Friday, 25 May 2012

Zipping it, and Listening - working out Character traits

Using Listening Skills in order to Write in Unique Characters

Some people talk a lot. Others listen a lot. Most people are mainly one or the other. Both traits have their attraction. Usually opposites attract - as always, but as always - not for long. They can get bored of each other, and quickly go their separate ways.

But if you are looking for a way to learn about real life characters. Read on.

In communication, we need both in more-or-less, equal measures. Some say you have one mouth and two ears, and therefore we should use them in the correct proportions. There is some value in that advice, though hard for the natural talker. Because that would require more listening than talking ...which is near impossible.

I'm a talker on balance. But one of the benefits of age combined with intelligence, is that we learn as we mature. And I have learnt the value of listening more than talking. Although it is no easy feat, as talking comes naturally for me. Listening is hard work ....and could become a tad boring.

But for some years now, I have had some breakthrough, allbeit gradual. And I am pleased to have made any  improvement in any area of life.

However, I have another motive for listening.  

It has to do with writing.

Looking for character traits, in order to write in unique characters.

When you talk without listening, you don't usually learn anything new. I like to learn new things. Learning from books, other written material, films are all ways. But they are secondary ways. Not first hand.

Listening in conversation is not just another way of learning, it is primary and first hand. 

Learning directly from conversation is most valuable. It is holistic. And organic, in that we sift and add naturally while processing the information. In conversation, we are learning directly from another person, who is not a tutor. Not an academic. Not a professional.

The information in conversation is fresh. It is new. It is first hand. It is naturally monitored by our own brain processing the information. That makes it full of our own natural input, because we may knowingly or unknowingly, sift out what we don't like.

Ok, it has bias. And that can be a flaw in this method of gaining information.

But wait! There is purpose to this.

What is the difference between our own bias and that of some academic? There will always be some bias in information we get...from whoever. The thing is, in crafting a novel, we are the creator of that work, and the creator of our characters.

Therefore our own bias is allowed. Why should we have the bias and prejudice of any other? 

To this end, bias in conversation can be positive and beneficial.

If we give good feedback to the person we are listening to, and positive body language, we gain so much from the talker. Just by our listening in this way, the talker talks. They tell you more. And you form a rounded view of this character.

I am not saying that we should make a habit of treating everyone we meet in this way. Not at all. But how else can writers create interesting characters if not based on a combination of characters we come across in life?

We want our characters to be rounded. Three dimensional and human. Mind, body and spirit. Even paranormal, supernormal characters are based on very human characteristics, although exaggerated.

Which is why, listening is so important. We pick up not just information and chatter, but character traits, which help us to form our rounded, three dimensional characters. And they are not that easy to form in a whole novel. Beware - half formed characters can be most annoying to the reader. I run a reading group, and I know the annoyance.

For this end, when we listen, we should listen actively. The talker needs it in order to progress a  conversation of value. We need to respond actively and positively. Both are important.

Any form of body language - legs crossed towards the talker, smiles, nods, eye contact,
as well as small verbal interjections and hums of agreement - are all positive and active.

When we do this, we get the best from the talker, the informer, the person from whom we are learning about character. If we don't, we thwart our own learning process about unique characters. Because there is nothing more soul destroying to an intelligent talker, than a passive listener. Bored listeners are a no-go anyhow! The conversation withers.

The talker wants some response from them to know that their streams of words are not falling on dumb, or deaf ears.

If you have read this post, let me know what you think! Leave me a comment. 

Are you a talker or a listener? 

Are you one of the flexible few who are able to do both as the situation arises?

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