Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Constructing Our Own Narrative

Each time I access the Web, each time I remember that the Internet Writing Workshop has participants from the US, Canada, South America, Australia, Great Britain, South Africa, India, and assorted other places, I think about the English language, its influence on the world community, and the effect on culture point-of-view in fiction and nonfiction.

There was recently an interesting article (at least to me as an admirer of creative nonfiction) in the New York Times -- "This Is Your Life (And How You Narrate It) -- that addresses the issue. The thesis, generally, is that "Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative construction."

The studies discussed focused on research here in the United States, and it was noted that, "In broad outline, the researchers report, such tales express distinctly American cultural narratives, of emancipation or atonement, of Horatio Alger advancement, of epiphany and second chances."

If the tendency to think in narratives is universal -- which would mean the narrative dynamic of works like One Hundred Years of Solitude, War and Peace, and Kenzaburo's A Person Matter rests in the cultures of Colombia, Russia, and Japan -- there must be an underlying element within either the work itself or human nature that permits each of us to see ourselves in those diverse works.

Benedict Carey's article also focuses on how we perceive our self-constructed narratives depending on whether we relate them in the first or third person, which may be of more interest to fiction writers than those who write creative nonfiction.

It is a thoughtful piece exploring ramifications of the human pysche, and it is worthwhile read for any writer exploring the craft.

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