Writer’s Craft #25 – The Love of Words

Amy NeftzgerThis week’s guest contributor is Amy Neftzger of Nashville, on the love of words. (Lynda)

Words are my drug of choice, just as they are for most writers. In fact, most writers are avid readers and it’s our love of words that brings about our need to write. I love words alone or neatly choreographed into paragraphs of prose. Well written books are exciting to me because they create order and meaning out of the apparently chaotic. I’m not a book snob, though. I also love songs with great lyrics, poems, and even well written informational articles.

What is it about words that makes them so attractive? They can be powerful, certainly. Words have the ability to educate, hurt, heal, or to draw people nearer or push them away. They can create bonds and destroy families. But they also have the power to comfort us when we feel alone and help us to laugh more when we’re with friends. Words can ease our pain and multiply our joy in life. That’s powerful. Words also have the ability to take us inside of other worlds and to places that we couldn’t go without them. In other words, words can expand and connect our individual worlds. They have the power to connect people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to understand one another. As an author, it would be difficult to effectively guide others into the worlds I create if i didn’t have the right words.

What I love most about them is that they don’t have to be large or complicated to be effective. They simply need to be appropriate for the context. A well placed word is a beautiful thing, like the bouquet of flowers that brightens the room.

This is what writing is about: sharing words. How did you fall in love with words? How do you express that love in your work? Tell us about you and the love of words.

Amy Neftzger ia a fiction author and researcher. Her books are widely available through both amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and her newest release is due in September 2011. You can find out more about her on her Amazon Author page.


15 thoughts on “Writer’s Craft #25 – The Love of Words

  1. Perhaps I shouldn’t comment, but I read the article and enjoyed it and wanted to thank the guest author for her time.

    But I don’t love words.

    I love impressions. Sensate, emotional impressions that stay linger for decades. The first series I ever read was Little House on the Prairie. I grew up 30 minutes from Walnut Grove so it was unavoidable. I don’t even remember what book it was in, or what words were used when writing it, but I remember that a little boy was stung to near death after stepping on an inground bee’s nest. I spent the rest of my childhood treading carefully in the back yard because in my mind I carried around an image of his puffy body wrapped in guaze.

    I was twenty when I saw it happen. I was lingering in the church foyer when screams of bloody murder erupted down the hallway. While the three year olds were returng to the children’s nursery they stumbled over an inground bee’s nest. What was said by the adults I can’t recall, but I remember the experience and the wailing of the children.

    Yes words shape the scene, but it doesn’t really matter what words are used (except bee, nest, and stung). The mind takes these words and makes an image and that’s what really counts (to me).

    1. Fair enough, Kari. I suspect the sensations/impressions arrive in our brains in many ways. These days, with the flood of image-based information in the world, I think it is just a bit harder to be one of the those people for whom words are medium of greatest impact. Question for you, though. Given your real-life experience with fatal bee stings, did the fictional impression from Little House on the Prairie diminish? Or how did they interact/compare?

      1. HI Linda 🙂 Good question, since in the real life event I felt the children’s screaming in my body (ever be in a public place when a child starts to wail, how it makes your bones rattle?) Plus there was a more immediate fear… did the bees (these were bumble bees, by the way) follow the kids through the door (yes, they had).

        I read the fictional account when I was 7 years old so there was fear then too, since I knew what bumble bees were and saw them in then garden.

  2. I’d say, rather, that I fell in love with story, the ability of words to take me somewhere else, away from the rowdy chaos of my family. The first story I fell in love with was a short story in a Sci Fi magazine, “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a revelation of wonder and imagination to a 3rd grader! (Many years later, I reread it, and it was quite a disappointment.) The first novel I loved was The Secret Garden, which I must have read 17 times! However, I had great English teachers in 9th – 12th grades and they taught me the love of well-crafted writing.

    These days, I can spend 15 minutes or more searching for the word with the exact right nuance for what I’m trying to express in my writing. And, I agree with Kari that what I’m aiming at is creating the image I have in my mind into words so it can become an image in the reader’s mind, at least approximately the same as the one I have in my mind.

  3. Poetry was one of the places I first fell in love with words. Old fashioned, heroic poetry from the British empire era to be explicit. My father used to read me things like the The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and
    God’s Judgment on Hatto. Even when I didn’t understand all the words, they became pieces of my mental architecture, activated by later stimuli. Words create images for me, but also emotional resonances and things from the thought-scape that a thousand pictures couldn’t quite explain. Images and smells and touch and all the other senses impact my mental theatre, too, of course. But I do have a special love of words as the most powerful medium for meaning in my life. Love to dress them up with pictures, of course. For my characters and fiction, for example, I love to see illustrations. But the words are somehow still the “real” source material that spawns impressions, by myself and others. For example, I have about half a dozen versions of Amel as an image that people have given me or I’ve played with, and it’s all great if they don’t look exactly the same as each other because he’s captured in the words, and people’s heads as they read them and see him in their own way. At least that’s how I’ve always seen it.

  4. I have a couple of poems on the subject – they pretty much sum it up:

    Words are my buddies.
    My toys, my sweets, my dongly-dingles,
    Brick-a-brack in a dusty box from the loft.
    What is the difference
    Between “a loft” and “an attic”?
    A spider on a string would ask a question,
    Rocking from side to side,
    Holding a key to the mystery of human wisdom.
    The secret guardian of a magical library.
    The treasury, where words lay scattered,
    Like golden coins on the floor,
    And rubies, and emeralds,
    All holding a hidden flame,
    Wait for a light, to be discovered.


    I take a word
    And slap it
    To paper.
    It ripples like an earthquake,
    Flaps around the edges
    Like a butterfly crushed by a black stone.
    A word, a single word,
    Has a power to crush,
    To burst open crusted wounds,
    Oozing yellow,
    So they can be cleaned
    And healed.
    Wrapped into white ribbons
    Words, words, words, words,
    Streaming, soothing, seeping, sewing
    A big white cocoon
    Where new flesh will grow. Pink.

  5. I have been unabashedly in love with words since I was a small child learning to read and write. Over the years, this love affair has only intensified and I expect I’ll go to my grave a bona fide word junkie.

    Not only do I appreciate words for their meanings, but I am enchanted by the way they look on the page. I like experimenting with fonts and white space and justification, watching the effects such changes have on the message. I love reading notes written by hand and the sensuality of holding a pen, feeling the shape of each letter, each syllable, each word, each line — hearing the sounds in my head as I write.

    I get a kick out of puns, double entendre, dialects and slang. I love etymology and grammar and diagramming sentences, playing scrabble and working crossword puzzles.

    I love reading aloud and being read to. I love listening to good orators and considering the power of one word over another when attempting to persuade.

    Product labels, road signs, programs, catalogs, recipes, assembly instructions — words, glorious words! — not to mention song lyrics, nursery rhymes and advertising jingles.

    Most of all, I love words for their ability to help us see one another more clearly as we share our stories.

    And on top of all this, I am completely convinced that the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

    So I ask you, What’s not to love?

  6. After reading this I wanted to write something that would express what I feel for words. And I got thinking. And then thought some more.
    And a little more…

    I am scared of words. I do not know if it is the correct kind of love but..oh well. I am scared of losing them, of not being able to use them properly, of being disrespectful to them. But then again..if I have to describe what I feel when writing it can only be as a BIG headache, where my head pulses from the inside trying to push my eyes out from their sockets, making my ears ring a little like when being underwater. And then I start writing and all the pressure in my head is pouring and I feel at ease.

    I am scared of words. I fear that if I start writing them, on a keyboard, a notebook, a receipt, they will dislike where they are being led to, they will look at me and smile sympathetically asking “is that it?”.

    I am scared of words. I am in constant doubt thinking someone already wrote what I did..and in a better way.

    But then again, you can’t be scared always. And that’s what I am doing here writing. Making me face words daily and tricking them to do what I want them to.

    The truth is, it feels good to write. It feels good to tame a fear.

  7. Jules and Iiliana – haunting. Your contributions get at the magic and power of words, for me. As if they capture meanings and create emotion. And why they are still and will always be their own universe as potent as any other medium. Thank you.

  8. It’s interesting reading all of the reactions to Amy’s invitation to share, especially the references to the “magic” of words. Our species invented words, and we revere them, and throughout history have imbued them with a magical power. Certain words can be taboo, and conjure violent reactions when used, and it doesn’t take superstition for this to happen. Look at the emotions the word “nigger” evokes in our culture. Why does “fuck” have such power when other words that mean the same thing don’t?

    The evolution of language parallels the evolution of culture. Look at how English has changed from the time of Chaucer to Shakespeare to the present. Commerce and invasions cause different languages to cross-pollinate. Meanings change subtly over time, often with hilarious results. When my son, first learning French, encountered a bottle of perfume with the words “Eau de toilette”, he inevitably translated it as “toilet water”, and wondered, utterly baffled, why anyone would want to splash such a thing on one’s skin.

    Never mind tools. Using words is what makes us distinctly human.

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