Thursday, January 20, 2011

On words and swords, and words as swords

At some point when I was working in Switzerland a couple years ago, a friend got me hooked on communication via Post-its, and since then my life is little pieces of sticky paper every damn where.  The frame to my front window?  Covered.  Edges of my bookcase?  Covered.  Dashboard of my computer?  Digitally covered.  Sometimes these are things that forgetful people need to remind themselves of, like passwords (stealthily coded, often months out of date), or library call numbers for research (years out of date, there, I just realized), but mostly, they're covered in words.  GREAT words.  Strings of words so perfect I always want them on hand.

From the latest tick on my lit exam prep bedpost, summed up on Woe from Lit

I read something on Twitter today about how some mystery author uses words likes swords.  That might not have been the actual phrasing, but that was what I took from it.  It's a fantastic image, and an even more fantastic reality:  this is the thing I most love to find in books, or in dialogues on television and in films.  This is also what writers, I think, dream of creating.  I do.

But I wonder if you can pick these things out from your own writing?  I mean, sometimes I go back to scenes I've written, months after the fact, and I find something that knocks me flat – maybe it's not the BEST thing ever written ever, but it's one of the best things ever written by the hand of me.  But then again, I've become so inured to my manuscript as it stands now, that it took my dad giving me a piece of dialogue to use in a draft of a query letter for me to remember that it was, at its core, pretty great writing.  To me it just seemed like words that were fine enough that I didn't have to revise them any more.

So I put myself the task of finding one golden moment from one of my manuscripts, one pile of words that fell together perfectly.  And this is what I came up with:

A poet speaks beautifully, but doesn't charge for a conversation.

I like it because it is simple, and it says exactly what it is meant to.  In context it rings even better, but when isn't that true?

And you, my invisible readers*, I would invite to do the same thing.  And let me know!  Because I just bought a new bookcase, and it's edges are looking awfully bare...

* someday I will have readers. I am sure of this.

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