The legendary Jim Morrison once said, “It’s all about the words, man. It’s all about the words.” He was right. An artist understands color can stir up emotions. A decorator knows texture is sensual. A writer appreciates the power and punch of a word. Sometimes when we strive to present a story, describe a scene, or create a character in a new, fresh, or interesting way, we lose sight of one simple fact – the craft is all about words. It’s all about how we use them, when we use them, where we use them, what words we use, and who they’re about that tell our story.
To avoid a cliché there is a temptation to over think and over reach. It’s helpful to remember that sometimes blue is blue, eyes are piercing, hearts beat, and lovers sigh. There are times when it’s better to keep it simple than drag out the thesaurus.
Words carry meaning. That sounds obvious, and elementary, yet a single poorly chosen word will yank a reader right out of a story, while a well-placed word will breathe life into a plot or flesh out a character. Just adding or changing a noun, a verb, or an adjective can create a whole new perspective or dramatically change a sentence. For example: “What a beautiful day for a parade.” vs. “What a beautiful day for a funeral.” That’s a little extreme, but you get the point.
Some words are passive, some active, some tell, some show. George Carlin said, “There are no bad words. Just bad intent.” I would add there are no bad words, just poorly used ones. The ancients believed certain words could cast a spell. They knew what writers know – words are magic.