The Work of Writing Six: Words

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 Hi writing friends, we need to have an uncomfortable heart-to-heart. Grab your hot mug of morning beverage, or your cool bottle of afternoon beverage or your chilled glass of evening beverage, scoot up a seat, and let’s chat.

As writers, we know words matter. I know I’m not alone in ruffling through my old, yellowed thesaurus, squinting into the distance at words that don’t feel quite right. But those words aren’t the words I mean.

We have an obligation as people who trade in words to choose them responsibly. What does this pithy, blanket statement mean? Let me share an example.

Right now, a New York Times opinion piece called “The Happy Hooker Conservatives” is flying of the shelves of Twitter. Effective phrase, right? You know exactly what the writer means by the headline, don’t you?

Except.

Here’s the problem. This headline normalizes and utilizes a demeaning view of women to make its point. The conservatives mentioned are morally tainted, it says. But how does it say that?

By making the assumption that a “Happy Hooker” is morally tainted. We’re not going to get into the views of sex work here, there are entire books on the subject, but isn’t there another way to get the point across without using a negative view of women as the baseline?

Our casual language is packed with words and phrases that originate in insult. Most of the time, we never stop to think about what else a word can mean or how it came to be.

As writers, it’s our job to think. And to choose better words.

For more on my thoughts about Charlottesville and rising bigotry, please read An Open Letter to My Friends of Color.

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

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#AtoZChallenge: Yet

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Yellow-eyed penguin. By Michaël CATANZARITI (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I love the word “yet.” It’s merely three letters, but it can contain so much: waiting; hope; wistfulness. Excess; overindulgence; lack of control. A catch.

What it can’t contain is my second cup of coffee, which I haven’t had…yet. So give me a second and I’ll be right back.

And here I am as I plunk down yet another cup of coffee.

See what I mean?

With “yet,” it may not have happened, but it doesn’t mean it won’t. That tiny word can change a moment of finality to a moment of poor timing. It’s a miniature powerhouse, but it does carry the risk of overuse.

Still I wouldn’t give it up.

Not yet.

Have a dusty, unfinished manuscript you need to work on? Join us in May for #MAYkingItWork! Commit to a project and commiserate with us!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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#AtoZChallenge: Xanthous and Xyloid

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Xerus © Hans Hillewaert / , via Wikimedia Commons

For the last two years, when it came to X, I’ve cheated. I admit it. I’ve found weaselly ways to get around the most challenging letter in our alphabet.

Not this year.

I’ve picked a pair of words, neither of which I knew before I perused my handy thesaurus. Do you know them? Here, before we get to what they mean?

I think they sound like a couple of characters in a fantasy novel, Xanthous and Xyloid, an oafy pair, Xanthous huge and unwieldy, Xyloid smaller, more dexterous, but every bit as dull. Massive long arms, skin a murky green, Xanthous and Xyloid were sent by their village chief on a quest.

Mainly to get them out of the village, because the cost of fixing the stuff they wreck is really adding up.

Interestingly, spellcheck doesn’t think either one is a word, so today we are all smarter than spellcheck. Ready for definitions? Here we go. Xanthous means blonde or fair; xyloid means having the characteristics of wood. Outside of a Scrabble board, these words probably won’t get used terribly much, as it’s much easier and clearer to say “blonde,” and much more fun to describe the characteristics of wood.

Besides, I prefer my duo of trouble-prone dolts.

Have a dusty, unfinished manuscript you need to work on? Join us in May for #MAYkingItWork! Commit to a project and commiserate with us!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

 

Don’t Ever Doubt the Power of Words

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As writers, words are our tools, words are our materials, words are our product. Words can feel impermanent, nebulous. But don’t be fooled, not for a moment.

Words can change the world.

Words have changed the world. Words can be strung together in ways that ring throughout time, throughout history, until the words themselves become the history. Words can breathe life into a possible future far from the present in which they were spoken.

Words can tell us of a dream.

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose beautifully shaped words changed people’s idea of what was possible. Thanks to this man and his words, my life is  a wonderfully colorful place where I can connect with other people without a thought to skin color or religion or any of the other categories that are used to divide us.

Through a speech that lives on and on, he painted a picture of this future, which formed my current reality. Now is very different from then. That is what words can do.

Here’s Looking at U

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U, like its good buddy, Q, is one of those letters that if you stare at it too long, it starts to look strange. Like really strange. Like it’s from an alien language strange.

U is particularly good at undoing things. It’s also understanding and ubiquitous, showing up everywhere once you look for it.

But out of the universe of U, I want to hone in on unique. It’s a great word that that has had its greatness flaked away by the frequent application of “very.” “Unique” is absolute. Something is either one-of-a-kind or it is not.  It cannot be oner-of-a-kinder.

Unique’s another one of those words whose level of compliment can shift with mere inflection. “Oh, how unique,” can be said with a slick coating of condescension. Flip it, and it can be an exclamation of delight. “Oh how unique!”

Even though it’s a word that is or isn’t, is on or is off, without degrees in between, it’s a word of nuance.

My unique collection of flash fiction, Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities is free!

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