Your Brain on Storytelling: BOOM!

wikipedia.org Edmund Dulac The Mermaid The Prince.
Story Horder
As a child, I was a story horder. I couldn't get enough of them. I was very fortunate to have parents who read to me, and looking back, they were saints in this regard. I was voracious. I always wanted more, and I wanted my favorites again and again.

The original story of The Little Mermaid and its illustrations enthralled me. I can still feel the excitement and the magic of reading that story. I'd get lost in it. What a gift my parents gave me by reading to me, but I must have driven them mad.

I was the same with music. I became obsessed with songs. I needed to hear them over and over again, so that I could memorize them--somehow making them a part of me. "How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?" was one of my early obsessions. We would sing the song inserting the names of every family member I could think of in place of "that doggie." It was no doubt a bedtime stalling technique, but it was also delightful. I recall a lot of giggling, thinking of my family members in the pet store window.

I suspect my parents were relieved when I finally learned to read and learn my own songs, but it was short lived. They then had to endure my reading and singing to them endlessly.

Wired for Stories
It turns out that my parents gave me a bigger gift than I thought. According to the article, "What Listening to Stories Does to Our Brains," we are actually wired for stories. Telling them and and listening to them lights up our brains in powerful ways.

Researchers in Spain say that, "Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain, that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too." In addition, the brain of the person listening and the brain of the person sharing a story can become synchronized in the process of storytelling. You can imagine the ramifications of these brain responses, and likely one of the reasons we fall in love with comics, musicians, actors and writers--they're storytellers lighting up our brains and helping us feel what they are describing far more deeply than we realize.

In Practice

There are real world applications for this knowledge, and the article suggests a few:

--To bring others on board with your idea, tell them a story (Writers - Think synopsis and project pitiches!).

"According to Uri Hasson from Princeton, a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.
The next time you struggle with getting people on board with your projects and ideas, simply tell them a story, where the outcome is that doing what you had in mind, is the best thing to do. According to Princeton researcher Hasson, storytelling is the only way to plant ideas into other people’s minds."

--Create greater impact and credibility (Bloggers!).

"...ask for quotes from the top folks in the industry or simply find great passages they [have] written online. It’s a great way to add credibility and at the same time, tell a story."

--Simple is better.

"Using simple language as well as a low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to the situation and happenings in the story."

Some good advice, don't you think? When I consider these suggestions, it makes me think why the phenomenon of LOL Cats and the like on the Internet are so successful. These little vignettes are engaging our brains with a visual story, using simple words to invite us into a common experience with which we can identify. Add a little humor and we're hooked!

It may also be why story podcasts like Lightspeed, and radio shows like This American Life and Snap Judgement are more popular as they become so easy to access online. They're the modern day version of sitting around the old RCA radio listening to The Lone Ranger and The Shadow. Mostly what I come away with in this article, is to be engaging as a storyteller--to unabashedly share my enthusiasm of the story with my readers. I want for them, the excitement and joy that a great story brought to me as a child and still brings to me to this day.

Happy Stories to you, my friends!

Yours Always,

Fran Friel

Note: Thank you to Ginger Hamilton Caudill for the link to the original article; The Shadow cover borrowed from: booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com 

Remainder of the Day

Our Walking Shoes
It's the last day for our motely crew at the Haunted Mansion Writers' Retreat 2012.  We're reluctantly packing up and putting on our walking shoes, getting ready to head back home.  It's been an exciting weekend, but most importantly, it's been a weekend full of friendship and creativity.

The ghosties were an eventful addition to our activities, but this was truly a writers' retreat with abundant inspiration at every turn, especially the opportunity to be surrounded by other working writers.  It's really fantastic to have company for a change!

A few of us still remain in the salon, soaking up the ambiance and the camaraderie.  Our fearless leader, Rain Graves, continues the rally the troops and entertain us with excellent stories and her amazing energy.  Thank you, Rain, for an awesome weekend!

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

PS - Thank you, Sephora Giron, for the colorful walking shoes/socks inspiration.

Darklings in the Hall

Dark Portrait
I know this photo is dark, but maybe it's better that way.  Maybe, in fact, it's better that it's hard to make out their faces.  Although the portrait is beautiful, it has a very sad tone to it.

Not surprising, this portrait hangs in the hall between rooms at the Haunted Mansion where some serious ghost activity has been experienced.  As I write this, the marvelous paranormal investigators, the Ghost Girls, are busy recording and analyzing data collected in this area of the Mansion.  They've already shared recordings of previous investigations at this location, and some of what they shared was chilling.

It will be "interesting" to see what they discover while we're all here rustling up the ghosties with our stories and wanderings around the house.

We'll keep you posted...if we live to tell the tale!

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

Oh So Succulent

Flowering in California
I've recently moved to California from New England.  It was a big move, but so worth the effort.  Gawd, I love it here.  The weather alone will keep me happy for a good long time, but there's a lot to like here.  The people are lovely and sweet natured here in the Santa Cruz area, and the ocean is glorious.  Also, I love the plants that grow here.  As a transplant gardener from the Northeast, I'm learning all the new flora and fauna.

I've acquired my first succulent plants and they are already rewarding me with blossoms.  I'm a bit of plant freak, so to me, this is very exciting.  I dote on the plants, visiting with them in the back garden every day, so the blossoms are like nature's reward for my adoration.

I know, I'm a bit of a plant nerd, but the rewards are so cool.
The Blossoms
Oddly enough, these little plants and I are having a mutual flowering.  Since I've been here, I feel like I've come alive.  A dear friend of mine told me that would happen, but I couldn't have imagined how quickly.

Miraculously, my writing is flowing with ease.  This long-overdue blog is proof of that, plus I've got stories, people--STORIES.  Woohoo!

My health is also improving.  I had a four hour dental marathon last week, with more to come.  I'm seeing an awesome acupuncturist who is doing miracles for my knee and hip, so I can hike around this beautiful state and enjoy the beach.  And I'm riding my bike and getting to the gym.  Today I went swimming for the first time in over a year.  It was COLD, but man, it was good.  The pool was filled with munchkins learning to swim--they were very entertaining...and loud.  It was wonderful to see so many kids there, active and full of life.

It's Alive!
That's one of the things I love here is that people are so alive.  Folks of all ages are out walking, biking, surfing, and just being outdoors.  The weather makes that more feasible, but it's also a way of life.  It's inspiring, really.

So, I guess what all this yammering is about, is coming alive.  After years of feeling like I was clawing my way out of a deep hole just to keep my head above the edge of the darkness, I now feel buoyed.  And it feels good.  Fingers crossed that this feeling last a LONG time.

Life is succulent.  Flowers are blooming, and I might just get some publishing done this year.

I have plans for self-publishing in the very near future, so I hope you're still interested in some Friel words and madness.  It's been a while, but I'm on the case.

Thanks for reading, gang.  It's so good to be with you.

Wishing you all Happy Blossoming!