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Thinking, Linearity and Stories


Disciplines > Storytelling > Storytelling articles > Thinking, Linearity and Stories

Linear thinking | Interruptions | Linearity in stories | See also


Linear thinking

Although our minds are like massively parallel computers and we can effectively think of many things at once, this is now how we perceive things. Our conscious minds are linear in that we think of one thing at a time. It is in the subconscious mind that all those other thoughts are going on (if we can call subconscious processing 'thought').

The deep physiology of thoughts also have linear aspects. One neuron fires another which fires another. It is literally sequential biophysical action.

Experience is also linear, because our experience of time is linear (we even build an internal construction of time as a line). We see something and we pay attention to it. It then changes and we follow it on its vector through time.


So how do we get off the current line of thinking? What happens is that an interruption or other distraction happens, so we set aside our current thoughts and follow along the new path, at least for while.

Thinking thus looks like a series of lines with jumps off to other lines. We can have a number of things about which we are thinking, and a number of contexts in which we are working or living. We switch backwards and forwards between these lines, usually picking up from where we left off.

Linearity in stories

Stories are like lives. They use similar linearity principles, with sequences of events that we follow easily, using the same thinking methods that we use in our own existence.

Many stories also jump back and forth between multiple strands that each run by themselves, split and join to make a threaded system, just like the stories of our lives.

This is why the story is such a great medium for changing minds: it has the same structure as the way we experience and think about life. This gives it much greater realism than talking about concepts and ideas.

See also


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