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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

For the Love of Words

Q. Why do writers write?

A. Because we are blowhards that egotistically believe we know more than others. Only for a few. (They shall remain nameless.)

B. Because we want to be rich and famous. Not only is this untrue, it borders on delusion.

C. Because we have a mad passion for words. Yes!

We love words of all sorts; unusual meanings, odd spellings, and what about unexpected pairings? That’s enough to make any wordsmith giddy. That’s right I used wordsmith – a far tastier title than writer, journalist, or novelist.

The next logical question is; why do readers read?

A. Because television is boring. Perhaps for many, but that’s too general and lumps Modern Family in with 2½ Men (Pre and post Charlie Sheen.)

B. Because they know the writer and want the wordsmith to become rich, famous and finally move out of their basement. Although we do hope our parents buy our books, most readers could care less where the novelist sleeps at night.

C. Because readers are seeking a break from their reality. Yes!

Through our carefully chosen words, readers can be transported to another place, time, or realm of existence. All without stepping on a plane, cruise ship, or time machine. Great words can invoke strong reactions and make a reader want to read on.

Case in point. Which of the next two sentences is more interesting?

She ate the apple.


She gnawed the apple to the core, bruises and all.

The first sentence falls flat. Waw waw waw – a girl ate an apple; whatever.

The second makes me wonder. She didn’t just eat the apple; she ‘gnawed’ it and it was covered in bruises, which is sort of gross. Why did she still eat it? Why didn't she get a new apple? Was she starving?

It’s these subtle differences that make writers salivate and readers turn the page.

Even one word can make all the difference and carry weight.

When I was at the CANSCAIP conference, writer Shane Peacock suggested we add clarity to the theme of our novels by summing them up in one word. One word. Not a brilliantly phrased one page summary, just one…lousy…word. The ultimate in brief tag-lines.

At first this seemed far too simplistic. It took a moment for me to embrace his subtle genius and accept that the power we find in words can be intensified by using only one word. The catch? That one word must have real, true, and significant meaning.

For Shane, and the first book in his Young Sherlock Holmes Series, Eye of the Crow, the word is 'prejudice.' A powerful word full of meaning that needs no further clarification.

For my book, Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons, its 'inclusion.'

I began to wonder. Could a person use this one word tag-line exercise outside of writing and apply it to events and situations in their own life? Would this add clarity and break through all of life's busyness?

Perhaps you’re arguing with your spouse over who takes out the garbage more often or who folds more laundry. Could you sum it up what you’re really fighting about with one word? Maybe that word would be 'validation' or 'appreciation?'

What if life is better than best, could you summarize it as, 'contentment' or 'balance?'

What is your work-in-progress’ one word? What’s the one word for your own life? Does knowing that word add clarity?

The one word for my work-in-progress is 'self-worth.'

For my life my word is, 'gong-show.'

And yes, I realize that these tag-lines may seem like two words, but I did mention I loved words. (And the hyphen makes them one longer word. True-story.)


  1. You're making me think. I like that. My life at the moment - transition.
    As for the apple - I'm wondering ... who was she and what kind of apple was it. It wasn't Eve gnawing a macintosh, was it?

  2. Love this- especially gong-show, and waw waw waw, and true story. Oh and everything ;)

  3. Would love to hear more of the apple story...