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Showing posts from May, 2015

Mood Instability and Your Characters

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You're putting together a character who's mood simply bounces all over the place, happy one moment, in a fit of rage the next.  Researchers at King's College London note that this sort of mood instability is part of a number of mental health disorders. 

So how do you structure the personality and behavior of a character like this? 

Below is the King's College report, along with a brief description from mentalhealth.com, of typical behavior, sometimes in the extreme, of a person who is very emotionally unstable.  This is offered strictly as a guide for crafting character in fiction - and NOT for the amateur diagnosis of the state of someone's mental health.  That is always best left to trained professionals.

Another note about emotionally unstable behavior:  as any parent will tell you, this is how adolescents and teen-agers often behave.  It's a normal part of growing up - but it is a matter of degree.  In the extreme, however, this behavior can be diagnosed and…

Learning 'Perfect' Pitch May be Possible

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I admit that this story has little to do with writing.  But it is way cool and shows the progress being made by researchers in understanding our brain's ability to learn, in this case something that was thought to be an innate ability.

Like many writers, I play an instrument, the guitar, not well but with gusto and abandon when no one else is around to hear.  Sometimes, I'll even belt out the lyrics to a song.  When I do, my cat Sam hides under the bed, paws over his ears, a look on his face like, "make it stop."

Sound familiar?

Back in the day I played guitar and drums in a garage band and wanted nothing more than to be the next Richard Starkey or Mark Lindsay.  But I can't carry a tune in a bucket.  Not even close.  Unless it's atonal music and even then.

So, when psychologists from the University of Chicago announced yesterday that they had success in training some people to have perfect pitch and that the training lasts some months, where do I sign up?

There&#…

Hallucinations and Delusions More Common than Thought

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Have you ever heard voices that others cannot hear?  Say, your name called when no one is around?

Or, have you seen something that no one around you sees?

Don't panic.  According to this new research out of the University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School, it turns out that about 5% of perfectly healthy, normal people have or have had a hallucination or delusion, perhaps as often as five times in a life time.  This is more common in affluent countries, and in women.  It only becomes a problem when it occurs frequently.

Obviously, this can impact how a writer structures a character.  In fact, this phenomena could be the basis of a story, an otherwise normal person hearing or seeing something no one else experiences.

Something for you to chew while crafting your fiction.

Here's the story:
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Hallucinations and delusions in the general  population more common than previously thought.
An international study led by The University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School f…

Homely Men Can't Win for Losing

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A woman's view of a man is influenced  by how handsome and law-abiding he is.

Developing believable, effective characters may seem a lot of work, but if you, the writer,want to create believable people in your fiction, the more you know about people become who they are and the social obstacles they face in life, the better your work will be.
Take an unattractive man.  Have you ever thought about the social obstacles he faces?  According to this new research out Eastern Kentucky University, unattractive men are discriminated against in some subtle ways.
In developing a male character, you have to understand this discrimination - even if your character doesn't.  If your man is attractive, life and relationships are easier.  If unattractive, not as simple, which of course is going to have an impact on his psyche, his self-esteem and his general frustration level, which in turns will direct his words and actions.
Something to think about.
Here's the report.
Homely Men Can't Win f…

A Challenge to Writers: How Will You Use the New Road Map for Brain-computer Interface?

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Over the past year SNfW has published several reports on research into thought-controlled devices such as wheelchairs, mechanical arms and a wide range of devices that will, someday, allow the disabled to tend their own needs without help.  Or allow us to control a computer by thought alone.  Or communicate without an external cell phone.  Or, well, use your imagination.

It's an exciting time to be alive, today, in the early days of the scientific revolution.  Where we'll end up in just a few years is both exhilarating and frightening, offering a wide range of plots and story arcs for a writer to explore and develop.

Earlier today, researchers published what amounts to a road map of the human brain for researchers to use in their work.  Something any writer could use as the scientific and technical underpinning of a story.

Here's the story:

Research and science fiction has been fascinated by brain-machine or brain-computer interfaces – BCI for short – since the early 1970s. Q…

Controlling Robotic Arm by Thought Alone

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The smile on Mr. Sorto's face says it all.

He has a functioning arm despite being paralyzed from the neck down.

Science stories like this are so encouraging about our ability to someday find solutions - not cures - for some of the most traumatic injuries humans suffer.  I have to keep reminding myself, we are still in the early days of the scientific revolution.  We are still exploring and experimenting and taking steps impossible just ten years ago.  We are learning, and if anything that is the essence of the human animal.

This is one cool story.

Here's the report:

Through a clinical collaboration between Caltech, Keck Medicine of USC and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, a 34-year-old paralyzed man is the first person in the world to have a neural prosthetic device implanted in a region of the brain where intentions are made, giving him the ability to perform a fluid hand-shaking gesture, drink a beverage, and even play 'rock, paper, scissors,' using a ro…

Character Motivation: We all want high social status

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What motivates people?

An important question for any writer of fiction or non-fiction.  How can an author or a screenwriter fully develop a character without at least some idea of what motivates this person?

All human beings desire a high level of social status
A character's motivation, as this research from University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business points out, could be money, sex, revenge - any number of things could motivate your character in this particular story line.  However, all human beings desire a high level of social status.  In other words, are we respected by others, or ignored, or marginalized, or. . . well, the list goes on.

For decades, researchers have argued both yes and no on the question: is it human nature to want high standing in one's social circle, profession, or society in general?

For a writer and his or her characters, high or low social status has huge impact the way the character behaves and reacts to points in your story arc.

Peopl…

Remembering the First Sex in Space: The CBS Feed

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With all the recent sad news of our space program, such as American astronauts having to hitch rides into and back from space with the Russians while waiting for Apple to come up with a space travel app, the absence or presence of life on Mars depending on which conspiracy theory you cling to, the International Space Station being abandoned and allowed to crash into Australia due to its broken pay toilet and the debate about returning to the moon or if we ever got there at all, it got us thinking nostalgically of the early days of space exploration. In those more innocent days, every mission was an historic first, every maneuver and event a contest for domination of "The Final Frontier" with the Soviet Union.

Remembering Scott Carpenter's sub-orbital flight or John Glenn's first orbital flight, the heroic Apollo 13 mission starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon from a book by Jim Lovell (whoever he is) and directed by Opie from the Andy Griffith Show, the moon …

The One Critical Way Experienced Hitmen Differ From Newbies

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Research published this past March by criminologists at Birmingham City University in England doesn't offer new insight into how contract killers do what they do, but it does confirm much of what a most authors or screenwriters already assume.

To successfully kill someone you don't know, you have to disassociate yourself from your victim's humanity.  In fact, the researchers point out that a hired hitman who allows him or herself to get to know their intended victim often don't go through with their hit, especially if they are neophytes.  On the other hand, experienced contract killers have learned the ability to see their victims strictly as targets, not people.

This provides a number of variations for plot and character development in your fiction. 

Just something to think about.

Here's the story:


Hitmen bury their feelings for a successful 'hit'
Hitmen succeed in contract killing where they successfully bury any feelings or emotions, a study into the psychol…