Sunday, May 17, 2015

Notes on Storytelling


  • "...neuroscience reveal that our brain is hardwired to respond to story; the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature's way of seducing us into paying attention to it. In other words, we're wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world."
  • "Our neural circuitry is designed to crave story. The rush of intoxication a good story triggers...makes us willing pupils, primed to absorb the myriad lessons each story imparts."
  • "...it turns out that a powerful story can have a hand in rewiring the reader's brain - helping instill empathy, for instance - which is why writers are, and have always been, among the most powerful people in the world."
  • "Writers can change the way people think simply by giving  them a glimpse of life through their characters' eyes...reveal subtle universal truths that just might alter their entire perception of reality. In ways large and small, writers help people make it through the night."
  • "Art is fire plus algebra."  --Jorge Luis Borges
  • "Story originated as a method of bringing us together to share specific information that might be lifesaving."
  • "A recent brain-imaging study reported in Psychological Science reveals that the regions of the brain that process the sights, sounds, tastes, and movement of real life are activated when we're engrossed in a compelling narrative. That's what accounts for the vivid mental images and the visceral reactions we feel when we can't stop reading..."
  • "Here's how neuroscientist Antonio Damasio sums it up: 'The problem of how to make all this wisdom understandable, transmissible, persuasive, enforceable - in a word, of how to make it stick - was faced and a solution found.  Storytelling was the solution - storytelling is something brains do, naturally and implicitly...[I]t should be no surprise that it pervades the entire fabric of human societies and cultures."
  • "We think in story.  It's hardwired in our brain.  It's how we make strategic sense of the otherwise overwhelming world around us.  Simply put, the brain constantly seeks meaning from all the input thrown at it, yanks out what's important for our survival on a need-to-know basis, and tells us a story about it, based on what it knows of our past experience with it, how we feel about it, and how it might affect us."
  • "Other people's stories are as important as the stories we tell ourselves.  Because if all we ever had to go on was our own experience, we wouldn't make it..."
  • "Stories allow us to simulate experiences without actually having to live through them."
  • "Story evolved as a way to explore our own mind and the minds of others, as a sort of dress rehearsal for the future.  As a result, story helps us survive not only in the life-and-death physical sense but also in a life-well-live social sense."
  • "Renowned cognitive scientist and Harvard professor Steven Pinker explains our need for story this way:  'Fictional narratives supply us with a mental catalogue of the fatal conundrums we might face someday and the outcomes of strategies we could deploy in them.'"
  • "...the story's ability to provide information on how we might safely navigate this earthly plane."
  • "...plunk someone with a clear goal into an increasingly difficult situation they then have to navigate. When a story meets our brain's criteria, we relax and slip into the protagonist's skin, eager to experience what his or her struggle feels like, without having to leave the comfort of home." 
  • "A story is how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result."
  • "Stories are about how we, rather than the world around us, change."
  • "As readers, we eagerly probe each piece of information for significance, constantly wondering, 'What is this meant to tell me?'
  • "It's said people can go forty days without food, three days without water, and about thirty-five seconds without finding meaning in something - truth is, thirty-five seconds is an eternity compared to the warp speed with which our subconscious brain rips through data...we are always on the hunt for meaning..."
  • "We are always looking for the why beneath what's happening on the surface.  Not only because our survival might depend on it, but because it's exhilarating. It makes us feel something - namely, curiosity.  Having our curiosity piqued is visceral.  And it leads to something even more potent: the anticipation of knowledge we're now hungry for, a sensation caused by that pleasurable rush of dopamine. Because being curious is necessary for survival, nature encourages it.  And what better way to encourage curiosity than to make it feel good? This is why, once your curiosity is roused as a reader, you have an emotional, vested interest in finding out what happens next."
  • "...you're beautifully, brutally heartless...As a reader, you owe the writer absolutely nothing. You read their book solely at your own pleasure, where it stands or falls on its own merit. If you don't like it, you simply slip it back onto the shelf and slide out another."
  • "...neuropsychiatrist Richard Restak writes, 'Within the brain, things are always evaluated within a specific context.' It is context that bestows meaning, and it is meaning that your brain is wired to sniff out.  After all, if stories are simulations that our brains plumb for useful information in case we ever find ourselves in a similar situation, we sort of need to know what the situation is."
  • "Elmore Leonard famously said that a story is real life with the boring parts left out.  Think of the boring parts as anything that doesn't relate to or affect your protagonist's quest.  Every single thing in a story - including subplots, weather, setting, even tone - must have a clear impact on what the reader is dying to know:  Will the protagonist achieve her goal? What will it cost her in the process? How will it change her in the end?  What hooks us, and keeps us reading, is the dopamine-fueled desire to know what happens next. Without that, nothing else matters."
  • "Storytelling trumps beautiful writing, every time."

from Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Warrior

"The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others.  His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity."
The Great Sioux Chief, Sitting Bull