Friday, November 16, 2007

Sticks and stones, etc...

By Lonnie Cruse

Wow, I'm blown away by my Poe sisters' blog posts this week. "Voice," "titles," "Don'ts," are all terrific subjects, which brings me to mine, "words."

Yesterday I ranted on my own blog about a news story I read on Yahoo! reporting that Santas across the country are being encouraged to say "Ha ha ha" instead of the traditional "Ho ho ho" because the latter *might* be offensive to women. Trust me, I'm totally in favor of politically correctness in our speech and NOT offending anyone, but really, give me a break! Couldn't "Ha ha ha " be equally offensive to Haitians or animal Handlers or Hairless people. And what about a certain snack company? Shouldn't they change the name of their suddenly politically incorrect snack cakes? Where was I? Oh yeah. Words.

Writers stress over words: Too many . . . the manuscript must be cut, too few . . . really must add a subplot. Too many adverbs . . . must reword. Too many passive verbs . . . shriek, must find more actives. Writers sit, and we write, and we re-write, and we create puzzles, hoping we haven't been so obvious that the reader figures it out in Chapter Two, or so obtuse the reader accuses us of cheating when the ending is revealed. We toss in red herrings and blush at how obvious they are . . . to us. We create characters who suddenly stand up and refuse to do what we've typed on the page for them to do, insisting on going the opposite direction. Sigh. But mostly we struggle for the RIGHT words to tell our story in such a way as to capture the attention of a reader on page one and keep it to page 231 (assuming the writer can come up with that many pages.)

For as long as men and women have been on the earth, we've been telling each other stories intent on teaching, entertaining, frightening, sucking the reader into our world, and whatever else we can accomplish. And we do it only with words. No other weapons involved. Because words are the most powerful weapons we have. They hurt, they kill, but they also heal. Personally, I want mine to heal.

Some stories are as powerful as bazookas, changing lives, making a difference. But for my money, even the simplest story, told well, changes lives, even if it only makes us chuckle, lightens our load for those few minutes.

Do you have a story to tell? Words inside you, screaming to get out? But you haven't ever had anything published, never gone to journalism school, aren't a "real" writer, afraid the author police will kick down your door if you so much as dare to write the words Chaper One on a piece of paper? Nonsense. Write it down. Get it out. And to steal a phrase: If you write it they will read it. Even if it's only your family, someone will read it. And you can take classes, join writer's groups, hone your craft. Remember, even the likes of Austen, King, Hemingway, etc, were all unpublished at one time.

Choose words, the right words. Change lives. Even if it's only for a moment.


Darlene Ryan said...

Loved the Santa story! But when I laughed it was "He, he, he!" Wait a sec, is that sexist?

Lonnie Cruse said...

Bawhahahah! Darlene, that's a hoot. Wait, did I just offend an owl?

Sandra Parshall said...

If we can have Hooters restaurants (which I'm pretty sure are not named after owls) all over the place, I'm not going to get upset about a Santa's "Ho ho ho." We have a war going on, and some people are complaining about THIS??

Felicia Donovan said...

Lonnie, I saw that "Ho Ho Ho" story and thought, "what's next?" Are the Three Wise Men going to be renamed because they're gender-specific?

Sandra, you mean Hooters isn't about owls? : )

Felicia Donovan

paul lamb said...

Philip Roth (actually his writer character Nathan Zuckerman) says that writers are people who spend hours and hours anguishing over the proper arrangement of 26 different shapes.

Our holiday traditions continue to evolve. I don't suppose most of us would even recognize the way Christmas was celebrated a couple of hundred years ago. I think Santa (a truly odd character when you think about it) can survive the winds of change too.