When we think about the power of words, what comes to mind? Is it a particular book that made an impression on us? Harsh words from a loved one? Frightening words from a physician? Or words of inspiration from a pastor?
Words affect our lives in a myriad of ways.
Of course, there are the words of a story, written or spoken, that transcend us from our place in time to another. But words also impact us singly, on their own. One spoken word can instantly alter the way we feel.
Take these subject/nouns for instance:
Cancer – that’s a word that instantly sets your body to alert status.
Money – does this word fill you with worry? Or push you forward to succeed?
Peace – this word can calm you or fill you with longing (if peace is what you crave).
Love – who do you conjure up in your mind? Does this word create warm fuzzies or irritation over relationship difficulties?
What about when you hear the name of someone you know? Just their name can affect the way you feel… good or bad. Names can even be a source of frustrated humor (see Infinity – Junk Mail Is Thy Name ).
A lone adjective or verb applied to the subject can instantly affect us as well.
We say he looks superior, – and immediately we go on the defensive. We make a negative judgment about him.
She’s angelic – again, we make a value judgment from this one word.
People, in general, tend to use the same words over and over again in their descriptions. Writers are no different, we tend to have our favorites that we return to repeatedly. But as writers, we really need to have more descriptive words at hand than the general public. Try writing 220 pages using only a handful of descriptive phrases.
What we want with our words is for them to create a specific emotion in our readers.
I challenge you today to pick one emotion – say, for instance, Love – and write down 15 different ways to say it (i.e.: affection, adoration, etc.). Love in its many forms (lust,etc.) is fine. The object is to expand your vocabulary beyond what you commonly use.
Then, write down 15 adjectives describing emotions. (Such as angry, resentment, wrathful, upset). No fair using the words I’ve given you either.
Have fun, and let us know what you come up with.