MRUs – Migraine Rendering Units? NAAAH

As tempted as it may seem at the present moment, MRU (Motivation-Reaction Units), are not hideous little monsters trying to wreak havoc on my work-in-progress. In fact, they’ve become an interesting study in physical/emotional responses to situations.

So, because I’m just plain weird, I’ve been paying attention to how my body responds to various things. Fear, curiosity, love, humor…etc.

I’ve realized that within my novel, my point-of-view (POV) character is a bit distant from the reader -and I don’t want that. As a writer, I want my reader to experience the emotions along with the character: in his head, in her heart.

Having fear tingle down their arms like icy fingertips or the uncomfortable feeling of trying to hold in laughter. It’s much more exciting to ‘be there’ with the character, than to ‘watch’ the character.

So….I’m learning more about MRUs.

MRUs were first named/ ‘created’ by Dwight Swain and discussed in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer.
Taking his idea and expanding on it – it seems that there’s a general hierarchy for a reaction, as discussed by Randy Ingermanson.

Basically it’s this:
Something happens and the character responds:
1. Physically/viscerally (an involuntary reaction)
2. Thought
3. Dialogue
4. Purposeful action

The two most important reactions to keep in order are #1 & #2 (as I understand it). This makes sense. We have a gut reaction and THEN think about it. MRUs are not in every paragraph, but sprinkled throughout each scene in variable doses.

To give another example, I’m going to take a paragraph from my WIP (the one that was edited) and show you the before and after.

Before: (note the underlined area is the area that will be changed in the ‘after’ portion)

Ashleigh leveled him with a stare. “Insistent? We both know she has the persuasive abilities of a cattle prod.”

Sam sobered. “I wanted to go with you anyway. You shouldn’t travel alone.”
“Women have traveled unescorted many times before.” She waved away his concern with her white-gloved hand and ignored the tremble in her stomach. She wouldn’t be alone if Michael hadn’t abandoned her. “You needn’t feel obligated, Sam. I’ll be fine.”

“Obligated?” He tipped up the rim of his Fedora so she had a clear view of his cerulean eyes.
Her smile responded to his against her best attempts to keep it controlled. Always did. What a bothersome creature he was.

“Ashleigh, we’ve been friends for…hmm…ten years?” He tweaked her nose as he’d done ever since she was a little girl. “Friends take care of each other, little girl.”
Warmth spilled through her at his closeness and a peculiar sort of light-headiness’ swirled just behind her eyes. Seasick already? She’d never been seasick before, but this sudden sense of euphoria combined with hyperventilation had to be a side-effect.
She cleared her throat and bent to retrieve one of her small bags from the pier. “Did Grandmama pay for your ticket?”

After:

Sam sobered. “I wanted to go with you anyway. You shouldn’t travel alone.”
Her stomach trembled (#1), but she ignored it. She would be alone if Michael hadn’t abandoned her (#2). “Women have traveled unescorted many times before.” (#3) She waved away his concern with her white-gloved hand. (#4) “You needn’t feel obligated.”
“Obligated?” He tipped up the rim of his Fedora so she had a clear view of his cerulean eyes.
Her smile responded to his against her best attempts to keep it controlled. What a bothersome creature he was.

“Ashleigh, we’ve been friends for…hmm…ten years?” He tweaked her nose as he’d done ever since she was a little girl. “Friends take care of each other, little girl.”
Warmth spilled through her at his closeness and a peculiar sort of light-headiness swirled just behind her eyes, a sudden sense of euphoria combined with hyperventilation.(#1) Seasick already? She’d never been seasick before, but this had to be a side-effect. (#2)
She cleared her throat and bent to retrieve one of her small bags from the pier. (#4)“Did Grandmama pay for your ticket?”(#3)

I hoped this helped. I’m still learning, but thought I’d share.

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