Monday, February 14, 2011

Creating Memorable Characters: Communicating From Valued Motivational Styles

For those of you who are new to this site you don’t know that I didn’t blog last week. For regular visitors, I’m confident you carried on fine without me. I’ve been busy working on my third novel, Black Ice, and the first draft is almost complete. Book – blog. Book – blog. Duh, it’s a no-brainer. Finishing the novel takes priority over blogging.

I’m not sure how some authors manage to spend all day at the computer but as yet I have both a physical and creative limit. When my back and my butt start aching and my brain goes more numb than is usual, I’ve finished for the day.

Additionally, I’m determined to have a life. Now that I’m off the road and don’t have to be “on” all the time trying to entertain an audience, there are many extracurricular activities that demand my attention; a body to be re-sculptured, golf to be played when the weather is warm enough and there is no snow on the ground, great meals to cook, friends with whom to dine out, books to read, and movies to watch. In comparison, writing a blog seems a chore.

Okay, I hear you. I’ve stalled long enough. It’s time to get back on task.

In the previous blogs, we examined the seven valued motivational styles associated with relationship awareness theory and the Strength Deployment Inventory , a tool which I’ve employed during my three-plus decades as an organizational consultant in Fortune 500 and government organizations and that lends itself extremely well to character development for novels. In Parts 1 through 7, I presented the basic mindset of each style and provided examples of fictional characters that demonstrate each.

In creating memorable characters it is important that each have their own unique voice. How each of our characters communicates should sound differently. They should choose words that express their unique internal points of view – their valued relating style. By this I don’t just mean sound like a Democrat or Republican, American or Saudi, male or female. We are talking about words reflecting the core internal driving force that motivates one’s behavior.

To keep today’s discussion simple, we’ll examine the language that persons representing each of the three primary motivational styles (assertive-directing, altruistic-nurturing and analytical-autonomizing) choose to express oneself. The four blended styles construct a language that depicts a composite of one of these three styles in a way that reflects their motivational style preferences.

You may recall that the assertive-directing (red) motivational style is characterized by a concern for accomplishment and for organization of people, time, money, and resources to achieve desired results. Such persons are competitive, action-oriented, risk takers who tend to be opportunistic and persuasive, like to be in leadership positions, and are always looking for a new challenge and personal advancement.

Fictional action heroes, as well as villains, tend to be Reds. Their language should reflect their get-r-done mentality. Mostly, they speak in short, crisp, bottom line-oriented dialogue. Such persons have no difficulty in asking for what they want or speaking first person. “I want.” “I need.” “I did.” “I win.” They don’t desire or possess a need to explain themselves to others because they see themselves as the cream of the crop, deserving of whatever rewards their superior performance earn. There is no time to waste explaining things. Act! Act now! Explain later – if there is time.

Reds are often verbally talented. There are times that they must use these skills to persuade others. To accurately portray this style, their arguments should be goal-oriented not feeling-oriented. Show their cleverness by crafting dialogue in which they present an argument in terms of what is in it for the other person. It is not uncommon for our fictional villains to exploit their verbal skills to browbeat or humiliate those they have bested or intend to psych-out an opponent.

A source of conflict for assertive-directing persons is listening to long, drawn-out explanations and interacting with people who aren’t assertive enough to ask for what they want. They are impatient and easily lose respect for long-winded people who have excuses for poor performance. At these times, they have no compunction about lowering the hammer.

The altruistic-nurturing motivational style is one in which the driving motivational force is a concern for the protection, growth, and wellbeing of others. Such persons are open and responsive to the needs of others, friendly, considerate, supportive, sincere, loyal, compassionate and respectful.

Blues use “I feel” interchangeably with “I think.” Both internal and external dialogue should reflect sensitivity to others and an explicit expression of emotion to complement the physical display of these traits - because allegedly good writers show don’t tell.

Since Blues are other-oriented, they are apt to express personal preferences through such phrases as “we need” or “the team would benefit from.” People who use “I” a lot in conversation tend to annoy them. Our Blue creations are likely to want to slow down the action to make sure that everyone is on board and ready to proceed. They should be thinking about how they might be of help.

Remember from previous discussions that any skill over or misused becomes a weakness. If our story involves a protagonist experiencing an emotional upheaval or overcoming a psychological obstacle, it would be appropriate to craft their dialogue initially as overly emotional, self-effacing, submissive, and displaying a lack of confidence. As the work through their internal turmoil we can reflect that growth in the words they choose.

The third primary valued motivational style is analytical-autonomizing (green). These individuals are driven by a concern that things have been properly thought out and for meaningful order being established and maintained. Our Greens are by nature introspective, objective, practical, cautious, thorough, and logical. They respect intellect and knowledge, strive to be unemotional and self-reliant individuals who pride themselves in rationality and sense of what is just and fair.

Such persons think before they speak and choose their words with extreme care. They are more likely to think about what they would say rather than actually say it. There arguments are logical, rational, and informative and presented void of an emotional component. “I think” or “the data suggest” rather than “I feel.” A clearly presented point of view is data laden and there may be a need to start at the beginning to explain concepts to others who may be intellectually and scientifically challenged.

Dialogue is more characteristically slow and deliberate unless they are having an intellectual epiphany or discussing something that is conceptually arousing to them. Then the use of long, run-on sentences may be appropriate because what they are verbalizing isn’t necessarily meant for the person who is listening. Greens may be merely trying to get all the thoughts out of their heads so they can pick and choose which ones having the most significance. Once the concept congeals and their true interest is to convey that information, it’s back to slow and cautious, well thought out sentences.

Our goal is to make every character their own person with their own unique voice.  Applying valued motivational style is a nice finishing touch.

Please feel free to send me your questions or comments. Talk with you again soon.

In the meantime, I have two thrilling novels just waiting for you to latch on to. Check out Troubadour of Peace and Embodiment of Evil on Amazon.