Tag Archives: power of words

Words, words, words

To writers and readers and all other citizens of the world:

 What you say matters, but not as much as how you say it.

 

My friend Joycelyn sent me a YouTube link with the message: A goose flesh moment.

I don’t usually click on such links. I get too many of them and life is too short. But because it sent shivers up Joycelyn’s back, and because I respect her judgment, I clicked on it.

 

A homeless man with a sign sitting in a public place.  Now and then a plink as a passerby tossed him a coin.  Until…

No, I won’t tell you.  You should watch it:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=Hzgzim5m7oU&vq=medium

 

Change your words,

Change the world.

 

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Charles Dickens and Me

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

When I was in 7th grade, my teacher Mrs. Eckert announced to our class that would be reading A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.  We thumbed through the book and groaned in unison. Too long!  Too old-fashioned!  Too hard!

Still, I wasn’t one to duck my assignments.  My mother wasn’t one to allow me to!  So I grudgingly began. Paris and London.  Revolution and respite.  Charles Darnay, the reluctant French aristocrat and Sydney Carton, the British barrister who defended him in court and just happened to look amazingly like him.  And Lucie Manette, the sweet young thing loved by both, but married to Charles Darnay.

I didn’t know much about the French Revolution when I began the book, but by the time I finished it, I understood a great deal.  Excesses of wealth and power, and the horrific response they spawn.  I soaked in the plot twists :  Madame Defarge in her husband’s wine shop, knitting, knitting, knitting. I discovered underlying themes: Sin and redemption.  Death and resurrection.  And most wrenching of all to my twelve-year-old heart, the power and sacrifice of love.

With Charles Darnay imprisoned in the Bastille awaiting the guillotine, Sydney Carton had him drugged and secreted away in a carriage headed for London, then he took Charles’ place in prison.  To Lucie, Sydneyvowed:

I will give my life to keep one you love beside you.

Sydney Carton went to his death without regret.

It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better place I go to than I have ever known.

Charles and Lucie made it safely back toEngland.  They named their baby son after Sydney.

Imagine being able to touch hearts and move society to action through words on a page! I wanted to do that!

Thank you, Mrs. Eckert, for introducing me to Charles Dickens.  Thank you Charles Dickens for being the spark for my own writing career. 

Oh, and happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens!

“Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.”

Charles Dickens

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For Want of A Word…

Right now I find myself  in an odd squeeze.  As I prepare for the August 1 release of The Faith of Ashish, book 1 of my new Blessings in India trilogy, I am simultaneously proofreading book 2 and writing book 3.   My first response is…  Aaaakkk!!!  My second is, I cannot think of anything quite as much fun as sifting through words and coming up with just the right ones. 

Yes!! 

I love words. I love the way they sing in my ears, or sometimes stomp through my brain. I love the way they roll around on my tongue. I love the soothing caresses they carry, and I also enjoy the powerful wallops they can pack.

Please don’t think any worse of me, but I like reading my Rodale’s Synonym Finder.  What fun Mr. Rodale must have had digging up all the words he packed into that hefty volume.

I once had a writing student from Hungary who told me how much he loved to write in English.  He said, “You have so many words from which to choose.  A pretty girl can be adorable or beautiful or gorgeous or lovely or stunning or cute. In Hungarian she just looks good.”

According to Rodale, she can also be pleasing, delightful, appealing, attractive, eye-catching, comely, beauteous, ravishing, fetching, charming, enthralling, enchanting, or winsome.

Problem is, sometimes there are too many words from which to choose. And unless we pick just the right ones, the wrong ideas stomp through readers’ brains and wallop them with mind pictures we never intended.

Some years ago, my husband and I got to know an extremely modest and proper graduate student from then-Yugoslavia who was studying computer science at the university near us. Marko’s English was quite good, but he struggled with “American.” As his vocabulary grew, he was always excited to display it to us. One evening when he came for dinner, he met me at the door with a formal bow. “I learned two new American words today,” he said proudly.

I told him that was wonderful and asked what the new words might be.

“Yummy and yucky,” Marko said. He bowed again, his hands politely folded in front of him. Then he added, “And might I say, you look most yummy tonight.”

Words, words, words.

So wonderful. Filled with such outsized possibilities. So very treacherous.

Right now, I need to find just the right words for two of the three books.  What an immense, colossal, prodigious, gigantic, stupendous job!  How very much fun!

“Kind Words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Mother Teresa

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