What makes a memorable story?
They say our brains can't tell the difference between something that has happened to us and something that we only imagine has happened to us. There have been all kinds of experiments about this. The one that comes to mind right now is the one where they took two groups of kids and allowed the first group to practice basketball for hours & told the second group to spend the same amount of time imagining they were practicing basketball. At the end of the experiment, the two groups had improved equally.
Our bodies apparently react to an imagined stressful event in the same way as an experienced stressful event.
I started noticing recently that when I have my toddler twins out in public and I loose sight of one of them (mind you, I only take them to gated in areas when I 'm alone with them, so it's not like they can run off) I have been reacting a lot stronger than I have in the past. By this I mean, I pretty much am over-reacting. I get the whole heart racing, light headed fight or flight thing. When it happened today, I tried to pinpoint the fear and what I came up with was that I was reliving a memory. A memory of losing my child, of wondering where he was at that moment, knowing he was terrified to be without me. Only, I have never lost my child.
The "memory" stems from the story of the four year old little girl who had been kidnapped from her parent's hotel room while they were vacationing not too long ago. I am so empathetic by nature that every time I read something about this story, I couldn't help but put myself in the parents shoes, imagining each detail in technicolor, feeling the horror...the terror and the heartbreak as if it were my child. Of course, I will never know the fullness of their pain but for me, this story has become my own terrible memory.
So, the question of the day is...can we, as fiction writers, affect people like this with our stories? Or is it only "the truth" that can do this. If our brains can't tell the difference between what we are experiencing through our imagination and what we are experiencing in the real world, then it should be possible.