Skip to content

The Magic of Words

There can be a real magic to words, perhaps even an alchemy in how they can be used or even under utilised. Though we may not give them much thought, there is at times an emotional sentimentality to certain words. They have the ability to transform us to the past, to conjure the imagery of a loved one or even allow us to re-live an experience. Like a scent or a sound has such powers. The soft gentle rainfall on the roof above, can be soothing and at times isolating. Though it’s a familiar noise that is mostly embraced as calming. The wafting kiss of cinnamon or the subtle perfume of lavender may carry us to a time when we first experienced such a smell, or to a person or place that we have attached it to.

On the flip side to those words which may cause warmth and fondness are those that can be despised or make the reader or listener feel uncomfortable. I first learned of what words not to use when I would write erotic fiction, the most obvious vulgar terms that hold an aggressive stench to them have no place in a story about pleasure and intimacy and yet some writers insist to use them. Maybe even some writers and readers enjoy them, the harsh vulgarity in itself a taboo heightening the deviancy and degenerate nature of the tale being told.

Then other words may be less than controversial though expose the reader to a degree of discomfort, take for example “flesh”, “glistening” or “penetrate”, words that can be used to describe but in certain context are unwelcome. In writing horror or the obscene they are welcome, though a writer should be careful with how frequent they are spread through the pages. Recently a reader told me that they hated the word, “lovely”, to the point that they claimed it angered them. There is no real list of what words we can and can’t use or how to employ them, it is all very subjective and preference based.

It takes a degree of trust that the reader may understand the meaning of certain words. Not all words are limited to a single use and usage may change over time. Context and contemporary understandings may expand or limit the meaning of a word, so the writer may need to be considerate of trends and norms. At the same time, many who are new to a language or even reading itself may be naive in the complexity of a words utility. When we write a word we don’t have an infliction to emphasise it’s utility so it requires placement. And for now attaching an emoji in a sentence is not the done thing, though with time that may change. We simply know if we like how the words are used and which ones are being deployed. That is why we have styles and favoured writers.

I always found the harsh minimalism of some older science fiction to be bland or the dry plot first action narration in a lot of novels from the 1960s and 70s to be un-enjoyable to me. They have their place and certainly have a readership. Then again, I have been accused of being flowery and indulgent, over descriptive and too dense in parts. That is most certainly true, especially when I started out. It’s a habit that some of us fall into. We want to tell everything, over describe and almost invent words to carry the scene. To the point sentences run on forever and details slow down the story, and paragraphs become way too long and points get over made in extra strenuous ways. And then sometimes there may be repetition so that the same point is made, again and again such as telling the reader than too much can be, well too much and that brevity is preferred and well if you are still reading this, hopefully you get the point.

Many pages have been written on how to write and the mystical art that it is, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King both produced good books on the matter. I find fascinating however the emotional stirring that we are able to experience when we read something, growing attached or familiar with a character to the point that we can sense an abnormality in the writing should they do something, unusual or out of character. Imagine that, knowing a fictional imaginary creation so well that we know them and even feel them. Their is a beauty in that. We are never alone if we find such word built beings.

The feelings we gain when certain words are placed together, in certain contexts and sequences. The ability that these letters can come together and some how arouse, enrage, sadden, inspire, make us smile and so on is incredible. That these words may act as bones, muscle and skin and a living pulse to a name on a page, a name that we now attach to life, thoughts and emotions. A name that suddenly is taking us on an adventure, we become invested in and think about. That is the lift giving magic of words and our own imagination. That name on a page, the character, lives so long as we remember, and beyond so long as those words remain inside the pages.

It is not just for the words to fall together on their own, a few lines may not be enough. It is the totality that matters, a novel can not be summed up by it’s blurb otherwise we would only read the synopsis. A fiction is more than it’s plot and a character is beyond the costume they wear, so too is the work more than just those specific words that we gain feelings from. It is when, where and how they are used as part of the greater body. The meaning and magic lurks with the body as much as it does the sentence.

The scent of lavender on it’s own is nothing without the years of memories, the spiralling history that stirs back to the moment that you recall your grandmother sprinkling it among the freshly washed clothes. Or perhaps to find some pressed in the pages of a book, beneath a pillow or resting in a bowl on a window’s ledge. The smell is attached to the body of living, that is specific to you or me. Why such a word as ‘lovely’ may be despised is as specific and unique, we can conjure up an imaginary reason but the truth lies inside of one person, perhaps irrational and without reason merely that we don’t like certain sounds, how things clink and ding in our minds when said.

It is with such considerations that words are put to paper, the keyboard is an instrument that in this case does not produce music but thoughts and images and for the human in us all, emotions. As we delve into a future that will be full of automation and non-human ‘art” it will be the human experience, our sentimentality, our emotions that elevate us above mere utility and synopsis. There is more to the story than mere plot, more to living than staving off death. So, for the writer and reader we are attached in a symbiosis and finding that relationship, bond takes trust and time.

As an aspiring writer I hope to find my reader and I shall continue to enjoy discovering the writers that speak to my mind and spirit. It is not a competition, just a great complimentation. A world of derivation, inspiration and creation. A world where we all have the same letters, words and blank pages. How we manage to put them together is for each of us to attempt, to learn. How we read and experience those words is unique to us all. What we feel may also be unique to us all, it’s a delicate balance. It’s all just cauldron for narrative alchemy and perhaps sometimes some people are just allergic to some words. We are all different and like, hate, feel and experience different things and in the end, that’s what makes it all so lovely.

October 2023

Published inAll Articles and EssaysMiscellaneousPhilosophy, Society and LibertyUncategorized