Tuesday, October 14, 2008

There's a Word for People Like That

One of the things I love about newspapers (and their websites) is that there's always something interesting to read, regardless of where it's placed. For example, I went into the science section of today's New York Times looking to see what might be new in that fascinating world. What did I find there? News on the science of words.

Interesting stuff, indeed! While I don't know whether I'd go through the difficult rigamarole to analyze what my characters say in a novel or how they say it, perhaps it would be time well spent. It could offer a level of characterization that readers and teachers study for years. I remember English classes in college when we'd ponder what the author intended in various scenes. Sometimes I thought such analysis was daft, but now that I've completed a novel and begun imagining new characters for my next one, I realize that an author does — and should — consider things like how a reader may interpret a character.

I didn't realize, for instance, that men tend to use more articles (a, the) than women, who are more likely to use pronouns (I, she, they). For the novel I'm imagining now (I won't start writing till November, when National Novel Writing Month begins), the protagonist is a woman in her 30s who works as a research scientist in Antarctica. Now that I've read the Times article, I may ponder even more about how she thinks and speaks. Perhaps her mannerisms alter slightly as change occurs in her life. Or maybe she's so frozen in her mannerisms that she can't break out.

This is one of the many reasons why I love writing!

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