I know what you read last summer

A week or so ago, I followed a link from Twitter to Slate Magazine. I don’t remember what I wanted to read, but that’s not really a problem, as you’ll see.

Over on the righthand side, Slate told me what my friends had been reading. Curious, I discovered that each friend’s article was a snapshot of how I see her. No one can be summed up in a news headline, but I think they’re all a perfect match. Another friend has been added since I originally checked, and her choice, once again, is spot on.

Meet the friends:

1. She has a Master’s degree in political science and she’s working on a second Master’s while she energetically mothers her young children. This warm, brilliant woman can do anything.

2. A long-time educator, she is active in promoting social justice. She conscientiously stands up for what is right, with a particular passion for women and girls’ rights.

3. Also an intelligent, wonderful teacher, this woman loves to bake. It brings her great joy, and she loves the joy it brings to others.

4. This woman might be the most like me. (I’m flattering myself). She loves the classic and popular, she finds humor in unexpected places, and one day we hope to do some urban exploring together.

Here are the news articles:

A. Female Athletes Still Having Sex Appeal Put Ahead of Performance.

B. What I Learned About Baked Goods—and the Human Condition—by Trying Every Variety of Pepperidge Farm.

C. Hollywood’s Most Uncanny Portrayals of Robots.

D. A Fabulous Postal Experiment That Explains Why Some Governments Work and Others Fail.

See? It’s easy, isn’t it? In case it wasn’t, the answers are at the bottom of this post.

After I posted this on my facebook, understandably, most of my friends were concerned that their reading history was public. When you started reading this blog post, did you instantly wonder what you’d read and hope no one knew you looked up that article about latest advances in toenail fungus treatments? Or maybe the secrets of the Kardashians?

Shortly after I posted, one of my friends posted to say that according to her Slate feed, I had recently read “Do Olympic or competitive swimmers ever pee in the pool?

Do I wish it said, “The BLS Just Discovered Almost 400,000 Missing Jobs in Its Rebenchmarking”? Maybe, except I don’t know what that is or who they are, and while I was looking for an impressive article to quote, I was distracted by the titles including words and phrases like ‘UFO’, ‘Liam Neeson’, ‘mountain goats’, ‘quackery’, ‘creatures’, and ‘bacon’.

It’s true. I’m more interested in what goes on in the pool filter than in who’s getting the gold at the Olympics.

This whole ‘reading history’ notion gave me an idea for character building or exploring. What news article would fictional characters be reading? You can look at this two ways: work from the titles, or from the character.

While I mean this as a serious exercise in character construction, I couldn’t help wondering if Anna in Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper would have zeroed in on “Your mother has a favorite. It may not be you.

What about the characters in your own writing? Take a look at today’s Slate articles. What would your MC read?


1 D
2 A
3 B
4 C


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