10-ish Things About the Brain by Danny Potter

    As I mentioned last week, my favorite LTUE panel was “Things About the Brain that Every Writer Should Know” by Danny Potter. Turns out, someone recorded that panel and now it’s on Youtube!!!

    Yay! Now I can share the whole thing with you guys! Seriously, it was AMAZING. It may be 50 minutes long, but it is worth the long time. In case you need some motivation to watch/listen to the whole thing, I’ll summarize some of my favorite points for you.
    Our minds are always making connections. We are associational learners. For example- All chairs are different, yet whenever we see a chair we understand what it is. We don’t have to relearn what a chair is every time we encounter a new one.

    When we are angry, we are less likely to doubt ourselves. Danny Potter gave the example of a faucet. The hot tap is our emotions and the cold tap is our rational thought. The more emotional we are, the less rational we are, and vice versa. 
    Schema = a syllogistic figure = archetypes & tropes. Using schemas in our writing allows us to use associational descriptions to give our readers an image without over describing. He used the example of a girl with spiky heeled black boots and blue lipstick. That’s 2 descriptors but you have an image of her in your head. If a descriptor is not important, delete it from your writing because your readers will either skim over it or put your book down. Our brains can only take in so much information at once.
    The best way to keep a reader reading is by giving gaps in your writing, especially when they think they know the way to overcome the gap and you prove them wrong. But too many gaps will confuse the reader and they’ll put it down. Give a new problem before solving the old one. Make sure your reader always has a reason to keep reading.
    I can’t explain what he says in the way he does. Probably because I’m not a psychologist. Watch the video, or listen to it while you’re doing something else.
    If I ever go back to school, I’ll probably study psychology. I find this stuff fascinating.

4 thoughts on “10-ish Things About the Brain by Danny Potter”

  1. Really useful resource, Allie! I agree, the human brain is fascinating, and powerful. It can readily identify what many of us writers are trying to describe in just a couple of words, no need for the lengthy paragraphs. Interesting.

    It made me think of a little thing that happened to me the other day. I have lots of chickens and ducks and there's a few feathers laying around the yard. Some feathers (especially rooster tail feathers) will 'come to life' with a breeze and move around. Sometimes I think they are a snake but my mind quickly registers that they are just a feather. But, recently I saw one of these 'feathers' moving in the wind, and yep, my brain registered it as a feather. But, for some reason I had another look. Errr, no, it was a brown snake – which has the deadliest poison in Australia! So, yeah, sometimes the brain can file things too efficiently! Sorry about the long anecdote but it made me think of this 🙂

  2. Psychology is one of the subjects I didn't have an opportunity to explore at college. Sometime I hope to have the chance to study it more in-depth. As a writer, knowing how characters are going to respond is often instinctual, but I love to get behind the scenes, into the inner workings of their minds. Definitely going to check this video out! Thanks for sharing it.

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