As a writer and a reader I am sensitive to author intrusion. Whether you’ve read a newspaper article, the funnies or a 700 page tome, you’ve been exposed to it. An author’s bias automatically comes through and sometimes an editor’s too.How can this be? Reporters are constantly flashing their unbiased (aka fair and balanced) credentials like it’s the family crest
But they’re not–their prejudices come through in the words they pick. The use of the word not is the most simple example. We as humans don’t read the word. Not really. So when someone is Not Guilty, we hear and remember their guilt. After all, would a case have gone as far as it had if he wasn’t guilty of something? Newbie writers overuse not to an extreme, misleading a reader down a path that can sometimes get real ugly. Mystery writers use it to create Red Herrings, miscues to get the reader to look somewhere else. Some experienced author’s use it to show denial in a character.
Think of it this way, if you’re told not to scratch that bump on your arm–you’re impulse is to scratch it.
The use/misuse of negative words is often coached out of people for job interviews. Consider these to statements:
I didn’t do it.
They both say the same thing, but the last is more believable at least subconsciously. And whether we like it or not, the subconscious has a lot of sway in our actions.
So how did I get on this subject? I recently finished reading 3 books on survival. One was about the stages humans go through when embroiled in a disaster. The book itself was the best of the 3 in the ways it presented the information and described the examples but because it presented each human encounter/survival case positively. The words told not just the story but the author’s awe of human resiliency
The second book was using game theory to explain (or not) human behavior. I was kind of irritated that the description implied it was about survival during disasters (which it wasn’t) so definitely colored my view by the end of the 1st chapter. But what I got from the book are 3 things that I’m sure the author never intended–all based on how he phrased this
1–He’s going through a divorce because he can’t keep it in his pants.
2–game theory should work, giving him and other nerds like him, the key to wrestle the world away from the low brow brutes
3–Game theory doesn’t work on humans because the species is illogical, but they can make animal models fit.
As you can tell, I hated the book and because of the bled through of his opinions, I didn’t much care for the author either.
The last book is a mix of the two. At least it lived up to its reputation by talking about people’s behavior during disasters. But here too I find the writer’s prejudices in not only how he treats women (dismissing them or using them as bad examples) and the constant bragging of his own exploits in his search for ‘cool’. The needless interjection of himself in the book takes me out of the story time and again, losing whichever point he tried half heartedly to make. And again, I see the worshipping of logic over emotion in an almost fanatical sense, bludgeoning me with misguided belief that only logical people will survive.
Obviously, I won’t be reading the last two authors EVER AGAIN. But it is more about how I interpreted what they said based on their subliminal word use then on what was said.