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Friday, 29 July 2011

A Touch of Science...

Today, we welcome another guest blogger in the form of Joe Mogle:

'Have you ever read a story that pulled you in completely? It didn't matter what the story was about, you just felt like it was real. Then again other stories, tales with amazing plots and creative characters, just never seem to have what it takes to draw you in. What is it that some stories have that other don't?

While there may be many possible answers, I would like to pick out two to focus on. But first, a science lesson!

Why do people react to aggressive behavior just as strongly as aggressive statements? The answer is in our brains. Our subconscious mind processes visual data from people and analyzes it, coming to conclusions about their psychological state based on appearance.

Yet the brain goes even further. When we read descriptions of aggressive behavior, some parts of our subconscious respond as if there was a real person acting aggressively in front of us. Preposterous? Nope. The Id (one of the three parts of consciousness described by Freud) doesn't know the difference between imagination and real life.

This little quirk, which leaves us in cold sweats after nightmares, can be harnessed to sharpen works of fiction. Not surprisingly, books that explain the science of body language and mannerisms may give new depth to old characters. Insights into the minds and emotions of a not-so-talkative person in a story are now simple. By combining simple facial expressions with body positions, new facets of your characters can be expressed. For example saying 'he looked enraged' doesn't quite have the same feel as 'his eyes widened under his furrowed brow as his nostrils flared over his grinding jaw.' The second line uses an Id response to make you feel the situation in a way that the first can't.

A great new way to write up people in your works of fiction, no doubt. But you can go further with the other point I'd like to discuss. That other point is in the environment. Symbolism, like body language, creates a sense of reality, though for the setting rather than the players in the tale. The Id processes symbols just like it processes body language. We have certain emotional responses to particular objects and images. Most of us will feel a tingle up the spine when looking at a spider or a snake. Though some people will feel different. Each culture has set values or views for some symbols. A snake may be evil to one group and holy to another. Knowing what each symbol means in each culture helps to create a truly realistic setting, which draws your reader in further.

Just like body language, books of symbols and their meanings can be found at the local library or online.

This simple bit of science can have a great impact on your writing.'

Thanks for the very interesting contribution, Joe - and one which Chaz especially appreciated, being a keen exponent of this type of psychological characterization himself.

Be sure to visit Joe's author site here.

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