Saturday, November 10, 2007

What's in a word?

"What's in a Word?"
Micki Woodham

"In the beginning was the word . . ."
John 1:1 King James Bible

Remember the childhood taunt, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never harm me?" This is not true. The "Pen is mightier than the sword," and the complexity of language plays upon everyday living. It can be subtle,(my favorite) sarcastic, ironic, menacing, hateful, loving, instructive; the list is long. Ultimately words hurt much more than stones, because the scars from hurtful words do not heal.

Words make or break relationships, erase the tears of a crying child, soothe an aching heart, cheer on an athlete, or manipulate an enemy. Words are power and it is essential to learn to use them wisely and to understand the strength behind a simple word.

As applied to writing, proper word choice is critical to a successful essay, short story or novel. Making an error in word usage can change the tempo and alter the perspective of any given piece of writing.

Years ago, four years of Latin was a required course in High School. We all groaned, but this now obsolete language was the best example of how the nuance of a word can completely change the meaning of a sentence or story. English, based in part, on Latin, is no different. The words one uses in narrative or description show character traits and personality.

"He was a tempting, seductive piece of work," shows the reader much about this character, as does, "She put on her reading glasses and began stamping the books the children brought to the library desk." Words define characters, build plot and suspense, and describe settings. Words in dialogue show emotions and character behavior. Words are all one has to work with, both in real life and in writing. It is prudent to choose them well. Roget's Thesaurus should be evey writer's bible, packed as it is with synonyms that shift context and meaning in the most subtle ways.

"Words express ideas, name things. Words have momentum. They carry you from one place to another. When your words change, you change." Taken from The World Book Complete Word Power Library."

"'In the Miracle Worker,' based on the life of Helen Keller, the little blind and deaf girl's mother asks the child's teacher what is to be taught first. 'Language, I hope, replies the teacher . . . what is she without words?'" Taken from from the Dictionary of Problems and Expressions," by Harry Shaw.

Words are critical to writing. Without them the page would be blank. Words help communicate thoughts and feelings. What would we be without words? Mastery of words would take an lifetime and more. And should.

As for drafts, to my mind, no story is ever completed until some caring person rips it out of my hands and says, "Enough already!"


  1. After reading your post I hesitate to put words to "paper" lest they be misunderstood. I am looking forward to reading "And the Whippoorwill Sang" which I learned about at Author Island.

  2. Hi,

    Just stopping by to say 'HI'. I read about you at Author Island today now I'm off to read the excerpt of 'And the Whippoorwill Sang'.

    Happy Reading

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. I saw this at Author Island and came over to read it. Wow, how moving this excerpt is.

  4. I heard about you and your book at AuthorIsland. After reading the excerpt I've decided I must read AND THE WHIPPOORIWLL SANG.

  5. I feel sorry hearing about your loss. I've heard about your book on AuthorIsland, the excerpt was nice so I intend to read And the whippoorwill sang.

  6. As you said word's can be very powerful. I only have to look at the hurt in a child's eyes after another child has made fun of them to see just how powerful words can be, and how they carry that comment with them.

    I had heard about your book on authorisland. The excerpt was great. It will be on my TBR pile.
    Happy Holidays.

  7. Amen, Amen! Where would we be
    without words! Words to describe
    the lives in which we are enmeshed!
    Words to share ourselves with the
    world! I so look forward to reading
    "And The Whippoorwill Sang," about
    which Author Island told us. My
    condolences to you on the loss of
    your daughter - God bless you!

    Patricia Cochran

  8. Am looking forward to reading And the Whipporwill Sang, which I learned about at Author Island.

  9. I am also here form Author Island and my words are "LOVE IS FREE"

  10. Hi, I heard about you on author island. Now I'm about to read the excerpt.

    Have a great day!

  11. Hi, I saw your book at Author Island. And the Whippoorwill Sang. looks really great. Ihave heard them before. They are neat to hear

  12. For all of you posting such kind comments after seeing my book on authorisland,I thank you so much!! I can only promise that you will laugh more than cry with my book--such was the one it was written for--a celebration of life ratherthan a eulogy of death.

    Thanks to all of you!!

    Micki Peluso

  13. Dear Micki,

    I left you a email but thought to check out your blog. I enjoyed your comments about the necessity of choosing our words well. I look forward to reading Whippoorwill.