Wednesday, 3 November 2010

It's a syn


Can you hear the difference between a circle and a square? Can you see the birdsong? Can you feel a whisper?

I can't but I wish I could.

Recently when researching ideas for a new novel I found myself reading one of Susan Blackmore's books on consciousness. The characters in my partially written story have some wacky ideas on the subject and I needed to catch up with their thinking. Now, one of the wonderful things that happens when you research a piece of fiction is that you get sidetracked into new and sometimes inspirational topics. In this case I was drawn to a description of synaesthesia. People with this fascinating superpower can do the things I listed above.

I'd be interested to know if any readers of Strictly Writing experience these phenomena, and just how they work for you. The most common form is where letters and numbers are always seen as coloured. I'm envious because I'm sure it would make it easier to come up with metaphors and other fresh ways of conveying concrete experience to the reader.

About 1 in every 200 adults are synaesthetes. It is especially prevalent in poets, writers and artists - that's also why I'm jealous.

Many young children have synaethesia but the effects disappear with age, along with so many other attributes like the ability to play and creativity (in many people, but not us, oh no, not us).

Apparently many synaesthetes hide their ability, but now is your chance to come out. And does it help you as a writer?

14 comments:

Caroline Green said...

I'm fascinated by synasthaesia too, Rod and have read a few novels where it has appeared in some way. My favourite of these is Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Claire Morrell. I have never experienced this but can sometimes imagine feeling it..if that makes a jot of sense. I wonder whether it is something that could actually be developed or whether you have to be born that way...?

Roderic Vincent said...

Keep trying to hear those colours, Caroline.

And I forgot. Have a click on the picture for weird revolving experience.

Caroline Green said...

Still recovering from a sickness bug that wiped out our halfterm so I can't cope with that I'm afraid!

Paul said...

I have a mild case of synaesthesia: I "know" the color of every letter and I can sometimes "see" the shape of sounds. I think you have to be born with it since the latest theory I've heard is that there is some crosswiring in the brain that "causes" it.

I haven't found it useful in my writing at all, unless it has unconsciously let me create some metaphors.

Roderic Vincent said...

Sounds mysterious, Paul. I wonder why it's more prevalent in writers - guess it's helpful to have your head wired up in unusual combinations.

Lindsay said...

I have this a little bit - mostly that names of people and days of week, months etc are in colour. Eg: most Davids are blue but it is possible that a David could be another colour. I cannot say or read or hear these names or words without the colour being there! Also music is visual - I like swirly and sinuous sounds, and hate jagged sounds!Square music for me is actually juct that!

Paul said...

C'mon, Lindsay. David is a brown word. That big "D" at the beginning and one at the end. Both brown. And V is tannish. It's a brown word.

Roderic Vincent said...

Maybe the problem here is that for you it works with the colour of the letters and for Lindsay it's the whole name, or even the person that exhibits a certain colour?

In my experience, most Davids are grey.

Christine Donovan said...

I've got a friend who sees numbers and letters as colours, but I'd never heard of it before, so I'm amazed it's the most common form. I can taste colour, which my family just find plain weird, and my sister can feel colour, but personally I think everyone can, it's just that we don't do it.

Roderic Vincent said...

If I could taste or feel colours I would definitely refer to them that way in fiction.

Roderic Vincent said...

Christine, I confess I hadn't heard of Jump Derry, but it sounds fascinating. Just ordered a copy.

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Derek said...

Hi Rod and everyone else, have you seen this BBC link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/derek_prog_summary.shtml

Derek (not remotely associated with earwax)

Christine Donovan said...

Thank you for the kind comment about the book, I haven't heard anything from Amazon yet, which is where I suppose you ordered from, but I'll keep an eye out for it.