Profiling Storytellers

Before the FBI’s criminal profiling, there was Miss Marple. Miss Marple didn’t need an FBI profiler to know a criminal when she saw one. A careful observer of human behaviour, she relied upon her own experience to identify personality types. For example, she would observe someone then say “Oh, he reminds me of Jack, the butcher’s son, who was a petty theft.” Miss Marple had developed the art of abductive reasoning. That is, arriving at a conclusion not based on standardized theories but on careful observation followed by the search for the simplest explanation as to the why behind what’s been observed.

Jane Marple is a fragile looking old lady with twinkling blue eyes. She is not a busybody as much as a sleuth searching for answers. She has found a way to let her unsentimental understanding of human nature help her solve murders.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976), the creator of Miss Marple, was already a well-known author when the WWII broke out.  The summer of 1940, Germans had decided to bomb London to smithereens. The Blitz, as it was called, lasted for 57 days in a row with the Germans systematically dropping bombs on the capital of England. London’s 8 million inhabitants went underground like moles. It took people time to get used to the blare of sirens sending them off to shelters. But once it became the norm, people went to shelters prepared to spend time there. Books were a must as not only did they helped to pass time waiting for the raid to stop, it helped distract them. As a result, sales of books increased dramatically. Crime fiction was a favorite.

Agatha was homed schooled and, not having classmates to play with, she invented them. Agatha called her imaginary playmates “The Girls” and for each one of them she invented a physical look, a personality of her own. When playing with The Girls, as she called them, Agatha talked for herself and for them as well. This is probably where she learned to become so good at dialogue.

A writer of both novels and short stories, Agatha’s style was simple and easy to ready. She liked puzzles so the plot was more important that the murder itself. But her real interest was human nature. Every novel has at least one character who is going through a psychological struggle.

Much had been written about what had made her so successful. One theory was that, by keeping things simple via the use of plain language, short sentences, and much dialogue, she made it easier for the reader to follow the plot. Even experimenting neurolinguists had their say and said Agatha owed much of her success to repetition. If the author repeats words at least three times in a paragraph, the reader becomes more easily convinced.

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Related: My Friend Agatha + Miss Marple, my favorite profiler +

About Art for Housewives

The Storyteller....
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