Introduction: Words on a Page
All writing is just words on a page.
What does this mean, and why does it matter to us? To answer that question, I must tell you a bit of a story.
When I was young, I was in awe of the ability of good authors to transport us to an entirely different life. Reading the greats was glorious but also occasionally intimidating. A good book can make us sympathize first with a frightened rabbit and then with a hungry fox. They call upon us to “burn with the bliss and suffer the sorrow of all mankind.”
I loved what I read but I despaired that I could ever accomplish anything half so wonderful. I feared I would never figure out the mystery of how my favorite authors conveyed so much.
Then one day, it struck me. Books were just words on a page. Nothing more.
If an author could accomplish something within the pages of his book, it had to be accomplished by the use of specific, individual words.
If I could figure out which words produced which effects, I could learn to do the same thing.
I remember one of the first time I figured out how to indicate an emotion indirectly. I was quite proud of myself. However, it led to an unexpectedly funny conversation with a dear family member who had some very odd beliefs—in this case, this person believed in some sort of extra sensory perception.
My family member: I perceive here that your main character is angry.
Me, delighted: Yes! I went out of my way to slip that in. So glad it worked.
My family member: No. I’m not talking about what you wrote. I am telling you that I am discerning that your character is secretly bitter about what is going on.
Me: Yes, I put that in on purpose.
My family member: No, I am telling you that I am picking this up psychically.
I didn’t win that argument, but I had successfully taken my first small steps towards using words to capture the magic that is the story.
In this class, we will consider words upon a page. We will look at how to make them work for us instead of against us, at what kind of words we need to put down to get the effects we desire to achieve.
Books are enchanting. They are like a draught of strong wine. A good story sweeps us off our feet and carries us to true love, to far off places, to Narnia or Barsoom. With stories, we can reach others, lift them out of sorrow, sometimes even sway the course of lives, or nations.
All of us yearn to write, or we would not be here. We long to bring to vivid life those stories that burn deep within our hearts. We wise not only to see them given life but also to share them and, perhaps, touch the heart of another.
Books may just be words on a page, but look what we can make those words do!
Welcome to The Art and Craft of Writing