Walking on Derbyshire’s great Chatsworth and Haddon estates today I came across signs of a small neolithic settlement. Stone outcrops marked by the hand of ancient beings in a way to communicate the messages, instructions, directives or directions to others.
It made me wonder when language started and why. How did we communicate before language? What did we have to say to each other? Was language born as a result of a more complex way of living? Has language made us lazy? Do the words we use to arrange our thoughts into manageable chunks remove the gift of intuitive conversation by worldless nuances and gestures?
But my most lingering thought was how did we think before we had language? What was in our head before we used the structure of language?
In terms of writing a book, maybe it’s not such a big question. That is until we start to think about the way people use language. The way we ‘see’ language as we use it to translate our actions and deeds towards them.
Moving along the evolutional scale from swamp to swank we must have started to think rather than react instinctively. A nod or shake of the head, universal signs and signals. When a smile didn’t have a name, how did they know whether it was a warm and inviting gesture or a baring-of-teeth hostile warning?
Writers use language to provide an invitation to their reader. Once invited, the reader then decides at which level they want to participate in the story. Some writers peel away the layers for the reader to ‘see’ their intentions. Others draw you in and make readers work things out for themselves.
The proposition is laid out, the protagonists and antagonists introduced, its premise is founded and the first defining events set the story in motion. All of this is contained within one great monolith, the novel. Good writers make you think in your own language and through your own experiences. Great writers change everything.