Writing without Predicates


Have you ever read a story without predicates? Don’t think that’s possible? That’s because you haven’t met my grade school history teacher, who taught me how to paint with words. Here’s how his system worked: while he told the story of, say, the battle of Thermopylae, he picked out and jotted down words on the black board, stringing them together like beads in a logically concise piece of writing without any topical structure. The end result looked something like this:
Persian invasion
480-479 BC
other Greek cities
pass of Thermopylae
300 Spartans
6000 Greeks
100,000 Persians
Greek betrayal
high mountain pass
behind lines
overwhelming force
Spartan courage
fight to the death
no surrender
His method reminds me of the way visual memories are stored and accessed in the brain. We rely heavily on subconscious reasoning, partial image recognition, pattern completion and old knowledge inference to speed up the processing of visual information. I wonder how many words we can remove from a piece of writing and still keep its content integrity? The story above still looks reasonably coherent.