Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Today on the Pink Heart Society blog, I have a post about sound or silence when writing. I thought about this as a result of reading Fiona Harper's blog the week before when she talked about finding music that matched her books or even creating sound-tracks for them.

I thought it sounded like a great idea. And it still does -- if you can do it.

I can't. Music interferes with my brain when I'm writing, which surprised me at first because I'm pretty much an auditory learner.

I always learn stuff better if I hear it. I think in terms of sounds -- and when I write it's the voices of my characters I hear, and the background sounds I pick up far more than any sort of visual cues. Even "seeing" Hugh Jackman in my head doesn't work for me if I can't hear the 'voice' that would go with the man. Well, Hugh-in-a-towel works on one level, but not on getting the book written.

Once I have a character's voice, though, things flow. But until I do, nothing happens. It's like moving paper dolls around on a stage. And while I might be able to pick up songs that capture a side of a character, they have done their job if they spark that voice. They can't come with me on the trip. If they do, I get stuck.

But just working from auditory details makes a book, um, one-dimensional. Even though I'm not primarily kinesthetic or visual, I need both to round things out.

The kinesthetic isn't as hard to come by as the visual. I understand emotion. I know those pit-of-the-stomach feelings, the highs and lows of euphoria and despair. I know how they make me feel and I can mine them, even if I don't do it as readily as I do aural memories.

It's usually the visuals that give me trouble. I can tell you how snow sounds at a variety of temperatures. I can tell you how cold it feels. But as far as visuals? Well, it's white. And . . .

Exactly. When I need 'visual' details in my books I tend to have to work much harder to come up with them. A number of years ago I learned to keep notebooks about places I went that I wanted to use as settings. I didn't write down the sounds I hear. I had no trouble remembering them. But I needed a detailed list to remember the visuals.

I take a lot more photos now that I have a digital camera. And I go over them carefully when I'm writing, looking for something that will capture the details and show (I was going to say 'resonate' -- how's that for an auditory attempt at visuals?) the ambience to my readers.

I also learned to put my visually-oriented friends on my speed dial. I have one who is my source for all things visual to do with skiing and winter stuff. I have another who does glitz and glamour visuals for me. They're very tolerant of my questions, though occasionally they will say, "Um, why are you asking me? You were there, too."

Yes, but I didn't 'see' anything -- not the way they did. But I don't think they heard the snow underfoot the way I did or caught the sounds the insects made zapping against the huge spotlights at the outdoor concert.

There are some interesting tests to determine whether you are primarily a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner. I took a couple on the internet this morning which confirmed my very auditory approach, but offered suggestions on how to compensate in the other areas. If it's a topic that interests you, too, put "tests of learning styles" in Google and check out the variety of resources available.

Let me know what style you prefer!

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Blogger Kate Hardy said...

Interesting post, Anne. Apparently kinaesthetic learning is the rarest type (most common is visual). Son and I are most definitely kinaesthetic.

20 March, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hi Kate,

I knew most common was visual. According to the book I have by Nicholas Boothman (the only one I have consulted), 55% of people are visual, 30% are kinesthetic and 15% are auditory. All I know is, when it comes to visuals, I'm not good at it. Better with kinesthetic and auditory. Probably best illustrated this evening when we were walking the dogs and my husband said, "Is it raining? I think I feel a raindrop." And I said completely without thinking, "I hear something hitting my jacket." (Not the slightest notion of whether or not I could see it or was getting wet!

20 March, 2009  
Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Well I am visual which sort of surprises me. But I can do thing much easier from just reading about them, rather than listening to a lecture.

23 March, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

When it comes to "doing things" I think I'm more kinesthetic. I know the one thing I can't do is look at those rebuses that assume they need to talk to me in pictures rather than language, and get anywhere at all. I'm baffled by them. On the other hand, maps I'm very good at. So maybe we all have different degrees of each strength that we use in different situations.

23 March, 2009  

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