Don’t you agree that as a writer words are important? For me, word choice is everything.
Words not only make or break any story, they are the thing that compels a reader to turn pages and pursue a story to the end. As a writer, we want readers to soak up our words and for the story to carry them away with a smile–or other intended emotion. As a reader, I find joy in crafted phrases that make settings pop like a Polaroid print sliding from a camera or show pain and happiness of a character. Those treasures put a smile on my face and entice me to devour a story. When those gems appear, I feel as if the writer has given me lagniappe–a term from Louisiana that means an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.
Words create plot, setting, and characters. A writer selects words, then strings them together to make sentences or a phrase, to build a story and give it authenticity. Words create tension or make us weep with heart-felt happiness. Words can pull us into a place in time and immediate action, like being inside a barrel about to plunge over Niagara Falls. Therefore, the right word choice is always important.
For example, how often to you find a character with a Harvard education in a company boardroom, dressed in a custom-made Italian suit, using ‘ain’t’ repeatedly to show the company’s lack of success? Or a teenaged babysitter quoting Aristotle? I’ve often heard readers complain about stories involving horses where a character mounts or dismounts incorrectly or the character has worn the wrong type of boots for a particular style of riding. To show how important the right riding words are to many readers, my friend, Judy Ridgley devotes an entire blog to the subject: Writers Riding Right:
Words are powerful. They have energy that can push way beyond the basic meaning of the word. Let’s take a word to demonstrate: Stupid. One of its definitions is – to be stunned. It’s rarely used that way; however, I was stupid recently when I heard the word flung by a parent to a child over the task of handling Christmas lights. The impact of that word went way beyond the six letters strung together to make the word. Tears welled in the child’s eyes, his shoulders slumped, he hung his head, and I swear I saw his heart break.
Another word: Hate. I met a person about a year ago, who upon first meeting proceeded to tell me, 1) she teaches Bible study to college kids, and 2) that she ‘hates’ Gators. She referred to my college affiliation and not the reptile. Does she really hold an intense animosity, an aversion, repugnance toward me over something as insignificant as where I went to college? Needless to say, the words didn’t open the door to friendship.
Another word: Smile. We all know the definition. When we read the word, it’s hard not to do the same. When we smile at others, we share a gesture that doesn’t cost anything. I hope to give away as many smiles each day as I am able.
My last word: Joy –exuberant happiness. It is what I wish for you to experience every day. Too often at the end of each day, we recount the issues. I’m practicing remembering and holding on to the joy that comes my way.
I hope that as writers and readers we will all consider our word choices and choose wisely for both the written and spoken word. Use words with integrity and show your individual authenticity.
Smile! Make your words count.