Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Logic Versus Intuition: I Want to Believe

Last week, I showed my more analytical side, so I thought it was only fair to show you my other side. I feel a lot like Mulder-Scully mashed up, and there is always a struggle between my more rational self and the part of me that really believes anything is possible.

To illustrate this, I'd like to share with you something strange that happened to me this week.

I was playing evil princesses with my youngest, and she grabbed her Sonic the hedgehog plush toy from the bed. I lied down on the floor (a little tired from my late night of writing) listening to her playing with her Sonic toy. But when she came and sat down by me, she brought over a different toy.

I continued playing with her until lunch time. At that point, she started looking for Sonic, but can't find him. She asked me to help, and I look with her too, but he's not there. I saw her play with him, and I'm positive she didn't leave the room, but he's not there. But it's lunch time, so I promised to look for him later.

The next day, Sonic still was not found, but I knew he had to be in that room. My oldest started counting her money to see if she has enough to buy a new Sonic toy for her little sister (She’s such a sweety). My youngest was teeming with frustration, and I knew if I asked her one more time where she put the toy, she would cry. So I decided to really clean their room.

Three hours later, I've organized their closet, gone through their dresser, tore their beds apart and put them back together and gone through every box and bin in their room. Even moved out furniture and looked behind the curtains. I've looked in every conceivable place for that toy.

So I moved on to the rest of the house, but I know he was in that room. Still I searched the entire house. Sonic was nowhere to be found.

It is now five days later, and still no sign of him.

My Scully side is frustrated and completely exhausted, so now my Mulder side takes over.

Did Sonic get abducted by invisible aliens? Did the evil princesses come to life and shove Sonic out the window like in Toy Story? Or did gremlins living under the bed quickly snatch the toy, or worse the rats of Nimh? Shudder. Did all of Sonics electrons spontaneously shift to the moon?

I know these explanations are ridiculous, but I don’t know what else to think. As sure as I've been about anything, I know he never left that room.

Now I know what you all are thinking because I'd be thinking the same thing. In fact I can almost see the look on your face. It is the same look my loving family gave me when I told them this story right before they launched into the logical questions, "Are you sure she was playing with Sonic? Are you sure she didn't leave the room? Are you sure she didn't take Sonic with you when you went to pick up kid #1 from school? Are you sure you looked everywhere? He'll show up. He has to be there somewhere."

My rational, Scully side agrees with them and you, but my Mulder side can't help but wonder. As much as we, the human race, know, we don't know everything.

I know this is a silly (but true) story, and I by no means wish to convince you that my daughter’s toy was sucked into some other dimension or something like that. I still expect him to show up. I hope he will so that the Universe can makes sense again, and I won't have to buy a new toy.

But we have all experienced things like this, a disconnect between what we know must be rationally true and what we feel is true. I don't think you can exist on this world and not experience something like this at some time.

So what do you do when all logical explanations fail you? Do you doubt yourself? Wonder if you imagined the whole thing? Do you question your memories? Which is a logical thing to do, memories are far from perfect.

Or do you trust that part of you that just knows what you saw, experienced or felt was real?

I am a person of science and a person of faith.

I've learned to embrace my Scully and Mulder sides. I rely heavily on both those sides of me in life and in writing, and even though it drives me crazy sometimes, I wouldn’t want to be any other way.

For me, I need both parts to be the writer I want to be.

Scully strengths
Plots-Characters need to behave rationally and realistically. To me the plot is one big puzzle, and I need to use logic to figure out how to put the puzzle together.

World-building- My worlds are built around the story. So I have to think very logically about what kind of world would this story take place in and what kind of world would add more challenges or enhance the plot. I also do a lot of research (although not enough), and think hard about how to apply that research in a realistic way.

Description- I’ve always struggled with description. The only way I can write it is to picture in my head what the place or person looks like and try to describe it. It takes a big conscious effort on my part to get the right details in place.

Action-I have to choreograph my fight scenes, luckily I have a husband who knows a bit about fighting to help. I can’t just come up with these on the top of my head. But even the small actions take a lot of thought. I have to think deeply about what I want to convey by the action and what type of movements fit the characters.

Mulder strengths
-I never think about what I should write. I never try to write the market or honestly worry about my target audience. I write the stories I feel compelled to write. I don’t ever question it.

Characters-As I’ve blogged about before, my characters just seem to show up. If my characters feel off, I think about their motivations and back story until they feel right. This is all very intuitive, and I just go with it.

Dialogue-Scully is a little involved here since I go into each scene with a goal, and I do logically think about what these characters would say, but for the most part my intuitive side takes over. If the dialogue feels off, instead of analyzing why, I usually start over at a different spot or using a different angle and rework the dialogue until it feels right. So this could be a half and half, but I think this is a little more on the intuitive side.

Emotion-Scully gets no part in this. I do think critically on how to convey the emotion through action, but what the characters feel and why is all intuitive. There are times when I read a scene, and I can just feel that I got the emotions on the page the way I wanted to, and that truly is magical to me (I wish it would happen more often). I don’t think I could ever achieve that using logic.

This is how I’ve managed to make my Scully and Mulder sides work together in harmony. Honestly, I need them both.

So how about you in your writing? Are you more logical, intuitive, or a crazy combination of both?



  1. Sonic is still lost? He wont show up until you buy a new one. That is just way it works. Like when it never rains until you just washed your car. mm

  2. I think we need to start a blog pool on where Sonic will show up. My kids lose a lot of toys behind their beds, but it sounds like you looked there. In my house it would be either the hamper or inside a larger toy, like the garbage truck. I have put a LOT of legos through the wash.

    I struggle a lot with finding the balance between logic and intuition. Lately I've found that a very time-consuming way to integrate the two is going back to first-person. In 3rd person I tend to get lost in trying to plot out the action, but I'm not as connected to the characters' motivations and reactions - which damages not only the emotional integrity of the story, but also the logic. So when I'm lost, I switch POV for a while. Then I know at least *one* character makes sense ;) Great post! I'm going to be analyzing my Mulder/Scully balance now.

  3. Oh my goodness, Sarah! I'll never forget the time I tried to write in first person present tense. I couldn't figure out how to go back! It messed up my writing for months. And the editing...well, we won't even go there. You are a brave woman.

    MaryAnn, I'm betting you'll find a secret passageway underneath your little one's bed. It only opens when you move several books into just the right position. Sonic got left behind last time your princess went to the castle.

    1. Melanie, my WIP started out in first person (past tense), which comes more naturally to me. Switching back and forth when I get stuck, though, is a tactic born of desperation and not one I could ever actually recommend :)

  4. Writing in first person can be a powerful tool for me to connect with a character (or even third person from their perspective). But I always make sure to do it in a separate file, so that I don't confuse myself or the main narrative. I have found that I like deep third person POV best.

    For me, the process of writing has been taking my scattered intuitive side and learning how to make it work in a logical fashion. I suppose it's been more like bringing those two sides together and getting them to work in concert. I think the closer I get to harmonizing the two, the better my work will be.

  5. Update, Sonic has been found by my brilliant mother. He was in the pillowcase. I tore everything off the bed, but I didn't even think of looking in the pillowcases.

    But Melanie, I like your explanation the best. Maybe my little girl brought it back from the castle last night. :)

  6. I also struggle with my concrete side and what just feels right. I think when making a decision trusting my intition is more powerful and more often right. Except then I wonder is it really intition or just what I want to be true or am I just crazy. Or worse yet there is no intition and I am left on my own. I think Maryann if you tap into this conflict with one of your charactors I think you will have a winner of book. I am glad sonic was found. I never found my stuffed tiger and I always wondered where he went.

  7. I think the logical side of me writes better stories, but the emotional side of me writes stories I actually care about... but that don't always makes sense, or contain plot holes. For me I write using my Mulder side, and edit with my Scully side. If I'm too logical, then I get bored, because I know what has to happen.


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