{Reading Circles} Your Brain on Fiction

Happy Friday everyone! I’ve been trying to write this post all day but it’s 101-friggin’-degrees here in northern Thailand and sitting up straight with my eyes open is a challenge. My laptop must be at least 120 degrees too, it’s practically swelling with heat!

Anyway, this week we’re shifting gears here for Reading Circles. To finish up A Writer’s Book of Days, we’re responding to a prompt together. The prompt was: What I said was not what I was thinking. If you wrote something up, link it up below. I’m excited to see what everyone came up with!

This week, I’ve got a New York Times article for us to read, one that should even appeal to our more science-minded folk! It’s called The Neuroscience of Your Brain on FictionOne of the first maxims young, burgeoning writers always hear is to get rid of cliches. Cliched language, cliched characters, cliched plots are to be avoided *ahem* like the plague. This article gives us some fascinating science to show us why. Turns out, when we feel enveloped in a story, drawn in as if we’re actually there, there’s a scientific reason for it.

Crazy, huh? Do you feel that reading has made you more empathetic, or honed your skills at reading people as well as books?

Want to try your hand at fixing some cliches? Try writing something novel to fill in these blanks:

Heavy as ____________
White as ____________
I slept like ___________

Or rewrite these:
Her heart pounded in her chest.
It was the best thing since sliced bread.
He was a fount of energy.

Note: If you answer the first three with “bricks”, “snow”, and “the dead”, I’m officially giving you the stink-eye.

Have a great weekend! And don’t forget to link up below!

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5 responses to “{Reading Circles} Your Brain on Fiction

  1. Ha! How about “Heavy as lead?”
    Just kidding!
    “Heavy as my eyelids after waking up with Baby every hour on the hour”
    “White as the sun-bleached whale bones lying on the sand”
    “I slept like a bear sleeps after raiding a beehive in the fall”
    It’s hard not to use cliches! I need to think about this some more….

    • Haha awesome! I think my favorite is the white as sun-bleached whale bones – so evocative! Thanks for joining in!

  2. That’s a crazy-interesting article! I now feel that all of my time immersed in fiction is actually GOOD for me — which is a shift from the guilt I usually feel at overindulging 🙂 And this: “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life…” makes me feel a little bit less desperate for world travel and such. Because my brain has traveled the world a multitude of times.

    And the part about children who read stories and novels being better able to grasp a “theory of mind” — there is hope! Social situations are so HARD for little ones, but if they are exposed to ‘practice’ in the form of fiction, they’re being prepared whether they realize it or not.

    I definitely think reading has made me better able to relate socially. I hope it will do the same for my kids. I wonder what novels in particular would be good for 4 and 6 year olds…empathy-wise. Research is required. But really, I think the more the merrier 🙂

    Jade, I’m just in love with this article. Thank you so much for sharing it!!

  3. Oh —

    She put her hand over her chest, ready to restrain her heart from a frantic, stuttering escape. (proabably a bit overdone 😉

    It was better than sex. (heh – still cliche, but I had to say it)

    He sat down on the edge of the couch, then stood again. Long strides took him to the window. He clasped his hands behind his head and spun in a circle: a bird with outstretched wings. There was too much expectancy coursing through his heart for him to remain still. (the last sentence would have done fine…)

    • Ooh! I like your fixes! Mmm, especially the phrase “a frantic, stuttering escape” and the visual captured in the last one.

      Glad you found the article as interesting as I did. It’s really so fascinating to me how the brain doesn’t seem to distinguish much between good fiction and reality. I’m trying to remember what I read when I was much younger, but my earliest favorite, I think was “The Little Match Girl.” Is Charlotte’s Web or Black Beauty age-appropriate? I remember really feeling empathy in both of those.

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