Monday, August 31, 2009

The Mind Is An Exceptional Hard Drive

Anyone who has ever spent some time with me has probably at one time or other heard me mention how I have a memory like a computer. 

It's true. I remember Gigabytes of useless information. Like the other day, I was washing a pan and remembered washing a similar pan when I was 12 years old. 

That's not the ridiculous part though. The total crazy part of it is that I also remembered that I was listening Cinderella's Long Cold Winter album while I was cleaning the pan 21 years ago. Then I proceeded to remember the track list of that album and subsequently thinking I needed to go back and listen to Gypsy Road because it's a darn good track. 

But the point is, it's a marvel the kind of information that gets stored. And without a built in Trash Can (yes, I have a Mac and we have Trash Cans not Recycle Bins), we can't chose what to delete. What prompted me to post this is the fact that I recently reacquired a CD that I lost 15 years ago, Fugazi's 13 Songs. Well, I didn't so much lose it as I lent it and never got it back. That's not exactly true, I did get back an empty case which I didn't examine properly upon receipt. It was probably a year or so later that I picked up the CD to listen to and found it empty. (His name is Adam, he looks like a troll, don't trust him with anything). 

I kept the empty case as a reminder to never lend CDs to anyone I didn't trust. I've kept it through more than seven moves, ten reorganizations of the music collections, and of course a number years totally nearly half my life. (Even with the best of memories, reminders can be helpful.)

Like I said, I got the CD again this past week. I'm listening to it now. It's the first time I've heard any of it in about 16 years. I have to admit, even I have been a little surprised to find I still know 95% of the words. Scary.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Simple. Dialogue. This gift I have to more or less memorize anything I hear, besides getting me through college, has been a big asset for writing. Listening to the way people talk and being able to hear that is extremely valuable in constructing believable dialogue. 

There are few things in books that bother me more than obviously written dialogue. This is usually dialogue that sounds like the same person talking with themselves and yet neither voice sounds like it's coming from any of the character's. That drives me crazy and there's no excuse for it. Even if you don't have an audiographic memory, just open your ears and LISTEN. That's my lesson for the day.

For further reading, check out Raymond Queneau's Zazie in the Metro. It contains the most clever dialogue I've ever read.  OR, if you're just interested in this idea of an organic computer, watch Serial Experiments: Lain (pictured below).

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