Brains Love Strong Metaphors

Understanding brain science can make you a better writer.

I found this article about scientists studying the effect of fiction on the brain. Here’s a clip of something intriguing—and proof of that “avoid cliches” writing advice.

The way the brain handles metaphors has also received extensive study; some scientists have contended that figures of speech like “a rough day” are so familiar that they are treated simply as words and no more. Last month, however, a team of researchers from Emory University reported in Brain & Language that when subjects in their laboratory read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active. Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex, while phrases matched for meaning, like “The singer had a pleasing voice” and “He had strong hands,” did not.

Read the rest: Your Brain on Fiction

I’m Still Here

…just keeping busy in Editing Hell.

I have one word and one phrase I’ve been caught overusing. Once I finish searching for those and cutting or rewriting, I’ll have myself a FINAL DRAFT.

Then I just have a few files of notes to go through, to make sure I’ve done everything I meant to do before this thing can be sent off for formatting and cover art.

Here’s a great New York Times article I found through The Passive Voice. It was published in 2001 but it has some of the most straightforward writing advice I’ve found. Here’s the best part:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)


But you should really read the whole article.

Here’s a great quote from Hugh Howey, author of WOOL, in an interview on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing:

As for the 99.9% who won’t see my level of success, I would point out that 99.9% of those who submit material to the traditional machine will never see a similar level of success. It isn’t like our option is to self-publish OR see how well our novel does fronted out on an endcap in a bookstore. Our options are to self-publish OR spend a few years landing an agent, another year selling the book to a publisher, a year waiting for that book to come out, and then three months spine-out on dwindling bookshelves before you are out of print and nobody cares about you anymore. If you’re lucky. Most likely, you’ll never even get an agent. Because you aren’t Snooki.

–Hugh Howey

And one more, but I can’t remember where I found it:

“Listen, Hank,” he asked, “what makes a man a writer?” “Well,” I said, “It’s simple, it’s either you get it down on paper or you jump off a bridge.”

–Charles Bukowski