If you go shopping with a list and only buy what’s on it, you’re a Procedure person. If you go shopping with a vague idea of what you need, and end up buying ten additional items, a muffin and a toy for your nephew, but forget to get the milk, you’re an Options person.
This also applies to the writing life. If you fill out a detailed outline template and all your character sheets before you begin, and then stick to the proposed plot while writing your novel, you’re a Procedure person. If you start with a broad idea and a few sketches, change the plot three times during drafting and end up with an entirely different story, or pants everything from scratch, you’re an Options person.
If your protagonist has a clear cut goal and a plan to get there, and after each sidetrack and adventure, after each setback and loss, he gets right back on track and continues to push on, he’s a Procedure guy. If your main character goes after his goal (or flees from his greatest fear) and changes direction to meet new people, become involved in their stories and help them pursue their own goals before he remembers his own and adapts it according to his new life, then he’s an Options guy.*
*Note: your protagonist must always have a goal, or he must figure it out soon enough in your story, preferably before the real action gets going.
Splitting people into Options / Procedures types is just another way to broadly categorize personalities, and it’s most definitely not set in stone. But there are some really nifty ways to use it and have a clearer understanding of the people you work with. Including your characters.
–> “Real” people
If someone you know and work with has a preference for methodologies, has a fixed routine and always sticks to it, if he has a working procedure for every major task and follows it repeatedly, without modification, then he’s a Procedure person.
Procedure people usually feel compelled to follow each step of a plan, and feel cheated and uncomfortable if circumstances prevent them from doing so. They also take almost personal affront when others in their community bend the rules.
A Procedure person will use expressions such as “follow the plan”, “by the rule” and “step by step”.
You can motivate a Procedures guy by giving him clear deadlines and strict steps to follow, preferably using a spreadsheet or color-coded templates. You can always count on him to keep going even if things get rough, and see a project to the end.
If someone you know and work with likes to try out new things, test the boundaries of what he’s allowed to do in any given situation, and likes to bend the rules to get what he wants, he’s an Options person.
Options people are good at starting projects and figuring out multiple ways to reach a goal, but they’re most likely not going to stick with the plan. They like to improve even the most rigorously established methods, and are great at spotting flaws in procedures and rules.
An Options person will use expressions such as “play it by ear”, “bend it to fit”, “possibilities” and “try it out”.
You can motivate an Options guy by showing him the many new opportunities that open up if he agrees to work with you, and preferably talk about all the new things that will be within reach upon the completion of your common project. You can always count on him to figure out escape routes if something goes wrong, to improvise or bring alternatives to your attention.
–> Fictional Characters
Don’t mix them up! This is really important if you value your more knowledgeable readership.
If your character is a Procedures guy, don’t make him change course abruptly in chapter 12 without making him uncomfortable. Be careful not to set his priorities wrong. He won’t be after intriguing new affairs or conquering new territories, changing his job often and traveling with a backpack through Scandinavia (or Narnia). He’ll be the stable and dependable kind, the inflexible stamp collector or the guy with principles who’d rather take the bus than drive another car than a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.
If he’s an Options guy, don’t have him focus on tedious details and relate every step of a task he has performed. Don’t forget to let him stray from his path every once in a while, shuffle his priorities at every crossoad and have a hard time settling down. He just has to play and break some rules, even if there’s no need to.
And if you aim for sarcasm and irony, Procedure people hate having someone else mess their stuff up and catch them off guard, while Options people love to MacGyver their way out of situations even if the Exit route is widely open.
How about pairing them up as a team? If you do it right, you have endless possibilities for situational humor just by exploiting their differences.
Do you have any of these types in your WIP? How about on the team you currently work with, or your friend circle? Did this post remind you of yourself?