Does your feature story make use of epistemological uncertainty?
I know, right? What the hell?
OK, I don’t want to make too much of this, but I’m sure these researchers are on to something. They suggest more suspenseful writing is “characterized by the presence of words that convey how things appear to be rather than how they really are, such as ‘seemed,’ ‘perceived,’ or “observed.’”
The research was into writing that keeps us on the edge of our seat when things go bump in the night. That might not seem analogous to what we do, but, if you think about it, we could use a little more of that in the newspaper.
There are many opportunities for suspenseful writing – in personality profiles, sports stories, features. And I’m sure we could learn a thing or two from the masters of suspense writing who knew intuitively to create uncertain imagery with their words.
By the way, the story linked above refers to a field of study called “digital humanities.” That may be the most oxymoronic term to come out of academia in quite a while.