Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

A Psychologist Gets Questioned by A Novelist…

I feel good writers are, in a way, psychologists…

Pinker McEwan Good Writing

Image from Intelligence Squared

They deal in human motivation—cyphering-out character and persona.

And, an understanding of psychology could help any writer portray the complexities of character interactions.

But what of the psychology of writing itself; and, the psychology of the reader?

Enter, stage right, Steven Pinker, “…a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.”

Enter, stage left, Ian McEwan, “a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children’s novel…”

I’ve written here before about Mr. Pinker—Can Experimental Psychology Help A Writer?—and, that post had a short video.

Today’s post has a longer video—more detailed, more entertaining, more valuable for serious writers.

Pinker begins by talking about the bad writing of many scientists, bureaucrats, and academics; then, reveals that his wife is a novelist…

He disagrees with much about the “rules” of grammar and syntax…

He gives an outline of the topics of his book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, and lays out certain basic styles of writing…

Then, at about 26 minutes in, he sits down with McEwan and the serious fun begins…

I need to mention that Pinker had asked many writers if they consulted usage guides and found that most used none.

Near the end of the discussion, Pinker asks McEwan if he references a usage guide and the novelist admits to employing the Burchfield edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

There’s also a fascinating exchange with some audience members…

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5 responses to “A Psychologist Gets Questioned by A Novelist…

  1. D.G.Kaye November 24, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Excellent post. I just bought this book, referred by another author friend, can’t wait to get to on my TBR. I hope to have time tomorrow to listen to the interview. :)


  2. Alexander M Zoltai November 25, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    D. G.,

    Once you’ve read the book, why not write a Guest Post about it for this blog??

    Liked by 1 person

  3. D.G.Kaye November 25, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you Alex. I would love to. Keep in mind it will be a few months until I get through my ‘must’ TBR list but I will get in touch with you when I’m done. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alexander M Zoltai November 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm


    Get in touch with me at :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. D.G.Kaye November 25, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks Alex! :)


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