Here’s a quiz, however, that will actually help you with your writing. It was constructed by Dr. Katherine Ramsland, author of more than fifty books ranging from vampires to serial killers to creativity, and who holds graduate degrees in forensic psychology, clinical psychology, criminal justice, and philosophy.
Published on her popular "Shadow Boxing" blog at Psychology Today, the quiz assesses your “OQ,” or observational quotient, and places you on a scale of inward to outward focus. Knowing which you gravitate toward helps you identify your natural strengths as a writer, and allows you to see where you should probably focus revision efforts.
The ability to observe one’s surroundings, including the people in it, and to understand what the details show, is observational intelligence. We each have an OQ, but the truth is that people oriented in an interior direction have to work harder at it than people with an external orientation. They can easily miss a lot.
I tell writers that knowing this about ourselves, especially if we’re what I call “Innies,” is important information. If we want to decorate our scenes and develop how our characters appear to others, we need to observe comprehensively. To some, this comes naturally; others must actively initiate outward attention.This quiz will help you in your relationships as well—as a matter of fact, I had to push my husband out of my head as I answered some of the questions.
Number one, for example, which asks us to rate how true the following statement feels:
I am alert to the environment around me.
My husband, who scored 23, is an outie: he is much more attuned to observing the outer world than I am, so is likely to naturally insert more physical description and sensory detail in his writing. With a score of 13, I am much more inwardly focused. I will reach for the inner conflict and emotional turning points before I ever get around to anchoring all that in a world of real sensations.
At a recent writing retreat I hosted, participants had scores ranging from 8 to 30! Knowing this will only help us be better writers.
The action list for #8’s revisions would be to ground the character in the real world through connection to setting, and make sure to add in plenty of sensory images.
The action list for #30’s revisions would be to make sure all that lush description actually serves an inner arc that moves the character through the story.
I won’t write more because I want you to go take the quiz. You'll find it here:
Are you an innie, or an outie? Report back!
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service, and the author of novels The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy (May 2015, both by Sourcebooks). Her monthly series, "Turning Whine into Gold," appears at Writers in the Storm. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.