Thursday, January 30, 2014

Building a Better World - One Story at a Time

with guest Mary Curry.


     You've probably heard the story about Abraham Lincoln meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and saying, "So this is the little lady who started this great war."

    But did you also know that Adolf Hitler claimed to have drawn inspiration for his Aryan nation from Wagner's early opera Rienzi, which in turn was based on a book by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (of It was a dark and stormy night fame)?

    Or how about the Cannibal Rat ship that's floating around the internet these days? Has that made you think of global responsibility?  (Or maybe it's fed a plot idea.) True or false, the story has certainly infested Facebook and the Twitterverse.

  
Behold the power of story … for good or for ill.

Who remembers this scene from Romancing the Stone?
 

Kathleen Turner evoked the exhilaration writers feel when the writing is working. But I think readers also identify with the scene because they completely understand the sheer power of story to carry you out of your daily life. That's what we're talking about today. Story and the power it wields.

 A month or so ago, I received an email from an organization called The Greater Good.

The email contained an article, by Paul J. Zak, called How Stories Change the Brain.

Since I had recently posted here at Seekerville about Wired for Story , I was interested to read the article and watch the accompanying video.  Although Wired by Lisa Kron and the Greater Good article by Paul Zak, approach the topic differently, their conclusions are ultimately the same. Story is vital to our survival. The brain loves story, and stories change our brains.

What does this mean to us as writers?

Here's a video from Zak's article that shows you how story impacts your brain - literally shows you. It's only 5 minutes long so I encourage you to watch it. Then come back and we'll talk. Go ahead. I'll wait. It's fascinating stuff.




The part of the video I found most intriguing was at the 3:35 mark (through 4:31). If you weren't able to watch, through brain imaging, Zak's team was able to show brain activity in response to different types of stories. In response to the story of a father whose son is dying, brains lit up with empathy and understanding of what others are doing. In response to a story of a father having a fun day at the zoo with his son, nothing lit up. Nothing.

That's powerful imagery!

Imagine readers reading your stories. Do their brains light up in response to what you have written, thus keeping them invested in the story, or is there no response? If nothing is happening in your story, the reader's brain won't tune in. That's hard, cold science. Shudder.

Zak connects this brain imaging to the Dramatic Arc of story.


"This evidence supports the view of some narrative theorists that there is a universal story structure. These scholars claim every engaging story has this structure, called the dramatic arc. It starts with something new and surprising, and increases tension with difficulties that the characters must overcome, often because of some failure or crisis in their past, and then leads to a climax where the characters must look deep inside themselves to overcome the looming crisis, and once this transformation occurs, the story resolves itself. "


There's more, but I don't want to give away the whole story. If you'd like to read the full article, you can find it here.

So this is all well and good. Really interesting and very important to remember.
But what do we do with it?

Well, I could have just ended this post with the advice to write a really interesting story with lots going on.

But as I was reading the article and thinking about this post, a song kept playing in my head.

Five For Fighting's World.




What kind of world do you want?
Think Anything
Let's start at the start
Build a masterpiece
Be careful what you wish for
History starts now...

So that brings me to a bigger question.

What kind of world do you want?  And can you help build it with your stories?

Deeper into the Greater Good article, Zak goes on to say, "We also tested why stories can motivate us, like the characters in them, to look inside ourselves and make changes to become better people."

Without giving away the story on the video, Zak says chemicals are emitted in the brain in response to story. The people who were motivated by the story to donate "had more empathic concern of other people and were happier."

He goes on to say:


"This shows there is a virtuous cycle in which we first engage with others emotionally that leads to helping behaviors, that make us happier. Many philosophical and religious traditions advocate caring for strangers, and our research reveals why these traditions continue to influence us today—they resonate with our evolved brain systems that make social interactions rewarding. "

The story Zak worked with was true, but apparently that doesn't impact the brain's reaction. The down side for us is that in Zak's study, apparently the reaction was better with video than with written story.  Let's take that as a challenge!


In the sidebar of the article, there was a link to another article - a review of Jonathan Gottschall's book The Storytelling Animal - How Stories Make Us Human. So of course I had to read that too. It's an interesting book (though some may find his views on religion to be insulting). Gottschall examines how stories (in all their varied forms from videos to printed stories to dreams and daydreams) saturate our lives. He uses what scientists have learned from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to explain why humans are addicted to stories. 


The examples I used in the opening (not the Cannibal rats!) are discussed in his book. 


In chapters respectively called The Moral of the Story and Ink People Changed the World, Gottschall discusses how people are "putty in a storyteller's hands". He cites evidence to show that the more deeply involved people are in a story, the more the story changes them. He writes about the fundamental power of story to enforce societal norms and values, to define people, to "tell us what is laudable and what is contemptible." Gottschall says "Stories are working on us all the time, reshaping us in the way that flowing water gradually reshapes a rock."

Zak's Center is using the understanding they have developed to "test stories that seek to motivate positive behavioral changes." He suggests we "go see a movie and laugh and cry. It’s good for your brain, and just might motivate you to make positive changes in your life and in others’ lives as well."


Gottschall ends his book with this advice. "Go get lost in a novel."

The message for authors seems clear - craft a compelling story and you can change people for the better.

So I'd love to hear from you. How do you think we can use our stories to build a better world? Can we deliberately craft a message in the hope of inspiring an empathetic reaction?

What kind of world do you want? Are you willing to help build it with your stories?


"World"


 
Got a package full of Wishes
A Time machine, a Magic Wand
A Globe made out of Gold

No Instructions or Commandments
Laws of Gravity or
Indecisions to uphold

Printed on the box I see
A.C.M.E.'s Build-a-World-to-be
Take a chance - Grab a piece
Help me to believe it

What kind of world do you want?
Think Anything
Let's start at the start
Build a masterpiece
Be careful what you wish for
History starts now...


In return for sharing your thoughts today, I'd like to offer a book of choice - any of the books on brains and writing or a Seeker book of choice. Take your pick, but be sure to let us know if you're interested.

Mary Curry



Mary is a teacher, mother, wife and writer.  And a lifelong reader. That passion for reading transformed over time into a compulsion to create stories of her own. She’s been writing  and contesting for many years and along the way has garnered a few writing credits including being a three time Golden Heart finalist and the 2011 Genesis winner for Contemporary Romance. She has recently won Duel on the Delta, Touched by Love, and the Laurie.

Mary can be found on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/M.M.Curry
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/maryc2010


http://myplacebythesea.blogspot.com/  I'm reinventing my blog as a resource for readers to meet authors (published and pre-published) and get free books. If you're interested in being interviewed let me know.

85 comments :

  1. Being a reader, I knew that what I read becomes a part of me, but it was totally fascinating to watch and listen to the video! I would say that Seekerville Authors have done excellent in utilizing this! You guys ROCK!! Thanks, Mary....and I would love a book from our Seekerville authors. Good post!

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  2. Really fascinating! I love that they took brain scans of people hearing stories. great post!

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  3. What a wonderful and enlightening post. The video explains a lot of what I feel when I read a good book.
    Oh, and thank you for the song video of World. I have never heard that song but it has a powerful message.

    I would love to be entered into your giveaway.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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  4. Thanks for sharing Mary. This is fascinating information!

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  5. Good morning, Seekerville.

    Thanks everyone, for stopping by.

    Hi Marianne. It is fun to see for a reader's point of view, isn't it. Sometimes I think the stories I read as an adolescent did more to form my view of the world than all my parents' lessons or religion classes combined.

    As a parent and teacher, it makes me conscious of what kids are reading.

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  6. Good morning, Cindy. Glad you liked the song.i

    I first learned of the song through the group Autism Speaks. Five For Fighting did a fundraising project that allowed groups to create videos for charities to raise money by describing how they could make a better world.

    Good morning Christina and Jackie. It's nice to wake up to comments from people enjoying reading this.

    Happy Thursday.

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  7. Hey Virginia,
    Wasn't the video cool? You can tell me til the cows come home how important it is for stories to have conflict, but seeing that video really made me a believer..
    *Dusts off conflict-typing fingers.*

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  8. Good morning, Mary! Fascinating research. I've long heard that research shows people read fiction because of how it makes them FEEL, but the whole brain thing is so interesting. Truly, writers have a great responsibility. I've read so many stories in recent years that seem to have no redeeming purpose except to incite feelings of anger or hopelessness. I don't think every book in the world has to end with a "happily ever after" --but for my own stories I at least want to leave readers with a feeling of HOPE!

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  9. Oh, Mary, how I love this post!!! And it is very pertinent given what we are dealing with at our house!

    No need to put me in the drawing!

    Peace, Julie

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  10. Mary, that post is a lot to swallow early in the morning. Absolutely fascinating. I didn't watch the video just yet, but will later today and come back and comment.

    This completely affirms that conflict is the foundation of story. Well, memorable story. The stories that touch lives and help folks overcome their own obstacles.

    We are in a very worthy business, are we not?

    Thanks so much for engaging us in this thought provoking topic!!!!

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  11. I'm making my way through all the Lee Child books in between writing, working, other contest judging..and I tell you, I cannot put them down.

    Why? Because there is an empathetic connection to this Jack Reacher vigilante character. Instead of using curse words to ignite the audience, he gives you empathy and emotion.

    It's such a trip for a writer to read and try to understand how he writes those emotional connections so well. Why do I care about a character that I have so little in common with.

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  12. Good point, Mary Curry. My parents bought that complete set of some sort of fairy tales and fables when I was a kid. It looked like an encyclopedia set except in colors.

    My dad to me read every night, then I started on my own.

    Those books did shape my world. Right and wrong. Good and evil.

    Fairy tales and story telling were ingrained at a very early age.



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  13. TINA -- As you mentioned, it's truly so valuable to a writer to read OTHER writers who are adept at engaging emotions and try to figure out HOW they do it. I know for myself if I don't feel something in the stories I'm writing, it's doubtful that my readers will either. But engaging a reader's emotions, while not always the easiest of things to do, is something I believe CAN be learned. And reading the works of those who are 'rock stars' at it can be so eye-opening.

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  14. I have a redemption story in mind that I've wanted to write for several years. The idea comes from a combination of Sunday Morning Comin' Down by Johnny Cash and Lord I'm Comin' Home makes me feel. Those songs just gives me deep yearned-for-something-I-lost feeling.

    The power of stories. Thanks for the post.

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  15. This is an amazing insight into so much of what I gleaned from reading Stan Williams' The Moral Premise...

    That engaging the reader's emotions on multiple levels leaves the reader feeling more satisfied, sometimes challenged, and sometimes invigorated into being a better person.

    Mary Curry, this is a course unto itself. Really, truly, I mean that.

    I must think on this..... Where's Vince, Vince??????

    Come out of hiding, my friend, this is important stuff.

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  16. Yes. It does make me think of Vince's rewards per page theory.

    Good point, Ruth.

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  17. Okay, you know what?

    Think of that scene from Sleepless in Seattle.

    Where Rosie O'Donnell and Meg Ryan are watching "An Affair to Remember" and they're just SO SHAKEN UP BY THE PARTING SCENE between the star-crossed lovers on the silver screen. Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant, and you can see it in the women's eyes, that the pain of that parting is WHAT SUCKS THEM IN....

    The impossibility of it all...

    (I'm playing the theme from An Affair to Remember right now and I could just CRY talking about it.)

    That's the kind of brain energy we want.

    That's the forward thrust that lets the brain react for scientific study.

    That's the memory-creating emotion we want to create with our words.

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  18. Tina, you like my picture???? I did it for you, honey!!!! :)

    I'm agreeing with Mary and Tina that a lot of the way I write, and the emotions I long to evoke, incite, grasp, etc. are based on my love of adolescent books like The Yearling... Where the Red Fern Grows... Christy...Bridge to Terabithia... The Great Gilly Hopkins... (obviously Catherine Patterson hit a note with me) Anne of Green Gables... Mrs. Mike.... A Day No Pigs Would Die...

    I want that believable emotion from the broken roads of life to either churn or envelope the reader from my words. And this research shows the cause and effect.

    It's like when science discovered through DNA that all men are offspring of ONE INITIAL MAN.

    Or that chicken soup is good for a cold. (proven by something in the fat globules, lets not talk about it, we'll just know that Jewish mothers were VERY SMART and passed the info on before science knew the long and short of it.)

    So that's probably why I write angst because I got such a good heads-up, wake-up and be a better person from those books than any adult book I've read.

    But I'll bet TIMING enters into that, too, because adolescents are at such a crossroads of their lives in so many ways, that stuff sticks more firmly. I think the age might heighten the effect.

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  19. A great post, Mary. And Ruthy is right. We want to suck the readers in with emotion, and keep it going. I agree with your surprise that people did not care when Ben and his father were at the zoo. 100 seconds! That all the writer gets before the reader tunes out. So important to keep that arc going. Thank you so much for the little video--it did help the reader to see what was going on. No need for a drawing for me either. I'm good, Seekerville!

    So glad Debby and Missy were able to get to the luncheon today. I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

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  20. Connie Queen "Running on Empty" came from my desire to write a book about a town's over-emphasis on win-at-all-costs and Keith Urban's "You'll Think of Me"....

    I could see the pain in the man's face, that he lost everything when the woman walked out on him, so either he loved the wrong woman....

    Which I didn't want to be the case.

    OR.... she had a reason to leave and he had too much damaged pride to go after her and find out why.

    And that became a strong basis for a beautiful story.

    So yes, use that inspiration to build from! I truly believe the Holy Spirit uses our Earth Angels, the people who cross our path....

    and songs/words/poems/thoughts/devotionals....

    To chart the path.

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  21. Fascinating post, Mary, and one I will come back to again (very busy day today!).

    But one of my initial thoughts was that Jesus taught in parables. Makes even more sense after reading this,

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  22. Wow, great and interesting article, Mary! I love brain stuff... please put me in for the drawing!

    I've bookmarked your post so I can 'study' it later today when I have some time. It'll be my afternoon tea time treat. :-)

    Thank you! :-)

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  23. Oh, Mary, EXCELLENT article, my friend -- WOW!! Anybody that can get me thinking this deeply before 9:00 AM in the morning is one heck of a writer and thinker!!

    Loved the whole blog, but the paragraph that literally vaulted off the page for me were:

    "He cites evidence to show that the more deeply involved people are in a story, the more the story changes them ... the fundamental power of story to enforce societal norms and values, to define people, to "tell us what is laudable and what is contemptible ... Stories are working on us all the time, reshaping us in the way that flowing water gradually reshapes a rock."

    This gave me chills for two reasons:

    1.) That our stories -- stories written to present God's precepts -- CAN and WILL effect change, not just because of the statistics you cite, but because of the Holy
    Spirit.

    And, 2.) Because immediately my brain went to the likes of Fifty Shades of Gray and an already amoral society whose thin threads of right and wrong are being eroded into near nothingness.

    Which means that you -- through this blog today -- have sharpened my goals to seek God even more and present all the more in my writing, the glorious truth of His love and precepts.

    WOW. Powerful post, my friend, to change/sharpen anybody's thinking or goals this early in the morning! GREAT JOB!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  24. Morning MARY, What a fascinating post and I'm so impressed that you know how to insert a video into a post. smiling

    I remember all the videos you took in Atlanta. I just love techno wizards. Your minds have a whole wave length that mine seems to be lacking. lol

    Thanks for joining us here with all this wonderful information. I love studies like this. Have fun today.

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  25. Wow, Mary.

    I've read every word, and re-read most of them and it's got me thinking about my own work and how to bring people more deeply into it.

    This is fascinating. I LOVE IT!

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  26. Wow, thanks for this great info! I love the variety of information available on this blog. :) I would love to win/read any of the books mentioned as well as any book of one of the Seekerville authors.

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  27. What Glynna said at about the 8:41 mark ... reading other writers to figure HOW they did it.

    This is something I remember from an early age. Walter Farley, the Black Stallion books.

    He's the first one I ever looked up from reading and thought, "How did he do that."

    How did he make me be in that horse race. I didn't READ about the horse race, I was in it. I felt those big, muscled horses bumping against each other. I smelled them. I tasted the dust kicked up by their thundering hooves.

    And I think the emotion you're talking about, the ability to draw a reader into your story, well....it's the difference between a reader feeling how sad your characters are...and being sad themselves.

    It's the difference between worrying for the characters in danger or feeling like you yourself are in danger.

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  28. It's so hard to explain how this works and yet I feel like I know how to do it, draw a reader deeply into a story.

    It's got to do with action and deep POV and cutting all non-essential words and asides and backstory to bring a reader to an INTIMATE IMMEDIACY. To make them be there with you.

    I am in LOVE with this post, Mary. This is brilliant.

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  29. I think the takeaway today is..WOW.

    Already five people have mentioned that word.

    How's it feel to leave Seekers and Seekervillians speechless???

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  30. Glad everyone's finding this so interesting. Your comments are really making me think more deeply about it, and that's the kind of blog post I always love best - that give and take that makes you think!

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  31. Monday was open house at our school. It also happened to be Newbery Award day. My class was really eager to know what book won so as soon as it was announced that Kate DiCamillo won (her second Newbery Medal) for Flora and Ulysses, I downloaded it to my iPad and started reading it to the parents and children.

    The opening sequence has the heroine, Flora, witness a squirrel being vacuumed up by her neighbor (who was vacuuming her yard.) Flora runs down to the yard, shakes the squirrel loose, and performs CPR.

    After multiple warnings of DO NOT TRY that, lots of groans about Flora's description of what squirrel mouth tastes like, and maybe a few gagging parents, we had a discussion on why the author would write that scene.

    I told them about the research in this video and everyone was just as fascinated by it as you are. Kate DiCamillo may have grossed us out, but she sure had our attention!

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  32. Sorry for the heavy thinking so early. I should have thought to plug the coffee pot in but truth is, I make terrible coffee. Keurig saved my life!

    And here's some reassuring brain research. I read an article the other day that said a cup of coffee in the morning actually does make your brain work better.

    We didn't really need research to tell us that, but it's nice to have the backing.

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  33. Good morning friends!

    Wow, certainly a thought provoking article. I'll have to come back this evening when I have more time to watch the videos.
    In the mean time, I'm going to grab a cup of coffee and get to work.

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  34. I love Newbery and Caldecott Award days.

    It means more books requested at the library too.

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  35. Mary, I think you're absolutely right about this -

    "It's got to do with action and deep POV and cutting all non-essential words and asides and backstory to bring a reader to an INTIMATE IMMEDIACY. To make them be there with you."

    I also think it's characterization (which is made vivid in the ways you describe). If I think back to the very first books I remember being in love with - The Happy Hollisters. I loved that family. I wanted to be part of that family. I used to imagine them sitting at the table with me when mom made me sit there until I finished my peas. I wasn't the only one left at the table. I had Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue with me. And I was reasonably sure Mrs. Hollister NEVER made her children eat peas!

    They also had great vacations! My family never got to solve cool mysteries on our vacations.

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  36. Very interesting, Mary! Sometimes we think of all the harm movies and books can do to us especially our kids. But it's good to remember that books and movies can also be uplifting and actually good for us!

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  37. Your post, Mary, makes me think of that line from "You've Got Mail" -- "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does." Except I don't think that's entirely true. Reading does become a part of your identity throughout life in a way that no other activity does. We need to keep the inspiration going, touching and changing lives!

    Would love to be entered in the drawing. Thanks!

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  38. Beany Malone. Meet the Malones. I loved that family too. And all the Rosamund DuJardon books, I loved those families!!!

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  39. Make me think.
    Make me feel.

    This is what readers want today. Myself included.

    For the past several weeks, I've been writing Stock Purchase Agreements. Boring stuff, right? This post made me think of the vested stocks which are owned and generate an income of possibilities compared to the unvested stock which are basically a waste of paper.

    Great post, Mary!

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  40. Mary!

    Wow!
    I loved it. That's why I love to read. I love powerful stories, SAD stories because they move me.

    PLEASE VISIT MY SITE. What do you see there? Me, water, and rocks.

    And I wrote:

    "...I use my words to craft a novel that will touch the hearts of others. I write from a depth deep within me that is poured out like water on rocks.

    The water gives life, and as a servant of Christ I want to replenish your life with happiness and abundance found in His words."

    Yes, please enter me. I love to read how our brains works. Your post reassured me I'm at the right place. I write and love it.

    Anna Labno
    www.annalabno.com
    annalabno2004@yahoo.com

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  41. Mary, this is very fascinating stuff. The question that I had as I watched that video was, Are these changes temporary? How long does the "change" evoked by the story last? Would like to see research on that. :-) But it is really fascinating! I like to think that I have changed some people's thinking with my stories. I hope I have at least helped them think and want to be a better person.

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  42. I READ ALL THE HAPPY HOLLISTER BOOKS TOO!

    I think we might have had some kind of...subscription to them? We didn't own many books...we were poor and reading was huge in my family so we were really LIBRARY people.
    But we owned those Happy Hollister books and somehow my folks must have found the money to keep that subscription coming.

    I'm not sure if that's exactly right but the details are lost in the mists of time.

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  43. Amazing post! I learned so much! And thanks for the giveaway- please enter me in the drawing!

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  44. Mary Connealy, did the Happy Hollisters shoot secondary characters? What childhood book did you get that from??

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  45. Great post! I had a perfect example of this yesterday while finishing up one of Ruthy's books. (I'll be vague so as to not ruin it for anyone else)A certain animal did something heroic...I'll leave it at that. My brain must have been lit up like a Christmas tree because I became completely undone.

    And if anyone reads John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, you better hold on to your pocket book. Cause if emotion makes us charitable...you may give it all away!

    Am I the only one that doesn't know the Cannibal Rat story? Must go look it up.

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  46. Mary, The Happy Hollisters were a subscription. Doubleday mailed them out - 2 a month. I usually read them both the first day they arrived. I actually remember drinking milk, eating Nabisco Social Teas, and reading The Happy Hollisters.

    And then came the fateful day when they ran out of books ... and dared to send Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates instead. I've always hated that story because it replaced my beloved Happy Hollisters.

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  47. Donna,

    The Cannibal Rats story is making the internet rounds. You can Google or read this CNN blog.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/24/tech/web/apparently-this-matters-lyubov-orlova-ghost-ship/

    I suspect that like many great stories it's part truth, part fiction.

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  48. Julie, I agree with you. Wonderful notation....

    And your comparison of Fifty Shades of Gray and its effect....

    and the effect of God-centered books....

    can make a difference.

    Doesn't that just make us want to do better? Be stronger? Write our hearts out?

    BANANA MUFFINS, I'M IN!!!!!

    But back to cause and effect, (science and math are behind everything, aren't they?)... Our takeaway from a great book can affect far more lives than ours as the reader...

    Because we're parents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, crossing guards.... That effect goes on and on.

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  49. Beany Malone!

    Forgot her.

    And the Janet Lambert Penny Parrish series. Penny was such an adventurer.

    I wanted to be brave like her, go for the dream.

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  50. MELANIE,
    I think I remember reading something about how long the changes last. I'm at school now and only able to check in on breaks, but when I get home, I'll look and see if I can find the answer to that.

    ANNA, that sounds beautiful. It sounds like you are most definitely in the right place. I'll drop by your site later.


    BRIDGETT, I love that comparison with the stocks. It perfectly illustrates what a few people said earlier about stories having value.

    MEGHAN, I remember that line from You've Got Mail. It particularly hit home with me because I spend so much time reading with my class. And I agree about it continuing in life. Many of the inspirational books I've read have definitely changed me for the better.

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  51. Tina, I don't think I read Beany Malone, but OH how I loved Rosamund DuJardin. I'd completely forgotten those books til you mentioned her, but the memory came rushing back. *happy sigh*

    I tell my family that Barnes and Noble is my happy place. I go in there on a Saturday morning, get my cappuccino and am blissfully happy wandering the aisles.

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  52. Julie (and now Ruthy) mentioning some of those books like Fifty Shades, you remind me of a recent discussion on some loop about the New Adult literature and wondering what the impact of that will be.

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  53. Mary Curry - you rock! This is a great post!

    So many things to say....

    1) My husband had the subscription to the Happy Hollister books when he was a boy (we still have his copies!), and he also hates Hans Brinker. I think I know the connection now!

    2) We all know that it's important to engage our readers, to bring them to the place where they feel the immediacy of the story and follow the character through the arc...but now we know WHY!

    3) But this information also shows why it's so important for us and our children to be discerning readers and television/movie watchers. What if the thinking the author is trying to change your mind toward is wrong? We must know what we're reading - - approach it with both intellect AND emotion.

    Again, great post :)

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  54. Thanks for the post, Mary. I'm totally one to read other writers to figure out how to do something. I remember when I was writing my debut novel, I went to my copy of A Passion Most Pure and read through every Faith and Connor kiss and then went off and wrote my own first kiss.

    Yes, that's totally a true story. I thought that made me weird. Evidently it makes me normal?

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  55. Mary, this is fascinating. I'm so glad you shared it. I understand even more now why we need to get the readers' empathy for our characters right away.

    I love the idea of crafting stories that change our world for better. Thanks for sharing this!

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  56. Evidently it makes you smart, Naomi! :)

    Jan, yes! There is a section in The Storytelling Animal about being a discerning reader.

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  57. Great post, Mary!! Such fascinating information here.
    I'm so very thankful that my precious Mama began reading to me while I was still very young, because as Tina commented--those books shaped my world.
    Still SO very thankful I finally met you in person last summer--you're not only very smart, but very kind. :)
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

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  58. What a fascinating post! "What kind of world do you want?" This is brilliance. Today's post will definitely affect my storytelling from now on.

    Great stuff, Mary!

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  59. Donna!!!! I'm so glad you liked the book and the heroics!!!!

    I worked with "This Old Horse" in Minnesota, a great horse rescue organization to develop Spirit's character, an old police horse who'd fallen on hard times before being adopted by Deputy Sheriff Luke Campbell in "The Lawman's Holiday Wish".... Oh, what a sweet animal.

    And a great story, a prodigal returns kind of story. Thank you for the shout out!

    And I'm glad it made you feel that way. Me, too!!!! :)

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  60. Mary, that song is one of my favorite songs! So glad you chose it for your post today! I have had it on my IPOD for a long time and love listening to it. Sears used it in their holiday ad campaign years ago and I loved it so downloaded it. It has a powerful message. Great post!

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  61. Tina no shooting in Happy Hollisters, but seriously girl, try and sell one of those sweet stories in this day and age!

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  62. Besides the Happy Hollisters I was a big Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys reader.

    No shooting in those either but plenty of DANGER. (cue the Jaws music)

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  63. Just so you know, there are a zillion Happy Hollister books available on Amazon. :)

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  64. Does the article suggest that emotions of good times can't be powerful? I understand how the sad emotions would invest themselves in the brain. However, I would think deep moments of friendship and love would be above to do the same thing.

    - Walt

    Yes, I'm always interested in Seeker books.

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  65. I am so impressed by all of you reading those classics as children. I have to say I skipped by Nancy Drew and never read those classics Ruthy mentioned until I was an adult and teaching. They are classics, but somehow I never found them. I was too busy delving into my mother's books. I grew up on Gone With the Wind (I know Julie that is why I love you) Daphne DuMaurier, etc.

    Must be why I love romance. smile

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  66. Sandra, I remember on one of our family vacations we visited Boone Hall Plantation where they filmed part of GWTW. The tour guide mentioned it, but I had never heard of it so I asked my dad what it was. He said a movie about a man and woman who stay married because they have a child but then the child dies.

    HUH?

    No mention of the Civil War at all.

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  67. Mary, I actually still have most of my original Happy Hollister books. My daughter bought me a cool writing journal last year that was made from a HH cover and it has pages of the book interspersed with blank pages to write on. Inspire.

    Did you know they have a Facebook page?

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  68. Thank you Mary for reminding us what enormous responsibility a writer has, not only to shape our world, but to influence the world for our readers.

    I know all those fairy tales I read as a child influenced me to write romance.

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  69. Please enter me in the contest for a Seeker book.

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  70. I know books make me think and feel and evoke emotions and responses. Not up to looking at the video right now (need to have a nap over did it a little yesterday).
    There are books that have made me want to learn more about a cause and to help fight that cause.
    would love to win a book

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  71. You know, Elaine, you are right. It is a HUGE responsibility!!

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  72. I'm a bit late, but want to add another WOW, Mary! Your post is fascinating. Thank you for the inspiration!

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  73. Walt, I don't think they addressed your question. They tested only the two videos - one with a seriously tragic story and one that just had a father and son walking through the zoo. His point about the latter was that nothing was happening in the story other than the two of them walking through the zoo, hence the viewer lost interest and his attention wandered.

    The example makes me think of editors complaining of those scenes we write with people sitting and drinking coffee. Nothing's happening so the reader's attention is lost.

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  74. Hi Elaine,

    It is a daunting responsibility, but it's also intriguing to me to think that our stories can have a purpose beyond entertainment (not that entertainment isn't also good).

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  75. Jenny, that's cool that books make you passionate about a cause. What a tribute to the authors.

    Hoping you're feeling 100% soon. Rest!

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  76. 'What kind of world do you want' ties in nicely with 'write what you love' ...

    A fantastic post, Mary, and a wonderful discussion. I would say "wow!" but somebody already has :-)

    Nancy C

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  77. RUTHY the new pic is so fun! Thanks for sharing that smile.

    Nancy C

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  78. LOL Nancy, WOW seemed to be the word of the day.

    Melanie, you asked a question earlier about how long memory lasts.

    I was going through some old files on my iPod just now and I came across this from an education workshop I attended in 2012.
    If you want someone to remember something, tell a compelling story.
    Neuroscience tells us that the part of the brain that processes stories (that feels the emotion of the story) is connected to long term memory.

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  79. Thank you to everyone who dropped by to read and discuss today. I really enjoyed all the interaction.

    As always, it's great fun to be a guest on Seekerville!

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  80. Mary, I was traveling yesterday so didn't get by the blog. But I'm so glad I came by today to read this wonderful post!! This whole idea of story affecting our brains is so fascinating! Thanks for sharing the link to the video. WOW. So interesting! I'm fascinated by brain chemistry. And I hope that my stories can bring about change, even if only in one person's life.

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