Thursday, January 31, 2013

Speaking of knowing what you're talking about. . .

Now here's an interesting (paper on a) study.

Here is the actual study.

The important information (for us writers) is this:

"When thinking about a positive past event, people should be happier when they describe it using the imperfective aspect (which brings them mentally closer to it) than when using the perfective aspect.  When thinking about a negative past event, people should be sadder when they describe it using the imperfective aspect (which brings them mentally nearer to it) than when using the perfective aspect."

That is--if you want to make someone feel a past emotion (or event) more keenly, use the imperfect (he was dying). If you want that to be more distant, use the perfect (he died).

Not that we don't "know" this intuitively--but we don't always create what we intuit and it's important to know from a neurological standpoint why we should make certain decisions as a writer.

Also, think about what Meursault would have been like had he said "mother was dying yesterday" instead of "mother died today." Whole different ballgame, I think.

1 comment:

stu said...

Interesting thought.

I was reminded of one of the old liturgical responses: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Past perfective, present imperfective, future perfective, if I'm getting my grammar right.

Christ has died. Yeah, we're sad about it, but that was long ago. That's other people's sins, not mine. We're done with that now.

Christ is risen. Yea, Team! Our God is so powerful that he's kicking Death's ass! Your sorry ass Roman god's can't do that. My boyfriend's back and you're gonna be in trouble, Hey-la-day-la, my boyfriend is back!

Christ will come again. We've been waiting a while, Lord. I know that that ultimate victory is yours, and that all of this shit will pass away. Now, don't take this the wrong way, but my sinful self is kind of attached to this shit. You know, just for now. So if you could just hold on coming again just a bit until I'm dead, I'd be ok with that. Are you ok with that? Please?