December 3rd, 2014

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Writing Excuses 9.48: Neurobolics Of Characters

Writing Excuses 9.48: Neurobolics Of Characters


Key Points: Why do we get emotionally kicks from reading about imaginary people? A theory: we construct models, and empathy comes from our experience of those models. Our brains don't distinguish between imaginary and real people. So, when a writer creates a character, at first they are contrived, but then the model in your brain starts to flesh out. Now your subconscious handles this model, just like any other person you know. Soon, they have a "ring of truth" if you imagine them doing things that are consistent with your model. Fanfic, similarly, lets the models that the writer has brought to life in your brain go on. "The job of a writer ... is to take a model from her head and put it in your head."

Stereotypes, prejudice, and cliches are due to lazy or incomplete models. Beware confirmation bias when fleshing out your models, only adding things that fit the expectations. Cautionary tales need the ability to empathize with imaginary characters. "...what we are doing with fiction is that we are tweaking a survival trait for jollies." Maximizing brain rewards. We are making a bargain with our audience to believe that a character is real. Consider also the uncanny valley, the theory that as pictures, etc. become more real and believable, there is a point where they become creepy. Also, is our empathy with characters dealing with problems a kind of playacting, because we learn without the risk?
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[Brandon] I'm going to have to call the podcast here, even though this is one of the most fascinating ones we've done in a long time. I really appreciate Cory being on it. Everyone go download his books and give them a listen or a read. I'm going to give our writing prompt, because I think that the whole person with the brain... Two halves of the brain disconnected from one another is a fascinating idea. I think you readers... Or you listeners can write something really interesting with someone who's brain sides do not talk to each other until the ears hear what they say. So that's your writing prompt. Take that, and you're out of excuses, now go write.
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