The Use of Words

306fab3580459e402d88b07bba966095 In 1920 Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a complete story in six words. He won. Later, he considered it his best work. The power and beauty of using words and having the skill to use them effectively is a beautiful thing when done correctly. Reading so many blogs every day, I get a sense of the good, bad, and the ugly. Oh no, I’m not saying that I’m terrific in the least, but I every time I write, I truly want to convey exactly how I feel using the perfect set of words or maybe sometimes just a single word. Think it can’t be done? Check out the word usage of the masters I have jotted down over the years, some from very recent and others a long time ago:

  • The flies had gone wherever flies go after dark and she fell asleep, praying. Hell at the Breech
  • “I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?” East of Eden
  • “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Their silence comfortable. Something unfolding. But what? Not love, which wrenched and wounded. Not love, which came only once. The Shipping News
  •  . . . it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails. The Prince
  • . . . the world was full of secret sorrowing women, each her own doors closed to rooms she wouldn’t be coming back to, walking and talking and cutting lard into flour and slicing fish from their spines and acting as if it were acceptable thing, this living. The Titled World
  • And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. The Great Gatsby
  • Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aurelio Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon that his father took him to discover ice.               One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. A Fault in Our Stars
  • “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” Of Mice and Men
  • When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part. A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. On the Road
  • It’s always easier to say good-bye when you know it’s just a prelude to hello. The Last Little Blue Envelope
  • We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine. A Room with a View
  • These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit. London Fields
  • Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. Frankenstein

There is never enough room to display the incredible and beautiful use of words and the power they possess. To some the task is quite simple and effortless, like watching a gifted athlete perform. For us mortals, it takes moment to choose the correct word to relay the emotion or energy of a statement. Really, really good writing is rare. Most modern writers are in it to pump out contractual garbage, adverbially written with weak plot lines and shallow levels of thought. The art of the craft is to evolve as a writer. Write and read. Read and write. Reading very good writers will instill and display good writing. No, you probably won’t write a Pulitzer, but you’ll be a be a better communicator for it.



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