So, what are the right words? When I was in grade school, the Scholastic Book fair came around once a year and set up in our school’s library for a week.
I remember with the purchase of three books, you got a free poster of a tiger, a red corvette, or some horses running. So, while students were eagerly picking up copies of Charlotte’s Web, Bunicula, Heathcliff, Curious George, and Clifford, I fell in love with the 1987 Webster’s New World Thesaurus. It is the only thesaurus I have ever owned, and it sits on my desk today as a reminder to me of the writer I always wanted to be. Its pages are yellow. Its cover and binding are torn and wrinkled. And as you can see from the picture, the outer width of the pages was decorated with my name and initials in red sharpie letters years ago when kids wrote “I wuz here” on every surface they could find. Funny how even then we left our words behind to proclaim where we were. My 16 year old niece still does. There are tarnished paperclips still clipped to various pages inside. I rarely open the book today, but it is the words that I wrote (also in red sharpie) on the title page many years ago that have always stuck out in my mind when I sit down at my desk and write. Those words are “Dare to be Different.”
Sooner or later, writers end up using the same words. A, an, and, but, and the immediately come to mind as a few words that you can practically find on every page of a book. But it’s the order of the words on the page that tell the story, that evoke emotion, that breathe life into our characters. The ability to use different words in different ways separate us authors from science fiction and mystery to romance and teen lit. But in the end, they are all the same. They are just words. Or are they? Can something so “black and white,” so grammatically correct, and properly spelled and formulated really be such a complex equation. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They keep us up at night. They bring us to our feet and make us clap our hands.
Words. From the writer’s brain, to the page, to the reader’s mouth and heart, the journey is vast and complex. Such power, these wonderful things called words hold over us.
Share with us some of your favorite words, whether they be a sentence from a book, a line from a song or poem, or something you remember from a speech or from a loved one. Post them as a comment here. For as writers and readers, we all need words to live by.