Words and Their Power

9 05 2012

J.R.R. Tolkien

“And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.”

In his excellent book, Stein On Writing, Sol Stein writes about his early training as a writer while a high school student in the Bronx during the 1940’s.  One effective teacher taught Stein and his classmates about the power of words by reading “our stories to us in a monotone as if he were reading from the pages of a phone directory.  What we learned with each stab of pain was that the words themselves and not the inflection supplied by the reader had to carry the emotion of the story.”

Words have intrinsic power.  One of the things J.R.R. Tolkien believed and incorporated into his work was the belief that words have power.  That words and their sound when spoken should and do embody what they signify.  Catholics have long believed that to speak the name of a saint, say Francis of Assisi, was to summon their presence.  Christians know the power of speaking the name of Jesus.  Think of the power of these words when spoken:

“I love you.”

“This is My body which is broken for you.”

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“You’re going to live.”

“The best is yet to come.”

Here is a challenge to us as writers and speakers.  How can we be more fresh and stimulating with our choice of words?  Do we take the easy path of cliché rather than doing the hard work of a finding a rare and poetic expression?  And do we use this almost magical power of words to create life, success, happiness and hope rather than the blackness of despair and discouragement?  All embodied in what we say….

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4 responses

9 05 2012
rilaly

Nice points here. My one caveat would be if you’re writing long fiction. Too many powerful words would take away from the powerful scenes. I’ve found it much better to remain mundane to let the scenes breathe. Good post though. You’ve given me something to chew on here.

10 05 2012
Christian Fahey

Good point. Can’t overuse the powerful words or they’ll go the way of the word “awesome” which is almost without meaning anymore. Thanks for stopping by!

9 05 2012
LaDona's Music Studio

Well said, Christian. Thanks for the challenge.

10 05 2012
Christian Fahey

Thanks for reading LaDona!

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