April 27, 2017

Your brain on description

To the sensory cortex, reading is the same as doing

Read the words coffee, camphor or eucalyptus, and the part of your brain most closely related to the sense of smell responds. Read the words bingo, button or bayonette, and they don’t.

Get in touch with your readers

Get in touch with your readers Good writing makes your brain think your body is touching, smelling, moving. Image by Dr. Wendy Longo

The words you choose not only have the power to change your readers’ minds. They can also change their brains, according to new neurological research.

“Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters,” reports Annie Murphy Paul in “Your Brain on Fiction” for The New York Times. “Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.”

Paul reports on new studies that show how words make us smell scents, feel textures, experience action — even understand others better.

1. The nose knows.

In 2006, researchers in Spain used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine to scan participants’ brains. Then they asked participants to read words describing odors — rancid, resin and oregano, for instance — as well as scent-neutral words, like circle, short and sketch.

Read full article >

“Great writers are not those who tell us we shouldn’t play with fire, but those who make our fingers burn.”
— Stephen Vizinczey, Hungarian author

Make your readers’ brains light up

With description, your readers can literally feel your message

Think of description as virtual reality: Describe a scent, and your readers’ primary olfactory cortexes light up. Describe texture, and you activate their sensory cortexes. Describe kicking, and not only do you stimulate their motor cortexes, but you stimulate the part of the motor cortex responsible for leg action.

Think of description as virtual reality: Describe a scent, and your readers’ primary olfactory cortexes light up. Describe texture, and you activate their sensory cortexes. Describe kicking, and not only do you stimulate their motor cortexes, but you stimulate the part of the motor cortex responsible for leg action.

Reach out and touch someone

Reach out and touch someone Learn to light up the sensory cortexes in your readers’ minds at our only creative writing workshop of 2016. Image by Aikawa Ke

But write abstractly — aka, the way we usually do in business communications — and readers’ brains remain dark.

Want to stimulate some brain activity around, say, your CEO’s latest strategy or that brilliant Whatzit you’ll be releasing later this month?

Description is the answer. But it’s not easy for those of us raised on the inverted pyramid and just the facts, Ma’am, to research for and write description.

At Master the Art of the Storyteller — a two-day creative writing Master Class on Feb. 23-24 in Phoenix — you’ll learn how to dig up descriptive details, tune in to sensory information, use a simple trick to craft description and avoid stimulating readers’ gag reflexes instead of their cerebral cortexes.

This is our only creative writing workshop of 2016 — which makes it your only chance to learn to write copy that lights up your readers’ brains this year. There are just 16 seats left. Don’t miss out. Register now.

“Excellent, kick-you-in-the-butt skills that I can use forever.”
— Patti Monsoor, public relations and marketing, Utah Valley University Woodbury School of Business

Polish your skills at our 2016 Master Classes

Learn to Catch Your Readers, Get Clicked, Cut Through the Clutter and more

Register for persuasive writing workshop in Atlanta on April 20-21
Register for tight writing workshop in Chicago on May 11-12

Register for writing workshop in San Diego on June 28-29
Register for PR writing workshop in Portland on July 27-28

Register for Online writing workshop in New York on Sept. 28-29
Register for writing workshop in Houston on Nov. 2-3
Rather bring Ann in to train your whole team?
Contact Ann directly.

Catch Ann on the road

Save when you book a workshop while I’m in your neighborhood

Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:

  • Atlanta: April 20-21
  • Bloomington, Indiana: April 5
  • Chicago: May 11-12
  • Englewood, Colorado: March 16-17
  • Houston: Nov. 2-3
  • New York: Sept. 28-29
  • Phoenix: Feb. 23-24
  • Portland: July 27-28
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: May 3-4
  • San Diego: June 28-29
  • Vacaville, California: March 1-2

Keep up with my calendar.