Tuesday, March 19, 2024

3T Tidbit

Anticipation - Challenge - Reward: for progress in something that's meaningful to you, where do you get the dopamine rush? 

I read up on game theory a while back. I've forgotten most of it, but that little note seems to have come from that exploration.

Answer: The dopamine is in the anticipation. That's why it we sometimes dwell on the planning of things that will never happen. The challenge getting there is great, and the reward may never be better than what we're getting now. Who hasn't mentally spent a bonus ten times over before it's received or bought a lottery ticket for the sheer joy of imagining all the ways of spending the winnings? Even though the chance of getting hit by lightning is greater and the bonus will depressingly go for repairs?

Good news for writers, though! Challenges that are mundane and take years in real life become significant and life-affirming when lived vicariously through fiction. Ups and downs are exaggerated into a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride. The quiet satisfaction of a job well done or new level of expertise claimed fictionalized into the rewards that would actually outstrip the rush of anticipation.

So when you write, make sure you take advantages of all the stages. Your hero's going up against the bad guy? Don't shortchange anticipation of how the fight might go, good and bad, or who in your hero's life might be affected. Make sure the challenge is worth the anticipation, and most important of all, make sure the reward is commensurate with the hero's fight, because the reader must feel the hero has earned it.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

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