How do you Count Your Words?

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:
http://www.networkedblogs.com/blog/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.

~Linda Joyce

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About Linda Joyce

Writing is a curious journey. You don't pick it, it picks you. See my website at www.Linda-Joyce.com to learn more about me.
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7 Responses to How do you Count Your Words?

  1. Clara v says:

    The majority of people do not realize how powerful words can be. In the book ” The Four Agreements” by Miguel Angel Ruiz, the author says that words are very powerful. Choose your words carefully. As an example he relates a story of a young woman who could not sing and was unwilling to even make an attempt. When asked why she wouldn’t even try, she said that her mother always told her when she was a child that she did not have the ability to sing. She believed her mother’s words and was truly convinced she could not sing. ” The word is mightier than the sword.”

    • Linda Joyce says:

      Clara, so true. And- you are one of the women in my life who truly is loving and generous with her words. I don’t recall you ever saying anything negative about anyone- ever! You’re a woman I admire. You walk your talk. ~Linda Joyce

  2. Clara v says:

    Thank you for your words. They mean a lot to me.

  3. Tammy says:

    I completely agree with your points regarding word choice as THE chance for a writer to pull her reader into the story–enticing him to HAVE to finish the book! I pay lots of attention to accuracy in the books I read. It’s very fun to be able to place myself in a story that is believable due to accurate research!

    Thanks for the words!!

    • Linda Joyce says:

      Tammy,
      Thank you for your comments. Do you have a book that ‘made’ you read it? Will you share the Title and Author? Love a good reading find. Thanks! ~ Linda Joyce

  4. Great post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Cheers!
    My blog is educational toys.

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