Skip to main content

Ode to Words (Part 1): One Line Wednesday

Words, you see, are the thing.

Photo by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash
As part of a workshop on racial and gender equity, we were divided into teams; each team was given a set of words and tasked with matching them with a set of definitions we were also given. I was unfamiliar with many of the words. One I hadn’t seen before but instantly understood was “fatphobia.” During the latter part of the exercise, each team had to share its words and definitions. Two people in the room objected to the word “fat.” They unpacked all the memories of hurt the word brought back to them. One detailed the trailing prejudice and assumptions about her health the word provoked. One of the facilitators explained that some people embrace the word as a way to rob it of its power to hurt, in much the same way some gay people have embraced the word "queer." There was mixed reaction to that. 

After the conversation went on for a while, I offered the opinion that words were just words; in and of themselves, they are harmless. They only have the power we invest them with, I said. And I believe that. I also believe words have beauty—a beauty that is unlocked when we string them together to express an idea, or bring a thought to life, or when we use then to uplift instead of tear down.

In my writing, I link my words together as carefully as I imagine a jeweler strings together pearls, or combines precious stones in a crown. When I write, I spend as much time on the words I use as on character development. My plots tend to be organic. My words, however, are carefully examined and chosen.

Over the last few months, I’ve been participating in #1linewed on Twitter. Each Wednesday writers are supposed to post a single line from their works in progress using the hashtag #1linewed. The challenge for me, is I don’t often have a work in progress. And when I am actually writing, I don’t release anything until the book is complete and edited. So, I sort of cheat. Most Wednesdays, I pull quotes from my books and short stories, marry them to an image, and post. That requires culling through some 300,000 published words and finding a single line that is less than 240 characters—I tend to write, long, complex sentences, so this is more complicated and time consuming than one would imagine. Still, I enjoy the exercise.  What follows are three of my favorite lines.

Memsey picked me up at the station in an ancient Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon, a wood-sided behemoth with great chrome bumpers, and bench seats as wide, and hard, as a church pew. — from Unbroken

Photo by Andreas Ronning on Unsplash
Grim determination bore us across an enameled lawn into a wood—not of trees but of people, overdressed poseurs folding hors d’oeuvres down their elegant long throats, their elegiac eyes swimming with martini-induced vagueness— from What Binds Us

Photo by James Barr on Unsplash

Looking at him as he confessed this, he seemed to be made of something less than flesh and bone, something altogether different, more fragile, on the point of breaking. — from What Binds Us

Read Part 2 of this post, Ode to Words (Part 2): Word Souphere.


Popular posts from this blog

A Fatherless Father's Day

I remember the accident as if it was yesterday.
I had been living in Washington, D.C. for three years. That particular morning, a Saturday, I was running late for work. It was a gray, wet morning at the edge of Winter. Heavy rain, like molten white gold, fell from an aluminum sky as I blazed along at 80 mph. A gray car merged onto the roadway from the right, then proceeded to move into my lane without signaling. The car was moving so slowly it looked like it was moving backwards. I pressed the brakes hard, pumping steadily with increasing pressure, my right hand tight on the gearshift ready to down shift. Realizing collision was inevitable, I glanced at the speedometer: 60. The impact sent my little car spinning towards the concrete divider separating west-bound traffic from east. The world seemed upside down. I remember thinking, I’m going to die and I never got to be friends with my father. I glanced up at the sky, oddly unafraid, and I swear I saw the hand of God reach down and stop…

A Ghost Unseen

My life: I have been a model citizen; a good son; employee of the year, year after year after year. I have lived in the shadows, a ghost, unseen. And now, as my life ebbs away, eternity like a black moon rising, I felt his hands on my body, efficient and cool. My chest was tight, and I was uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind, not really. I had endured worse, much worse. I wished I could scratch my nose. I wished I could move. “Does he not have any family—anyone we should call?” someone else was in the room with us, then. “No,” he said, his hands working. “I suspect he was gay,” he added, speaking of me as if I was already dead. “And you know,” he continued, his hands working, working, “He was of that generation that kept in the shadows.” I recognized his voice now; he was my day nurse. He was a fey young thing, gentle and outrageous, but much loved by patients and staff alike who treated him not as a curiosity to be pointed at and whispered about, perhaps even laughed at, nor as some exotic…

The Corporatorium: I Am Prometheus (Episode One)

I am Prometheus. Prometheus. Say it slowly, roll the letters around in your mouth. Prometheus. It is not my real name but it is name most fitting for me. Prometheus, the creator of mankind and its greatest benefactor, chained to a rock, his liver eaten daily by an eagle, in eternal damnation for stealing fire and gifting it to mankind. Yes, there are definite similarities between us.
I am Prometheus, and this is my story. Except it’s not my story. I wish it was, but I am not unique or special. This is the story of untold millions of hapless chaps and chicklets caught up in the grinding gears of the corporate machine.
This is a faux memoir told episodically. You will be inclined, at times, to laugh at us, and cry for us. Do not hold back either impulse. That is the point of sharing this story—to remind us that life is nothing but a series of small comedies and tragedies. What is important is what we take away from each occurrence, what we learn from each calamity and joy.
What will be…