Friday, July 4, 2014

Innie or Outie? A Quiz Actually Helpful to Writers

If you are a writer on Faceboook, you’ve had the opportunity to take a plethora of quizzes. Which Disney princess are you? What is your prostitute name? Which U.S. state should you really be from?

Amusing? Perhaps. Creative time-wasters? Down to the last one.

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.

Ramsland writes:
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.

Sometimes, I thought, so I gave myself a “1”. Seriously, I do sometimes notice the darnedest things! For example, I just noticed our garage door was open, and I thought, "Did my husband leave it that way all night?" My husband, however—who must corral me with his arm every time we leave a hotel room, because I’ll be heading the wrong direction toward the elevator—would have given me a "0".

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.

21 comments :

  1. I'm a "mix of interests, with some natural attunment to your environment, so you can improve your OQ quickly with active reminders to yourself to pay attention."

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    1. Sounds like you're well balanced, Janice. Sounds like a few Post-its will do the trick!

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  2. I'm laughing at this before even doing the quiz. I think I'll probably score a 1, if I'm lucky ;-) Debby Harris and I have been having conversations that go something like:

    Debby: Your outdoor narrative backdrops are a bit sketchy when it comes to landscaping and perspective. Try adding some description.

    Me: They're in a forest. There are trees... and stuff. You know. It's a forest.

    Debby: I’d like to see you layer in more sensory description to help us share what the characters are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling.

    Me: They see trees. They hear... dialogue! I'd rather do dialogue. Smell... uh...Next. Taste: huh? They're not eating anything. Next. Feelings: Yeah, I can do feelings. Can I do feelings in dialogue? Cool.

    Debby: *Pulls her hair out*

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    1. Hahaha!! Elle this was most entertaining and for me...relatable. I'll have entire scenes unanchored in an environment and have to go back in to add!

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    2. That was so funny, Elle. You should do a humor post about working with the editor for your first book. It would be fun.

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  3. Oh, and another reason not to do those Facebook quizzes: they may actually be phishing exercises. Lots of sites use security questions: your mother's maiden name, your first pet... what do those FB quizzes ask you to do? Combine those sorts of personal information to make your "cool" name, and post it on the Internet. Do enough of those and a robot could collect your date of birth and the answers to most of your security questions...

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    1. Interesting. Had never thought of that...

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    2. I am highly suspicious of the quiz memes. They learn all those password "hints" about you: first car, favorite ____, first friend, first school, etc.

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  4. Hmm...at a score of 19, I'm mostly an innie, but I do know there's a world out there...sometimes. Interesting post, Kathryn. As I took the test (I never take the ones on Facebook), I discovered that some of my observations of the world around me come from my watching HGTV, particularly the remodeling projects. Aha moment: my love of that channel isn't a time-waster after all. It heightens my observation skills and, by extension, improves my writing. How's that for rationalism on a Friday morning? :-)

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    1. The whole point to the exercise is to learn something about yourself, and it sounds like you did! And Linda, full disclosure: I have traveled the world with House Hunters International!

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  5. I'm surprised by my total on the quiz. I thought I would score lower, but I got 18. I guess I'm not as oblivious as I thought. :-)

    And yet in my writing, I do have to remind myself to add in more setting details. I see them clearly in my head; I just forget to write them in the manuscript.

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    1. Yes Linda I'm the same way. But what I do consciously I do well, so now that I know to look for it, it's all good.

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  6. Hey, I've learned a lot from House Hunters International, such as everyone has been suckered into believing that you must have stainless steel and granite - no matter how remote the tropical island. :)

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    1. I learned that Indian cooks don't need ovens, but they do need ventilation hoods due to all the spices smoking!

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  7. Diana, do you find you usually have to go back and include interior emotions?

    And Elle: That's a lot higher than you gave yourself credit for, right?

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  8. I tend to notice either the "big picture"--the trees are greening, the birds are singing--or selective details, such as a tiny wildflower. That's when I'm not listening to my interior voice or watching the dog to make sure she steers clear of a patch of foxtails. I can walk down a street daily without ever knowing the colour of the house on the corner. But I write fiction--I can make it up.

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    1. Yes, you can make it up—but I guess what this quiz will tell you is whether you are likely to. What we don't include naturally we can teach ourselves to include intentionally.

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  9. My number was 24. Very interesting test and evaluations, and I can see where it is helpful to know what we are more naturally aware of.

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    1. Wow Maryann, you're like my husband—very aware of your surroundings. If we are ever at a conference together, I'll room with you so you can help me find the elevator. ;)

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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