A Facebook link posted by writer friend Tawna Fenske to the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign on the same day as the Boston Marathon bombings at the same time I’m reading a writing book called Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence made me think about how simultaneously wonderful and scary is our power of perception.
As a writer, I’m taught to create a storyworld for my reader using their senses and emotions. We use techniques like showing instead of telling and archetypal imagery to incite visceral responses that build Technicolor, 3D, surround-sound, smell-o-vision experiences out of a black and white page.
It’s magic, I tell ya.
But magic — like all powers — can be used for good or evil. The Dove campaign shows women seeing the evidence of their own perceptions of their beauty played against the perceptions of others. Just like a writer builds a storyworld out of the senses and emotions of the reader, we real-life people build our real-life world out of OUR senses and emotions.
And sometimes that world is so, so wrong.
The Dove example might seem petty — so some lady thinks she has more flaws than she really does; wash with mild soap and it’ll all be better — but what other, more debilitating flaws in imagination lead someone to place a bomb?
Use your power for good
I write romance because I believe good triumphs, love wins the day, and we can all strive to be better people. And that is the world I want to build. Meanwhile, there are dark souls out there seeking to build a world that reflects their own skewed perceptions.
Don’t let them win.
Use your power of perception to find the real beauty (even in a silly ad). Seek the truth (even though knee-jerk conspiracy theories). Believe in the potential for happiness (even when it hurts) because that is the definition of hope.