Tuesday, August 7, 2012 | By: HiDee

Words: A Powerful Tool

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
- Rudyard Kipling

One of the most powerful tools in a writer’s arsenal is his or her ability to wield words.

At an early age, words become important to us. We learn our language with a spin of slang from the region in which we are raised. We learn which words get us what we want, and which ones don’t. Many of us also learn a second language, broadening our capacity for communication.

Words enable us to communicate.

We exchange niceties with acquaintances; we share news and offer words of support and encouragement to others during difficult times. We teach with words and actions. We use words as passwords, code words, and keywords. We write lyrics and put them to music. Words give voice to our opinions, to our thoughts and our dreams.

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Because of our differences, words sometimes become weapons. Remember that old childhood adage? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. For most of us, it’s not really true. Words have the power to bruise our hearts. A range of emotions can cause us to lash out, releasing a stream of hurtful words - words we can’t take back. Often, we wish we could. They hang in the air, coloring our perceptions of others, as well as ourselves.

I was recently on the receiving end of some very hurtful words. I doubt I will ever forget the tone of voice, or the way those words made me feel. But what hurt the most was recognizing the truth behind the words.

Remember, your words have an impact on those around you, but your choice of words could  determine what kind of impact.

I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.
- James Michener

Are your written words organized for maximum effect?

Readers crave well-written books: believable characters, realistic motivations, and strong conflicts. But it’s more than that. Readers want to escape. Readers want to relate to the characters in the books they read. If they can’t relate in some way, they lose interest.

Descriptive words can immerse the reader in the story. I love feeling as if I’m right there with the characters, experiencing their emotional highs and lows, and not simply being told about them. Use your senses to entice readers. Your heroine can’t wait to leave this town. Why? Describe the dilapidated, run down buildings of downtown, the smell of factory smoke, the noise of trains carrying finished products out of town. Your reader will understand why she wants to leave and root for her to succeed. Such details can be unique to your setting; they add flavor and authenticity to your story. Local flowers and crops, animals and weather can all add color as well.

Words can be used to enhance differences in characters. For some people, the smell of home cooking conjures up memories of holidays, warmth, and being surrounded by family. But not everyone had the same upbringing. Maybe your hero grew up in a foster home where the mother only cooked big meals when things were bad, otherwise leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Your hero would associate home cooking with bad things - beatings or possibly another child coming or going from the home. Remember that his upbringing would color his thoughts, actions, and words if you write him into a home-cooking scene. But these feelings could be in direct contrast to his future goals.

Dialogue can be used to reveal character differences. Someone from Boston is going to speak very differently than someone from Montana. Slang terms can be an important characterization technique in writing. A character who curses frequently most likely has a rougher background than a character who doesn’t, but not necessarily. Maybe the character chooses to curse frequently because he is pretending to be someone other than himself.

Words do two major things: They provide food for the mind and create light for understanding and awareness.
- Jim Rohn

I am addicted to words. I want my words to create opportunities, to offer hope and encouragement, to provide an escape to someone who needs it. I want to give back to others the pleasure I have found in reading.

What do you want your words to accomplish?


R.T. Wolfe said...

So sorry to hear you were at the end of some bad words, HiDee. I can't imagine anyone speaking harshly to you. Thank you for the lovely post and the gorgeous graphics.
-R.T. Wolfe
Black Creek Burning, (Crimson Romance, Sept 2012)

HiDee said...

Thank you, R.T. I appreciate your kind thoughts! HiDee

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing a "mini lesson" and some quotes that I plan to use as a springboard for discussion in my new senior lit/comp class. I hope to inspire students to understand the power and the effect words have and to use powerful, effective words in their own writing.

Nancy P.

HiDee said...

Good luck with your class, Nancy. Thanks for commenting!