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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.


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