In case you were wondering whether writing your story would be worth the trouble.
Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution — more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to. Story is what enabled us to imagine what might happen in the future, and so prepare for it — a feat no other species can lay claim to, opposable thumbs or not. Story is what makes us human, not just metaphorically but literally. Recent breakthroughs in 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.
…Thus it’s no surprise that when given a choice, people prefer fiction to nonfiction…It’s not because we’re lazy sots but because our neural circuitry is designed to crave story. The rush of intoxication a good story triggers doesn’t make us closet hedonists — it makes us willing pupils, primed to absorb the myriad lessons each story imparts.
This information is a game changer for writers. Research has helped decode the secret blueprint for story that’s hardwired in the reader’s brain, thereby lifting the veil on what, specifically, the brain is hungry for in every story it encounters. Even more exciting, 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. They can transport readers to places they’ve never been, catapult them into situations they’ve only dreamed of, and 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. And that’s not too shabby.
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