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new research on how fiction affects the brain

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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new research on how fiction affects the brain

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon March 19th, 2012, 5:57 pm

So now it is official: stories have the power to change our world.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opini ... wanted=all

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wendy
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Post by wendy » Mon March 19th, 2012, 6:38 pm

Fascinating. Thanks for posting MLE.
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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Mon March 19th, 2012, 7:14 pm

So science is catching up to what we've known for decades. I couldn't help impishly wondering how many books could have been printed with the money used to fund this study though. :D

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Matt Phillips
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Post by Matt Phillips » Mon March 19th, 2012, 9:39 pm

Interesting find, thanks!

Definitely validates a lot of the "rules" for fiction: use sensory language to show more than you tell, use precise, active verbs, etc.

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Post by bevgray » Mon March 19th, 2012, 10:12 pm

Very interesting. I have a theory that dedicated readers never grow old mentally but retain curiousity through all their years.
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Post by annis » Tue March 20th, 2012, 12:11 am

Thanks for posting this link, MLE. As readers we know that we respond best to stories with characters we can relate to, and which we tend to describe as "vivid" and "evocative" - this confirms why :)

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue March 20th, 2012, 1:00 pm

[quote=""Matt Phillips""]Interesting find, thanks!

Definitely validates a lot of the "rules" for fiction: use sensory language to show more than you tell, use precise, active verbs, etc.[/quote]

Not to mention shedding light on the fact that all of us love the smell of new books. And the smell of old books. Really the smell of books in general.

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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Tue March 20th, 2012, 4:05 pm

It does validate fictional writing. I'd like to add a corollary: the power of the story. Real life is not a story, just a succession of events, with deeds that may or may not have consequences. The story is something different. Why do children beg their parents to tell them a story? Why do we need stories so much? Don't scientific or philosophical explanations suffice to interpret reality? I have some ideas on the subject but I'd like to hear what others think.
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue March 20th, 2012, 7:06 pm

Justin, have you read J.R.R. Tolkien's (admittedly rather ponderous) essay 'On Fairy-Stories?'
He claims "The things that are there (the fantasy elements) must often have been retained (or inserted) because the oral narrators, instinctively or consciously, felt their “significance.” Even where a prohibition in a fairy-story is guessed to be derived from some taboo once practised long ago, it has probably been preserved in the later stages of the tale's history because of the great mythical significance of prohibition. A sense of that significance may indeed have lain behind some of the taboos themselves. Thou shalt not—or else thou shall depart beggared into endless regret. The gentlest “nursery-tales” know it. Even Peter Rabbit was forbidden a garden, lost his blue coat, and took sick. The Locked Door stands as an eternal Temptation."

Temptation in one form or another (whether it is small, like getting enough exercise or huge, like doing the right thing when it will cost you greatly) is the challenge everyone faces in life, and which we strive to rise above. We turn to fiction to validate our sense of how the world 'ought' to work. I used to have Tom Clancy's quote on my signature: "The difference between fiction and real life is that fiction has to make sense."

In my most recent writing craft read about successful screenplays, 'The Moral Premise by Stanley Williams, the author claims that audiences will not respond well to any film that violates the sense of right and wrong for that particular demographic, and the film will flop. And they don't like films, however much praised by critics, that foster an existentialist feeling of ennui.

I believe that the whole of reality does in fact support the moral 'rightness' that the human heart has longed for throughout the ages. But we are too limited and short-lived to grasp the great true adventure, so we instinctively gravitate to shorter stories that make the same points. You might say every work of fiction is, intentionally or not, a parable put out by the author.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Tue March 20th, 2012, 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Margaret » Wed March 21st, 2012, 5:26 am

Great stuff!
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