Archive | August 2012

Words

Words

It‘s been said that words are pegs to hang ideas on. But if you’re a writer and you wish your writing to flow, to express your ideas in the best way possible,  then you need to choose the best pegs to showcase your ideas . A writer should think of words as either diamonds or stones. The great writers made sure they included a fair share of diamonds among the stones in their sentences.

By this, I don’t mean to shun the use of common words, but to choose those that evoke an idea in the most effective way, words that have strong connotations. For instance, you might want to describe an old man walking down the street. You say, ‘The old man walked down the street.’ Picture that in your mind’s eye. Then change it to, ‘The old man shuffled down the street.’ Only one word altered, but isn’t it a different picture?

You don’t need to use long words to impress, a good writer chooses simple words full of meaning – strong words. Take Shakespeare’s, ‘the sands are number’d that make up my life’. Simple words – big idea. He knew a thing or two about words.

Sounds can make words sing. Listen to them, let them run through your consciousness.  Beyond the sense of a word is its sound, its spirit. Words strung together to show their melodies, playing off one another, can build like a piece of music, creating a beautiful harmony. If you read a passage that flows easily, pleasing your ear and conveying its message with simplicity, then the writer has achieved his goal – his words will live!

Of course, words are not just written, we speak them all the time. And how you say your words can categorize you, every time you open your mouth.

Take ‘Pygmalion’, later updated and presented as that all-time favourite musical, ‘My Fair Lady’. Who can forget  the shrill tones of the early Eliza Doolittle as she tells her would-be teachers, ‘Eeeeooowww, I washed me ‘ands ‘n face afore I come, I did.’ There’s no mistaking her as the grubby little flower-seller from Covent Garden. However, after Professor Henry Higgins, who intones ‘the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain’ ad nauseam, finishes with her she is taken for a lady – and dubbed a princess.

Such is the power of words!

 

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Writing from the heart

As writers, we’re urged to write from the heart. If we search the innermost corners of our heart, what might we find? What might any of us find? Writing gives us an excuse to go to the deeper, darker parts of our heart, to dig deep and bring out parts that are buried deep. The parts that are kept hidden from everyday life, the parts we never reveal.

Is there anyone who has never done anything they regret, something they’d rather no-one knew, something to keep hidden? Who hasn’t lost someone dearly loved, and felt pain too sharp and intense to bring out and expose to the daylight?

These deepest parts of our hearts are part of life for all of us. Until you experience them you haven’t truly lived.

As writers we have the opportunity to reveal these hidden parts of our hearts under the pretext of imagination. And it’s the knowledge of life we gain from the secrets lurking in the recesses of both heart and mind that add poignancy to a story. Even the most light-hearted tale benefits from a dollop of darkness. Too much sweetness and light is cloying.

Don’t we all love a villain? Don’t we revel in dastardly deeds? In the old-time melodramas the audience were encouraged to cheer the hero and hiss the villain. And they loved it! Don’t we all love a sad story? “It was wonderful – I cried all the way through it!”  That used to be the catch-cry for the old sob-story movies.  Is today’s reader so much different from those old-time audiences?

It’s the interplay of light and shadow that creates a story. And the blacker the shadow, the more intriguing the story. But that darkness must be real, it must come from the heart, because readers aren’t easily fooled. They can tell the real deal.

Are we all willing to bring out those buried secrets and expose them to the light of day? Or is that perhaps why we love to write – the opportunity to reveal so much of ourselves under the guise of fiction?