Friday, October 05, 2007

Words of Power

Certain words evoke emotions and associations. They punch you where you read. Like a moss-slicked boulder in a creek, they break your thoughts into eddies that must flow over or around them. Again, I would call this resonance.

Snow: Goosebumps rise. My toes ache for fire. I see the cattle with white rime along their backs. Slush piles up on the corners of the truck’s windows where the wipers can't beat. Near the ditches the pale purity is churned into mud. But sometimes the light strikes blindingly from the distance.

Blood: It stops me when I read upon it. I see crimson splatters on white. I see black and clotted gore with flies gathering, and necklaces of ruby on pale ivory throats. I see many things: like the red-wine stain that darkened the torn knee of my blue jeans after I totaled my motorcycle.

Death: I see my sister's skeletal face as she lay dying from cancer. I hear the rattle of her breathing in her last moments. I see my father’s waxen pallor in the satin lined coffin, rosary beeds upon his chest. I feel my own wet cheeks. In the background there are battlefields, spent weapons fallen like frozen lightning. The ravens lift.

What are your words of power? The words of power? Find them and you’ll find your muse.

21 comments:

cs harris said...

Good post. Other words for me are child, lover, sunlight, earth... You're right, it tells you something.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candice, Yes. More good words. I thought I would post tomorrow on more positive words. These were just the first ones that popped into my head.

Bernita said...

Just an excellent post, Charles "...spent weapons fallen like frozen lightning. The ravens lift." - YES!

Blood is one of mine too- along with bone, sword and stone.

the walking man said...

Great post but I can't name any words that make someone want to read the word that comes next. I like descriptive narrative words but i don't have any that I consciously use.

You know Charles the more you and people like Bernita teach me the more of a hack I feel Like, not that theres anything wrong with pup fiction but no one ever won a Pulitzer or a Nobel prize for it. *sigh*

Ok I'll work on these suggestions of yours but could you slow 'em down a mite.

The speed you use to post them with make me that speed bump you thought you ran over.

peace

mark

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernita, thanks. Bone stone and sword are good anglo saxon words for sure.

Mark, glad you are enjoying. I think the power words work best at the very end of sentences and paragraphs. But I'll post on that another day.

Steve Malley said...

Doing a second draft right now, I've noticed villainwords: pale, sticky, feral. The heroine: tall, burning, grace.

Great post! I especially love your descriptions of stuff...

Lisa said...

I should think harder about this before I comment, but I did notice that the words you, Candy and Bernita all came up with are nouns. Then Steve Malley's were adjectives. The first words that came into my head when I read this were weight, adrenaline, chill and breath.

Shauna Roberts said...

Pain. Death. Family. Sword. David. (I'm surprised no one else mentioned a personal name.)

Ello said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle's Spell said...

You have some great heartbreaking images with your words -- really lovely and sad. So sorry about your sister and dad. I'm thinking about this one -- mine all relate to specific people, like when I hear someone call someone else dear (my friend Hank's favorite endearment) and it makes me sad. I also like evil (it's a good all purpose word), lonely, afflicted, touched (as in all the senses, particularly the southern one of being a little off), revolution, paradise, and gun. I guess that's a pretty random list, but that's what comes to mind.

Ello said...

Charles,
I absolutely apologize for being flip. This was an excellent post and I came back and reread it. I didn't realize the personal reference in your last section. I'm sorry. Death is powerful enough that sometimes I actually shut my mind to the images of it, if that makes any sense. Almost like denial. But something caught me and brought me back. Your imagery is so clear and very sad. Thanks for sharing this.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve, great. Interesting that these were adjectives, as Lisa noted, yet clear and powerful enough to carry a solid impact when they hit. I like that villain.

Lisa, "adrenaline" is a great one. I'm glad you noticed the noun/adjective thing. That gave me some food for thought.

Shauna, good point about personal names, and how some of them can become words of power through personal connection. I want to talk more about this.

Michelle, thanks. I liked that fact that in your list you included words like "lonely," and "Evil," since they aren't concrete nouns. I've had people tell me that words like "violence" are too abstract but I don't think so. It, like your "evil" and "lonely," has immense resonance. Such words are made concrete by our experiences.

Ello, it never even occurred to me that your comment was "flip." There was no need to remove it. I appreciate your thoughtfullness, but I wasn't in any way offended or hurt.

Ello said...

THanks Charles! I know I should have been more careful in my reading!

Travis said...

Light. Dark. Fear. Bravery.

I think of those words as themes. I've never named them as power words though. Perhaps they are, but when I use them I tend to make the action describe them rather than relying on the word itself.

Church Lady said...

This is only the second time I visited your blog, but it seems really nice.
I too, witnessed a sister fade away from cancer. I will write about it when I'm ready, and probably post on my blog.
I'll go over to your positive words now.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ello, no worries.

Travis, the words are good beginnings, but, yes, to work with them is a must.

Church lady, thanks for visiting. Sorry to hear about your sister. It was hard for me with my sister, Dolores, but much harder on my mother and brother who lived closer to her and saw the changes day by day.

writtenwyrdd said...

Beautiful imagery, Charles! Especially images of guns like frozen lightning.

It's good to be reminded how words evoke, not just from cultural baggage, but from the personal.

Erik Donald France said...

Powerful stuff. I am sorry about your sister and father.

Your words resonate with me, as well. For Latin American Studies, we are reading Born in Blood and Fire. So I'd add Fire. And Iron. And Outlaw. And Insurgent. And Guerilla. Midnight. Oil.

SzélsőFa said...

This is a fascinating post, Charles. It gave me some thinking! Thank you.

My words?
(kinda hard, you know, for most of the time I read Hungarian, and I don't think simply translating the words, my power words to English work...well, since I'm reading English as well, I'm trying to give those power words in English.

Let's see.

power, earth, violence, love, shame...

Danny Tagalog said...

Hi Charles,
I'll try and think deep about this - it is a very, very shockingly powerful post...

Charles Gramlich said...

Danny, thanks. Glad you found it intersting.

writtenwyrdd, thanks. I kind of liked that phrasing myself. Will have to use it in a story sometime.

Erik, all good words. I especially like "midnight."

Szelsofa, violence, love, shame are good ones. I'm going to talk in a later post about abstract words versus concrete ones.