The Psychology of Story-telling

A character’s narrative function, its storytelling purpose, is a psychological function. Not only does the act of telling stories have both therapeutic and harmful potential for storyteller and audience depending on the circumstances and nature of the story told, but the storyteller crafts the stories and characters to suit the audience’s psychological processes, including motivations, emotions, and cognitive abilities. Narrative intent and success depend on the storyteller’s theory of mind, his or her personal theory regarding other people’s mental activity. Your personal theory of mind involves attributing mental states, including thoughts, feelings, motives, knowledge, and perception, to oneself, others, and even fictional characters. Creating a fictional character (therefore constructing an imaginary psyche) and crafting a story to evoke specific reactions from living, nonfictional readers will depend – whether intuitively or intentionally – on your meta cognition, what you know and think about how cognitive processes like knowing and thinking work.

– Travis Langley


About handshedown

Keighley Perkins is a Cardiff-based poet whose influences include Anis Mojgani, Selima Hill and Richard Brautigan. Her work has previously been published in "Acumen", "Elbow Room", "Erbacce", "Fire", "Northwind" and "Obsessed with Pipework". She can also be found online on Twitter at @handshedown. View all posts by handshedown

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