Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The "Once upon a time" Weapon

Year of the Like: Neuroscience and Anthropology!

 I know, what does science have to do with story telling. Turns out, a whole bunch.

The hubster and I had a discussion about six months ago about why we tell stories. I knew it had to be more than just entertainment. So I read a lot of books and, turns out, it is very important.

Storytelling might have been one of the skills successful tribes used to survive. I know it sounds far fetched, but these ancient societies might have used the brains own need for pattern and meaning as a way to teach lessons like WOLVES EAT PEOPLE and DON'T GO OUT AT NIGHT.

The brain processes so much information in a minute, that it would make your head spin if you actually had to remember everything. So instead, it filters out all the information that is not relevant to the moment or meaningful based on a previously determined pattern.

As I have gone over with my language from the hero's journey and others have discussed with three-act structures and five-beat story parts, there is a pattern to storytelling that we are ALL innately familiar with. When we see something start with a girl faced with a decision, we automatically see the beginning of a story. And our brains are focused on this because for eons, these stories have been teaching us to survive. We listened to our grandmothers tell us scary stories of gluttonous children and disobedient girls with red hoods.

Our ability to pass along information in meaningful ways that stuck with generation after generation is a weapon against a very cruel and predatory world, but also allows the future to adapt faster because they have a baseline knowledge of how the world works and can become better, faster, and stronger because of it.

Even now when the world is more social predators than scary things that go bump in the night, story becomes our way of learning how to adapt and overcome. Our children are stronger for the stories that we tell them.

So after all this research, I am really focused on teaching a survival skill with my story. What lesson or skill can I pass along to my readers that will help them survive. Can I help with empathy or understanding or justice so that they make it through the world with a little less heartache and a little more empathy. 

So Thumbs up to Neuroscience and understanding the survival skills of the human race. I really recommend a little look inside the human brain (and body) every now and then to remind us how awesome humans have the potential to be. 

Amanda Arista


Helen Lowe said...

Amanda, this just makes so much sense -- especially as we all know that teaching any sort of survival or life coaching skill works so much better if it can be fun/interesting/entertaining...

Kim Falconer said...

I love this post, Amanda.

Story is our way of making sense of the world. Brilliant.

Long live the storytellers!