I stumbled across this article which explores the topic of how stories are an ideal way of delivering information. I’m the first to concede that this is hardly breakthrough news. We all understand that if you say “Pets save the lives of their owners 3400 times a year in America,” the point tends to go in one ear and out the other but if you augment that fact with a story about a how a 92-year old woman’s pet rabbit dragged her into the car and drove her to the hospital when she was having a heart attack, it has much more impact.
The article goes into some of the neuroscience behind this, but for me, this just feels true – I respond better to stories than a litany of facts. And the article makes another point that also feels correct – we respond to story text that activates our senses. If you say, “the carpet felt great,” that’s one thing. If you say, “the soft, velvety material of the carpet tickled Susan’s fingers and caused tingles to go up and down her spine,” that’s a whole ‘nuther ball of wax. This is something useful to keep in mind while writing fiction (and all writing is ultimately fiction.)
Here’s a section from the article on this point.
When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.
If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up. If it’s about motion, our motor cortex gets active:
“Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex. […] Then, the brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like “John grasped the object” and “Pablo kicked the ball.” The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements.”