In our discussion of Francine Prose’s ideas about the importance of words, I suggested to my class that words are like the DNA of writing. Bren student and biologist Taylor Debevec responded to this idea in an email:
“Your statement that words are the DNA of a written piece of work is brilliant. DNA is made up of 4 different nucleotides that are paired together in different combinations billions of times. All together those billions of pairs make a code which is used to develop an organism and the different traits it possesses.
The beautiful thing is that even within the same species, each organism has a slightly different code that makes it unique. Changing the pattern of nucleotides creates mutations that can be wonderful and help the organism and its descendants evolve, but they can also have negative effects as drastic as cutting the life of the organism short.
This is the fascinating and simple foundation of understanding the basis of life as we know it.
Thinking about words this way is amazing. With so many words in our language and other languages across the world, there are a seemingly infinite amount of permutations that could be put together as code for a story. The placement of each word plays a crucial role in the overall outcome and health of the piece of work. Errors or poor assembly of the words can result in a poor final document.
Good thing we get to edit :).”