “conflict”.

How do different learning styles equal conflict? Well, let’s say we have a hero who is a KVA, a heroine who is VKA, and a villain who is AVK. Here’s where the conflict comes in. The hero processes information using pictures and words; he formulates plans using those pictures and his gut/emotion. The villain plans using visuals, but he rarely deals with his emotions and only when his own wants are being thwarted. He’ll often be charismatic and a smooth-talker, because words are his biggest tool. The heroine knows things instinctively, her gut tells her when things are good or bad, and she takes everything in visually, but she processes information using her emotions/feelings and words.

How does this create conflict?

Well, the hero (unless he’s hyper kinesthetic/empathic) will tend to limit his emotional responses while dealing with a known situation. He’s going to go into logic mode (VA) and focus on the plan. The heroine, on the other hand is going to be firmly in kinesthetic mode, especially if there are a lot of emotions flying around. The villain will go into charmer mode, his smooth-talking ways and ability to visualize his success will allow him to believe any lies he has to tell. The irony will be that the heroine will probably pick up on the villain’s lies before the hero does, because her subconscious kinesthetic will ping like crazy while the hero will be focused on the “image” of what the bad guy would be doing.

In a less stressful situation, in simple conversation there’s going to be more conflict, because the language each of them are going to use will not match. Kinesthetic Conscious people use “feeling” words when they talk. They use words that indicate movement, feelings, emotions, etc. Visual Conscious people use words that correspond to sight, images, pictures. Auditory Conscious people use lots of words; long explanations that run in circles without really making a point or answering a question (think politicians). This is going to put the characters at odds with one another, because the feeling/movement words from the hero, isn’t going to make sense to the heroine because there are no visuals to clue her into what he’s saying. While the villain will overload the hero and heroine with too many words that have no meaning, empty information and phrases that they’ll have to dig through to find what he really meant.

Knowing the conscious input of the characters will also give you a hint about the major setback/black moment of the story. The input of the conscious will give you the element that needs to be overloaded in order to push the character into fight or flight mode. A kinesthetic conscious hero will end up freezing, even momentarily, when his emotions overwhelm his logic (think the heroine tied to a chair with a bomb strapped to her chest and the hero freaking out emotionally) he won’t cry or yell or run around flailing his arms. He’s going to freeze and his mind is going to spin through one possible plan after another, his logic is going to try to work, but his emotions will be zinging like a pinball bouncing off the extra points bumpers, so logic will not activate.

Too much visual stimuli will freak out the visual conscious person. If you have too many images, pictures, too much movement or activity zipping around the heroine, it’ll be like a caffeine overload, she won’t know where to look or what to concentrate on.

For the villain, too many words from other people and the inability to get a word in edgewise is the most likely the best way to throw the bad guy off.

Knowing the learning styles of your characters, or establishing the learning styles of your characters, can help you in creating realistic and compelling conflicts between characters. It can give you a number of tools to ratchet up the tension between the characters and make the story into a roller coaster ride of miscommunication and frustration.

Thank you Qwillia for an informative post. I hope you'll think about teaching this as a workshop someday. 


Qwillia Rain said...

Thanks, Chudney for having me babble about learning styles. I love applying what I used to teach my students to my writing.
I'd love to teach a class on Learning Styles for Characters as well as Writers.

Chudney DeFreitas-Thomas said...

Hey Q! Thanks for stopping by last night.

La-Tessa said...

I'm with you Chudney, Q needs to get her Learning Styles for Writers workshop rolling. I was able to audit a test run she did a while back and it blew my mind. I finally understand what I thought were weird quirks are really integral in my writing process. Really taught me to respect my process and to only try out new things that complement my learning style, not hinder it.

Qwillia Rain said...

I'm glad it helped you La-Tessa, I taught the Learning Styles for Writers at the FF&P Conference in New Orleans in March, but only had one person attend, so we spent most of the time simply chatting. LOL

J.A. Rock said...

Awesome post, Qwillia! This is so interesting. I had a hero in my second book whose learning style factored heavily into the plot, but now I actually know the terminology for/details about the way his mind works!

Cassandra Gold said...

I've used learning styles in the classroom but never considered the applications to writing. Interesting blog and a very cool idea!

Qwillia Rain said...

Thanks JA and Cassandra.
I love using learning styles to mess with my characters. I also love using my own learning style as a means of helping me brainstorm and write.