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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Psychology of MRUs

The Writer's Guide Giveaways continue as I'm beginning to wrap up my blog tour to launch my new website! You can win the Writer's Guide to Personality Types at Tori's Book Faery blog and a guide of the winner's choice at Kathy Harris' Divine Detour blog!

Today I'm featured over at Pentalk Community and Tommie Lyn's blog, so please stop by!




Most people have heard of Dwight Swain's motivation reaction unit (MRU). I'd like to present the psychology behind why it works so well.

Two elements comprise an MRU:

1) Motivating Stimulus—occurs outside your character
2) Character Reaction—occurs within your character

The stimulus has to come before the reaction. A person can’t react to something that hasn’t happened yet. If your character screamed before opening the door, it would cause a lapse in logic. How did she know to scream before opening the door and seeing the villain? It’s a classic MRU problem—getting the stimulus and reaction out of order.

According to Swain, there are four elements of the Character Reaction, all of which have to stay in order as well:

1) Visceral Reaction—an automatic gut reaction your character has no control over
2) Thought—what your character thinks
3) Action—what your character does
4) Speech—what your character says

Read on to see what element Swain left out....

2 comments:

Katie Ganshert said...

Okay - a while back, I got SO confused about the MRU. I took an online class with Margie Lawson (awesome) and she talked about MRU, so did Randy Ingermanson (no idea how to spell his last name) and they left out thought. I was so confused by this, because I could have sworn Swain included thought. So I went back through my copy of Technique for the Selling Writer and nowhere could I find Swain mentioning thought. The MRU to him was Visceral, Reflex/Action, Speech

But here you have thought. So does Swain talk about thought somewhere?

catierhodes said...

Thanks for this excellent review! Swain's wisdom will never be out of date. It never hurts to be reminded how to create the effect I'm going for when I write. :D

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.