The Seduction of Words
I was thinking today about the vocabulary, or the loss there of, within the English language. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry that words are simply discarded. Even the SAT vocabulary list has been “dumbed down.” It saddens me to think how lightly we hold words. Without words, how would we express ourselves, tell a story, or give instruction? It is hard to estimate how many words are available for our use, but it is clear that the average person speaks only a small percentage. Although Shakespeare made use of the vast vocabulary at hand, he found that there were not enough words for his taste. So he coined new words, somewhere around 1700, such as eyeball, mountaineer, bedroom, and of course puking, green-eyed monster!
Words are descriptive, specific, and waiting to be used.
You do not have to be a erudite, or a philologist, to appreciate a broad vocabulary.
Words are available for everyone. Each word has a unique meaning: some general, and some, are very specific. These are the words that make the difference between good enough writing and great literature.
In light of that last statement, I would like to share the following post from an earlier entry, for words are my passion. As an author, how words are put together in a sentence is as important as what words are engaged in telling a tale. Here is insight into my use of words….
As a writer, I often have vivid scenarios play out within my mind, so real and detailed that I actually view myself within the scene, watching intently as the action unfolds before my eyes. The question is how I, as a writer, relay to the reader the striking images of my vision. I find that authors often miss out on great opportunities to fully express their imaginative conceptions. They assume the reader sees what they (the author) perceive. But if one is not careful, details are missed as the author fails to deliver an adequate description of all that is within the folds of their mind.
We must never assume that the reader can see into our thoughts. Words are the key. It is said, the genius is in the detail. Nothing should be left unsaid. As I view a scene within my mind’s eye, I look all around and ask myself: what do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? Then I painstakingly transcribe each detail into information for my audience, written in just the right way so that they can be caught up into the action with me. I say painstaking; for that is the way it is for me when I write. I have spent two weeks writing one paragraph, thinking, ingesting, researching, for just the right words so that the images flow as a leaf upon a fair breeze. I do not just tell the reader what I see, or hear, or smell. The way I write, the words I choose, the order in which I place the words, are just as important as what I write.
Below is an example. I could say this…
Nagad stood upon the rise, looking over the land before him. The rolling hills were covered with flowers that waved in the breeze. The morning air was fresh and new, bringing to mind visions from the past."
Or I could say …
Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin."
So you see, how a scene is written is so much more than the delivery of information. Not only do I want to describe my characters, my scenes, I want them to come to life, to jump off the page. I desire my reader to have a visceral reaction to all that is transpiring within the words on the page. They should experience the story as a member of the action, not a passive observer, but an integral part of the story. The narrative should flow off the page without difficulty. The story line should be easy to follow; the burden of the saga should be on the author, and not the reader.
So then, go forth and read. But not only read, study how the words are composed. What makes the author’s words come alive?
Susan Van Volkenburgh
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