I was so tempted to post that I have nothing today. Some days you get up and there’s just no pith. Today is a day that is ‘pith’-less. But then what is pith? Pith is substantial, it is the core — the meat of the subject. Without pith, I am just issuing forth a bunch of meaningless babble — well, maybe not meaningless. Now I am just randomly babbling. I like words like pith and irony, provided they are used correctly.
Words and the Meaning of Words
I like the television show Castle and in a recent episode, Castle (Nathan Fillion) thanks Beckett (Stana Katic) for using the word irony correctly. He complains that since the Alanis Morrisette song came out, too many people use irony when they mean coincidence. Irony is an incongruous result — meaning the result is unexpected, a death in the family that makes you feel better or the criminal who gets caught because he was trying to suppress a piece of evidence that would never have been noticed otherwise. Irony is a powerful element in writing, when used correctly.
Words are powerful things. As a writer, I often confess to having a love affair with words. I can probably use 10 words, where one would suffice. I also appreciate the power of using just two words to convey a wealth of meaning. Some phrases are common in all forms of writing because like facial expressions, they convey a singular meaning, but may have multiple sources.
She trembled with ….
Shivers of …. ran up her spine…
His stomach jerked at the thought…
Her fingernails tapped a staccato rhythm…
His mouth hardened into a thin line…
Each of those phrases can be used during a fight, during sex, during conversation in a book and the reader is given this very direct, mental image that they can relate to. All because those words have meaning. We all know what trembling is. We know that trembling with desire is different from trembling in fear, but the physical action itself as the body expresses it isn’t that much different.
Beauty of Words
That’s the beauty of words and the danger of them. Because some phrases are commonly accepted, you have to beware using them in a way that flouts the expected — unless of course you are being ironic. For example, the anger reacton to being aroused is a typical one in romance novels. It builds tension and drama between a couple, particularly if one or the other is furious at their inability to control their own emotional reactions.
Irony works when dealing with great confrontational scenes between villain and hero, particularly if one is being threatening or trying to intimidate. I love a hint of snark, particularly if you go for the off the wall response:
“No,” I replied with conviction, and I meant it. “I’m nobody’s victim.”
“She means it,” Callanport suddenly spoke again and where before he’d seemed completely devoid of emotion, his expression filled with a kind of regretful sadness. “She isn’t a victim. She has no intentions of being one either.”
“I thought you couldn’t read me?” I asked carefully, aware enough of my own hesitation to try to keep it out of my immediate response.
“I can’t,” Callanport confessed. “But I know if someone’s telling the truth or not. I can read the meanings in your words.”
“You’re an asshole.”
“You believe that, too.” He gave me another small, regretful smile. “And for that I am deeply sorry.”
– Excerpt from Prime Evil, releasing on November 8, 2009.
And now I am feeling charged and ready to take on the writing challenges of today. What do you love about words?