A fascinating dive into what authors should know about the brain science of how and why we read. Gelfan (Monkey Temple) connects breakthroughs in cognitive science to effective writing in this incisive guide, focusing on how the brain “extracts meaning” from the world—and what authors can extract from that knowledge. Noting that there’s no one path to success as an author but “some reliably watertight guarantors of failure,” Gelfan undercuts the templates and inflexible rules of many other books about the craft of writing. For Gelfan, compelling writing is about “learning how to think about what you’re trying to do and then coming up with creative and effective ideas for how to do it”—and knowing something about how the brain processes writing helps, too. He urges authors toward innovation, using the power of subtext, and understanding why we read and write in the first place, all while offering some concrete advice, like avoiding too much detail in prose to invite the brains of readers to fill in the missing links.
Can learning how our minds work make you a better writer? For thousands of years, writers have been taught theories and rules about writing based on tradition, philosophy, esthetics, poetics, scholarship, mysticism, and arbitrary dictates. Meanwhile, over the past few decades, cognitive science has discovered much about how the human mind sees the world and extracts meaning from it, giving us a better understanding of the role stories and storytelling play in human survival, growth, and evolution. Yet these discoveries have often remained cloistered in the realm of science, out of sight to writers and artists. In Hurling Words into Darkness, veteran editor, novelist, and teacher Peter Gelfan uses these discoveries to connect previously undiscovered dots between authors’ misconceptions and readers’ desires. This short but powerful book provides unique insights for all writers, whether beginners or pros, who are interested in creating a deeper and more effective reading experience.