What’s in a Word?

“In the beginning was the word . . .”
John 1:1 King James Bible

My responsibility as a writer is to take great care in choosing the right words, always keeping in mind the affect it may have upon others. Because of the nuances in word meaning, one reader may interpret what I write differently from another. It is obvious from reading book reviews how the various ways that words in any given book affect readers differently.


Remember the childhood taunt, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me?” (From Robert Fulghum). This is not true. The “pen is mightier than the sword,” and the complexity of language plays upon everyday living. It can be subtle,(my favorite) sarcastic, ironic, menacing, hateful, loving, instructive; the list is long. Ultimately words hurt much more than stones, because the scars from hurtful words do not always heal. 

Writing is how I express emotions that cannot be exposed through any other outlet. All the feelings that encompass my psyche, subconscious mind, and yes, even soul, are transposed to a large yellow legal pad with an Erasermate pen. This most sacred experience allows me to examine my feelings from other points of view, vent words that hide from me verbally as I cope with the school of life–hoping to pass the test. Owing a responsibility to my readers, I must be as precise in my writing as possible which means months of editing and rewriting. Words cannot be tossed about lightly without consequences.

Words make or break relationships, erase the tears of a crying child, soothe an aching heart, cheer on an athlete, or manipulate an enemy. Words are power and it is essential to learn to use them wisely, to understand their strength. As applied to writing, proper word choice is critical to a successful essay, short story or novel. Making an error in word usage can change the tempo and alter the perspective of any given piece of writing. My words require my responsibility to say what I mean and to mean what I say.

Years ago, four years of Latin was a required course in High School. Students groaned, but this arcane language was the best example of how the nuance of a word can completely change the meaning of a sentence or story. English, based in part, on Latin, is not much different.

The words one uses in narrative or description develop character traits and personality.”He was a tempting, seductive piece of work,” shows the reader much about this character, as does, “She donned her reading glasses and began stamping books the children brought to the library desk.” Words in dialogue express emotions and character behavior. Words are all one has to work with, both in real life and in writing. It is prudent to choose them well. Roget’s Thesaurus should be every writer’s bible, packed as it is with synonyms that shift context and meaning in subtle ways.

Who and what I am or hope to become is evident in my stories. In romance, I am the character searching for love, in paranormal, I am the character facing his/her demons, real or imagined. Humorous stories disguise me in my character’s take on the foibles of daily living. In every story that I write, I am there–in words.


“Words express ideas, name things. They carry you from one place to another. . .  When your words change, you change.” Taken from The World Book Complete Word Power Library. “‘In the Miracle Worker,’ based on the life of Helen Keller, the little blind and deaf girl’s mother asks the child’s teacher what is to be taught first. “Language, I hope, replies the teacher . . . what is she without words?” Taken from the Dictionary of Problems and Expressions,” by Harry Shaw.


My losses, sorrows, joys, loves and dreams are forever etched in print. They cannot exist without me or me without them. Yet, I do not write to live, or live to write. Writing helps me make sense of the drama called life. Writing defines me. It is an avenue of escape in an uncertain, sometimes frightening world – where love is fragile, dreams shatter, hope is dashed, and then renewed. Writing takes me through the dark tunnel to the awaiting light.

Personally, I take great care in writing that is not misunderstood. My ideal with my own personal writing is to make a difference in the lives and thoughts of my readers. Without forcing my own opinions upon others, any positive impact that my words make on the lives of others is my sole purpose for writing. If I can soothe a mother’s grief, inspire a teenager to make something of their lives, deter a person from drinking and driving—and yes, bring, by my example, the love of an eternal Creator to others, then I will have achieved my goal in life. One day I will pass on to another realm with writing as my epitaph. Writing is not what I do . . . It is who I am.

 

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