Research Bulletin: How Children Make Sense of Impossible Events in Fiction

Posted by Guneet Daid | OnFiction: The Psychology of Fiction | Monday, 14 September 2015
Fairy-Tales

“Preschoolers can Infer General Rules Governing Fantastical Events in Fiction,” by J.W. Van de Vondervoort and O. Friedman

This is an interesting article, by Guneet Daid, from OnFiction, about a study, “Preschoolers can Infer General Rules Governing Fantastical Events in Fiction,” by J.W. Van de Vondervoort and O. Friedman, that reveals the ability of children to easily differentiate between fantasy and reality. Continue reading . . .

Stories Within Stories

Antoni Gaudí’s mosaics at Park Güell—stories within stories

Antoni Gaudí’s mosaics at Park Güell—stories within stories

In the world of words, creativity is not restricted to writers: reading is creative, too. Even if neither is aware of the process, readers complete a story by understanding, interpreting and meshing it with their own inner narratives. A reader brings his or her own ‘voice’ to the task. It’s a collaborative process. And sometimes, the meaning readers make from a tale is not what the author intended: writers must release their stories to make their own relationships with their audience. Without readers would there be writers?
Continue reading . . .

Switching Gender…er…Genre

Twitter: @TrishaNicholson

Chomolungma

Chomolungma

Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing. —Dante

In the last couple of years I’ve authored two travelogues, and a third, much longer one about Papua New Guinea, is in the pipeline. But this week, Collca released my science ebook. Science? Some people were askance. “But you’re a travel writer.  You can’t switch genre like that, your readers won’t know where they are.”

Can. Have done. So there. And I credit readers with enough intelligence to understand plain English and know exactly where they are when they read each of my books.
Continue reading . . .

Storyteller and Filmmaker Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog Talks About The Chicken Twins

In this video, German filmmaker Werner Herzog (@wernerherzog) appears in conversation with acclaimed author and essayist, Pico Iyer at UC Santa Barbara. I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched and listened to it, but I find it to be one of the finest examples of storytelling. On the back of Herzog’s engaging delivery, the story naturally unfolds and numerous peculiar surprises are revealed from one moment to the next. Who is your favorite storyteller?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Season’s Greetings and Thank you~*

Dear Friends,

I would like to extend my deep appreciation to each of you Creative Flux writers and contributors for generously sharing your visions with this community. You never failed to spark the curiosity and nourish the spirits of our readers with your infectious love of language and unique storytelling abilities, and I thank you for it!
Continue reading . . .

CF Nominated for “One Lovely Blog Award”

One Lovely Blog AwardMy sincere thanks go out to Thomas Drinkard (@ThomasDrinkard) for nominating Creative Flux for the “One Lovely Blog Award”!

Tom is a writer, editor and teacher with a strong military background whose specialty is writing about  characters who command attention in suspense, mystery and action-packed novels.  Recently, he was a guest on Blog Talk Radio in a dynamic and entertaining interview by Donna Cavanagh that reveals the man behind the pen.

I met Tom a few years ago on social media and and it was an honor to interview him in June, 2011 (includes audio clips). He has also contributed an excellent piece on writing—”Planner or Panster?”—on CF, and you can find his writing blog here. Thanks again, Tom!

You can view some of my favorite words and other blog nominations in the updated “Inspiring Blog Award” post.

As for nominees for the “One Lovely Blog,” each of you is special to me in a unique way:

  1. Deborah Watson-Novacek: Creativity For Life!
  2. Jeffrey Davis: Tracking Wonder
  3. Karl Sprague: The Short Distance
  4. Marina Sofia: Finding Time To Write
  5. Marta Moran-Bishop: Interviews
  6. Terri Long: The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively
  7. Victoria Mixon: The Art & Craft of Fiction
  8. With a special bonus nomination to Independent Author Network Blog (IAN)

As the guidelines go, if you so choose, you are requested to:

  1. link back to Creative Flux
  2. reveal seven little-known facts about yourselves
  3. nominate 7 of your favorite bloggers for the “One Lovely Blog Award,” contact them with the nomination and give them the guidelines

I look forward to learning more about you:) Have fun!

“…I Paint My Dream”

Terre Britton and "The Green Vase"

Me and “The Green Vase” that won Best in Show at Artel Gallery, Pensacola, FL.

Friends, I’ve missed you all! And back in April/May, when I mentioned on Twitter that I would be taking a break from curating Creative Flux, I hadn’t expected to be away so long. But events of the last six months redefined my time and priorities. A long story short: within four months of that time we moved twice, and this last time, in July, it was across the state. I apologize to all of you reading this, you members of the Creative Flux community, for I know I’ve been negligent and it makes me feel awful. And, because of new opportunities, the future of Creative Flux is still undecided.

On the other side of things, Life has finally given me an opportunity to reunite my deepest artistic love with action! In under two months of living in our new Pensacolian digs, I’ve met a number of amazing artists, entered my first juried art competition at the Artel Gallery (@artelPensacola) and was awarded Best of Show!

And there’s more news; please come read about it and share in my excitement–Terre Britton: Best of Show at Artel Gallery–because each of you in the Creative Flux community has been instrumental at helping me arrive at where I am today, through your stories, conversations, kindness, laughter, wisdom and insights. I’ve just loved being immersed in your generosity; so thank you!

I do hope you’ll swing by my art blog (which still needs a name), when you get a chance, to catch a glimpse of works to come or to sit and chat.

Again, friends, thank you.

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
― Vincent van Gogh

 

CF Nominated for “Inspiring Blog Award”

Inspiring Blog AwardUpdated: September, 2012

I am honored and thrilled that Creative Flux has been nominated for the “Inspiring Blog Award” by Marina Sofia (@MarinaSofia8), author of the blog “Finding Time to Write.”

The nomination goes out to all the talented contributors on CF, as well as those helping to build up the community with their insightful comments.

Also, be sure to check out the inspiring blogs by all the other nominees on Marina’s blog.

Thank you, Marina!

~~~~~~ Update   ~~~~~~

Last week I discovered I’d short-changed Marina in my response to this nomination. I thought there was to be a winner who was to share information and nominations. No winner. Just nominees. We are all winners! Sorry, Marina! Live and learn. So, I’ll follow her lead and share seven of my favorite words/phrases:

  1. unctuous
  2. aleatoric
  3. prickly
  4. pluck
  5. diametrically opposed to
  6. waggish
  7. triskaidekaphobic (I am not:)

And a mere hand-full of my favorite bloggers, who I nominate for the “Inspiring Blog Award,” are:

  1. George Davis: Virtual Davis
  2. John M. Bell: Start Your Novel
  3. Kathy Pooler: Memoir Writer’s Journey
  4. Patrick Ross: Creativity, Writing & An Art-Committed Life
  5. Roz Morris: Undercover Soundtrack
  6. Ruth Long: Bullish Ink
  7. Trish Nicholson: Words in the Treehouse

As the guidelines go, if you so choose, you are requested to:

  1. link back to Creative Flux
  2. reveal seven little-known facts about yourselves
  3. nominate 7 of your favorite bloggers for the “One Lovely Blog Award,” contact them with the nomination and give them the guidelines

I look forward to learning more about you!

 

 

The Story Behind Your Story

Bublish
 

Every once in awhile, I get an email with an embedded video from Britain’s Got Talent, The Voice, American Idol or some other talent discovery program. The message accompanying these videos is always similar: “This is so uplifting. You’ve got to watch this!” Being a sucker for inspiring stories, I usually do . . . even though I know they’re designed to pull on my heart strings.

What the producers of these videos understand is that the stories leading up to a performance are almost as important as the performance itself. The hours it took to cultivate the talent being showcased, the personal struggles encountered and overcome, the long journey to get to the big show about to take place — that’s what draws viewers in, gets them hooked emotionally, and has them completely invested in the outcome of the performance.

As an author, it’s important to realize the value of the story behind your story.

As an author, it’s important to realize the value of the story behind your story. Many of you have created entire worlds for your books. How did you do that? Where did your creative ideas, your characters, your plot lines, your scenes come from? What was your journey as a writer? Who and what influenced you and informed your choices as an author? Readers love these stories. They’re like a director’s cut for a film. The minute you see what went into filming a single scene, your connection to the entire project is deeper and longer lasting. The story behind the story fascinates us. It’s human nature.

When you’re trying to find your audience or nurture the kind of reader loyalty that helps build a career in writing, the story behind your story can be almost as important as the story you tell in your book. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying this is a substitute for a well written book. The quality of your book will ultimately be what makes or breaks your writing career, but the story behind the story will enrich it immeasurably.

I mentioned a few writers who do this well in another post here on Creative Flux. It was called “The Art of Book Promotion.” Author Roz Morris and her story of a reluctantly scrapped scene about a “black dress” owned by a character in her book My Memories of a Future Life, perfectly demonstrates the potency of the story behind the story. I suggest you take a look at her original post, and the reader responses it inspired. Your life as a writer is full of interesting tales. Realize the value of the story behind your story, and don’t be afraid to share it.

At the company I founded, Serendipite Studios, we think a lot about how to help authors more effectively find readers in today’s crowded book marketplace. We believe strongly that the story behind the story draws readers toward book content. In fact, we are creating a platform to make it very simple for writers to share small excerpts from their books accompanied by the stories behind them. It’s called Bublish, and it’s going to change the way writers share their stories and readers discover new authors and books.

With Bublish, social book discovery will be a fun, relaxing and serendipitous experience.

With Bublish, social book discovery will be a fun, relaxing and serendipitous experience. Writers will be able to send out their enriched book excerpts, called bubbles, across multiple social networks where readers will encounter and interact with them. If a reader likes a bubble, he or she can ask for more. Not only will Bublish lighten the promotional content burdens authors shoulder in our socially connected, 24/7 world, but it will enrich the social conversations between writers and readers. As we’ve already discussed, the story behind your story is a powerful tool for audience engagement.

Writers need more effective ways to find and connect with readers, and readers need a better online book discovery experience. With Bublish, help is on the way. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? We hope you’ll come learn more and sign up for a beta invite at www.serendipitestudios.com. We’re excited to help authors share the stories behind their stories. Who knows, we might even be able to help you pull a couple of heart strings along the way!

~~*~~

 

Biography

Kathy Meis

Kathy Meis

Kathy Meis has been a professional writer for more than twenty years. She founded Serendipite Studios in 2010 to empower those who create and enhance quality content. Last week, her company announced the upcoming launch of Bublish, a platform that will redefine how writers share their stories and readers discover new books. If you’d like to learn more about Bublish and sign up for a beta invite, visit www.serendipitestudios.com. You can also find out more on Twitter @BublishMe

 

Please join the discussion below

How I Survived Inside a Crocodile

View from Nyile La

Bhutan: View from Nyile La

For some, fiction and non-fiction are poles apart, for others they seem at times to merge with less than desirable results. In amongst this is the hapless writer of travelogue.

Somebody posted a link on Twitter a few months ago with a list of ‘active verbs for writing fiction’. These lists and reminders are often stimulating so I re-tweeted it. The sender thanked me and must have checked out my bio because she added, “sorry, I don’t have a list for non-fiction writers.” We need a separate language for non-fiction writers?

Antoni Gaudí: Wooden Stairwell Casa Batllo

Antoni Gaudí: Wooden Stairwell Casa Batllo

Active verbs are active verbs whoever is using them for whatever purpose, but it made me realise there is room for some considered thoughts on the relationship between fiction and non-fiction. ‘Non-fiction’ of course covers a vast range of genre, even if we reduce it to literary non-fiction we have a choice of, biographies, histories, memoirs, essays, syntheses of burning issues of the day—and travelogue, which may be written in any of these genres. But they all have in common the responsibility to be accountable: to meet readers’ expectations that the facts contained in them, however superbly crafted the writing, will be reliable—checked and checkable.

The boundaries between fiction and non-fiction are increasingly porous, especially in style. The traditional inverted pyramid beloved of newspaper editors, in which bare facts are crammed into a first paragraph bulging like an overfilled carry-on bag, was partly determined by technical limitations in typesetting and the need to cut quickly ‘from the bottom’; it  is rarely seen in quality newspapers since the digital revolution.

Instead, reports open, like the first sentence ‘hook’ in a novel, with a description of 16-year-old Aito scrabbling in the ruins of his home after the Japanese earthquake, or an impassioned quote from shopkeeper Giorgos Papadros, facing bankruptcy in the collapsing Greek economy. Alternately, the reader is baited with a startling fact or a teasing promise: ‘It is one of history’s most enduring mysteries . . . ,’ depending on the paper, subsequent disclosure may prove more, or less, convincing.

Antoni Gaudí: Frontage Casa Mila

Antoni Gaudí: Frontage Casa Mila

It’s not only that printing technology now allows greater flexibility in editing and publishing; there are sound business and psychological reasons for this change in style. As neuroscience uncovers the workings of the human brain and finds we are ‘hard-wired’ to perceive and interpret the world in narrative, literature has attracted the attention of science: universities, particularly in the USA and Canada even have Psychology of Fiction departments.

Their work shows that what we read, affects our attitudes and behaviour, at least in the short-term. Some claim this influence for fiction only, because of its emotional content, but far less research has been carried out on non-fiction. Non-fiction can equally well have emotional content to which readers relate: the question is not whether fiction, or non-fiction, has the greater influence, but what form and style of writing is most affecting.

One recent study in particular demonstrates not only the power of the written word, but the dangers of reading non-fiction that turns out to be untrue. Researchers, Dr Melanie Green and John Donahue, found that subjects changed their beliefs after reading an article presented to them as non-fiction. When later told the article contained errors of fact, the subjects lost respect for the author, but the changes in their beliefs remained unaltered. Not only are the effects of reading fiction and non-fiction powerful, they are hard to reverse; a fact already well known to advertisers and politicians.

Given the results of this kind of research, fudging boundaries between what is presented as fiction, and as non-fiction, becomes an ethical rather than an artistic issue. In an earlier article on Creative Flux, I stressed the importance to creativity of freeing oneself from others’ conceptual boundaries, but we cross the border between fact and fancy at our peril.

Antoni Gaudí: Frontage Casa Batllo

Antoni Gaudí: Frontage Casa Batllo

When a novel is promoted as a ‘true story’ to pique the curiosity of book browsers, we assume the basic events of the tale took place, but we can accept artistic licence with details because it is offered as a work of fiction – a novel. On the other hand, when an essay or book is published as a non-fiction work, we are entitled to feel betrayed by the author if it is later found to contain falsified information.

This is what angered readers of John D’Agata’s About a Mountain, and his unrepentant response to criticism, in The Lifetime of a Fact. The subject matter of About a Mountain is not of marginal interest: it concerns a major moral controversy – the disposal of nuclear waste. Ironically, as Charles Brock pointed out in his review, it is the ‘moral authority of D’Agata’s voice’ that is damaged in the process. The issue is not only about facts changed to suit D’Agata’s artistic whim, nor even about readers left unaware of what is fabricated (not everyone reads the small print); it is about how we perceive anything else written by this, and other authors, writing in the same genre: it is about trust.

Literature aims to influence: unless we restrict our scribbling to a locked diary stuffed under the mattress, we write to grab a reader’s attention, share a vision, a point of view, and in some way, to persuade. Personal experience, dialogue, vivid metaphor, compelling language, and yes, those active verbs, all enhance the power of words to move the reader. The greatest compliment a reviewer can pay a work of non-fiction is to describe it as ‘ . . . scholarly research that reads like a novel . . . ’

When Lee Gutkind started the journal Creative Nonfiction in 1994, encouraging the crossing of genres to evolve a ‘literature of reality’, it was creativity in form, style and language – writing craft – he had in mind, rather than creativity with the facts. ‘We are attempting, as writers, to show imagination, to demonstrate artistic and intellectual inventiveness and still remain true to the factual integrity of the piece we are writing.’ The creative non-fiction approach is well suited to serious travel writing: portraying place, character and culture, constructing meaning, revealing our role in the landscape and sharing a sense of ‘being there’.

After a decade or so of self-defence, creative non-fiction as a sub-genre has gained recognition, but the term itself remains troublesome to many because of its inherent ambiguity; an ambiguity resulting from a limited definition of ‘creativity’ as a rare talent for making things up. The situation is not helped by authors who publish non-fiction that turns out to be untrue.

Antoni Gaudí: Stairs At Casa Mila

Antoni Gaudí: Stairs At Casa Mila

Of course, ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ are even more problematic. On the right to report on contemporary events truthfully, George Orwell cautioned, ‘or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers.’ Irrefutable, objective facts are few: most are the product of interpretation from one standpoint or another, individual perceptions refracted through personal lenses of varying opacity; and that applies to readers as well as writers. However meticulous a writer may be in expressing his or her exact meaning, whether in fact or fiction, a look through the reviews may have you wondering if they all read the same work.

The dilemma of inevitable subjectivity is especially acute for travel writers, for whom the personal lens is further distorted by their own culture. A generation ago, anthropologists finally recognised the hazards involved in representing ‘otherness’, whether of environment or of a people and their culture. Modern anthropologists are far more conscious of the cultural prism through which they observe others, as well as how their presence and observation affects the subjects of their study; it is an essential lesson for travel writers also.

An anthropologist as well as a writer of travelogue, I am keenly aware of my own potential for bias, not only in what I sense, but in what I select to write about – all creativity is a process of selection – while at the same time producing a work of carefully researched non-fiction. In this respect, it is useful for all travel accounts to contain enough about the author and their presence in the landscape, for the reader to understand at least something of the author’s point of view. It is even more important for authors to understand their own perspectives.

My own mentor on creativity said little and wrote even less, but Gaudi understood the fundamental nature of the creative process, summed up in his statement, ‘Creation works ceaselessly through man. But man does not create, he discovers . . . originality consists in returning to the origin.’ The origin, the irrefutable facts on which Gaudi based his creativity were those of nature—landforms, natural processes, physical forces. He could not ignore these facts or his buildings would have fallen down; instead he collaborated with them, using his vivid imagination to create works of art that are also functional buildings—and in their time, innovative in functionality as well as artistry.

Monks Emerge From Doorway

Bhutan: Monks Emerge From Doorway

As a travel writer, my ‘origins’ are the events, landscapes, and peoples I encounter and record as faithfully as the limitations of being human will allow; my ‘discovery’ is the language and form my imagination employs to interpret these origins and share them with the reader. However imperfect, these are my attempts at collaboration with the facts, and creativity in their expression.

A reader’s pleasure in sharing a journey, an environment, the exposure to another culture, is enriched by the form, style and language of creative writing.  But in my view, a travel writer has a responsibility to be truthful (unless a travel book is presented as a novel), which precludes, for example, the invention of events, locations and local characters to make the place, or the author, appear more exotic, or in a misguided attempt to provide a deeper cultural experience for the reader.

A travel writer is necessarily an outsider and there is validity in that point of view, even though it will never achieve the same cultural authenticity as an interpretation of place by a writer who is also an insider. Outsiders notice things insiders may take for granted; outsiders can act as intermediaries between a place and readers who may never see it, or sharpen the perceptions of those who do. Whether carrying luggage, or sitting in armchairs, travellers who want a better understanding of place, should, ideally, read local authors of fiction as well as reliable non-fiction travelogue.

Fiction contains a different kind of ‘truth’:  inner perceptions and imagined realities that can shine a bright light on the most mundane object and give it meaning in its cultural context, and sometimes, in any context. To share just a few of my favourites: Vikram Seth, Kiran Desai, Han Suyin, Paulo Coelho, Khaled Hosseini, Chinua Achebe, and Nadine Gordimer.

I enjoy my readings of places and cultures best when both non-fiction and fiction share the creativity of the storyteller to provide meaning, but where non-fiction weaves the truths of fact, and fiction weaves the truths of fancy. Some boundaries are useful.

P.S. To keep the record straight: at no time was I swallowed by a crocodile. *smiles*

A few useful websites for those who wish to follow these topics further:

Narrative: at http://richardgilbert.me

OnFiction: http://www.onfiction.ca

Creative nonfiction: http://www.creativenonfiction.org

~~*~~

Biography

Trish Nicholson

Trish Nicholson

Trish Nicholson is a non-fiction author, writer of some award winning short stories and a keen photographer. All of these passions she shares in her weekly blogs which include book reviews, stories, writing tips, travel tales and photo-essays, as well as updates on her current non-fiction works.

Her background is in social anthropology and regional management, which led to travel in a score of countries to carry out research, and to work on aid and development projects, before she settled on a hillside in New Zealand where she now writes full time.

Last year, Trish signed up with Collca to write for their new ebook series, illustrated BiteSize Travel. Masks of the Moryons: Easter Week in Mogpog, on the spectacular celebration of Holy Week in a traditional community in the Philippines, was released in December 2011. Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, shares the experience of trekking and discovering the history and culture of this extraordinary Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom, and was released on 20 April 2012. It is available from Amazon UK and from Amazon US.

"Journey in Bhutan," by Trish Nicholson on Amazon

"Journey in Bhutan," by Trish Nicholson on Amazon

Author in Bhutanese Dress

Author in Bhutanese Dress

Connect with Trish

Blog | Twitter: @trishanicholson

 

Please join the discussion below.