The Mathematics in Writing
When I tell people that I'm a mathematician, I usually receive an expression of horror or dread. Popular responses are, "So you're a numbers guy?" or "Why would you do that to yourself?" For reasons unbeknownst to me, people in this country simply don't like math
Ever since I started writing The Last Descendant: The Air Runes ©, my family and closest friends have asked why I've gone away from mathematics and ventured into the world of writing. Truth be told, I don't see it as abandoning mathematics, but as incorporating writing into my life. Mathematics is unquestionably still a part of my day to day life. My job depends on it, my daily functions depend on it, and even my writing depends on it.
"In what way does my writing depend on mathematics?" is a question that I've pondered over throughout the launch of my career as an author. There are three major branches of mathematics that I've seen in my writing and I'm going to share them with you.
Ever since the beginning of the recession in 2008, businesses have been more conscious about getting the biggest bang for their buck. "How can I get the most benefit out of the expenses that I have to sacrifice for this company to run the way I want it to?"
These same businesses use mathematics as an integral part of their efficiency. They use mathematics and statistics to quantify what they're spending, how they're managing their spending, how much revenue is generated, and what is being done with that revenue. Without mathematics, efficiency isn't quantifiable, it's purely subjective. But what does this have to do with writing? Is writing quantifiable? If so, how do we determine whether or not our writing is efficient?
As someone who just finished writing a book, I can testify to the fact that it's possible to quantify writing. I had a daily goal, which I admit wasn't always met, of how much I wanted to write. I would measure that by the number of words, but since writing is a form of expression, there's an infinite number of ways that authors can measure what they write. A writer could look at the number of words, the number of pages, the number of chapters, the number of minutes, etc.
Mathematics is filled with rules of logic that must be adhered to. That's what makes it as encompassing as it is. Conjunctions, disjunctions, conditionals, biconditionals, negations; these are all tools that mathematicians rely on to write logic and proofs. In the same way, writers have an endless supply of grammatical tools and methods that allow them to write stories. Authors have different ways of tying together subjects and verbs, of describing the world around the characters, of painting a picture with their words.
In some sense, an author is a master of logic. Writers change the world in their book based on the traits of their characters. An aggressive antagonist can leave a world in ruin, a heroic protagonist can save everyone from imminent malice, a witty character can solve a mysterious murder, or a loving woman can find the man of her dreams. A book can't be pure imagination; if it is, then chaos will follow. Imagination and creativity are essential for any story, but so is the logical interaction that the characters have with their surrounding world.
3) The Emphasis of Diction
We've all laughed at the screenshots of text conversations where the dialogue takes an undesirable turn by an unfortunate text autocorrection. As funny as those errors are, they actually present an important point of writing and mathematics; the emphasis of diction.
If I were to say, "2 is an even number or a negative number", then you could easily acknowledge that that statement is true because even though 2 is not a negative number, it is an even number, so the requirements of the statement are satisfied. On the other hand, if I said, "2 is an even number and a negative number", then we would run into some problems. Just from the simple action of switching "or" to "and" changes the interpretation of the entire statement. This is a trivial example, but when working with more complex theorems, the diction that is used can make or break a mathematical proof.
In the same way, diction that's used in writing is instrumental, or detrimental, to the story. It's not enough to simply say what happens. As a writer, you must dig into the senses of the story; what do you see, what do you hear, what do you taste, what do you smell, what do you feel? Answering these questions is essential in order to allow your audience to experience the story that you write.
Working with mathematics is an analytical skill. It requires disciplined logical processes and all the theorems and proofs are cogs and belts in a complicated machine. In the same way, the characters and settings of a book mesh together as one unit. Clearly, mathematics and writing have many differences, but as someone who has seen both worlds, I have found some areas where they are the same.