Where Would We Be Without Words?

We create with words. Even non-writers create worlds, meanings, stories with their spoken words. When we are not speaking or writing our own words, we are steeped in the words of others — books, songs, movies, telelvision, overheard conversations. Words — and the stories/anecdotes we create with those words — are what makes us different from other creatures here on Earth.

today's wordsNot only do we create with words, we also create the words themselves. Language is evolving every bit as much as if it were a living creature, becoming more diverse, more specialized, more colorful, more adaptable.

Despite what it might seem, this isn’t going to be a laudatory post about the wonder of words. I’ve written that here: Giving Thanks for Words. Instead, I want to explore the possibility that words are creating us as much as we are creating them — for better or for worse.

I think in words — in fact, using words helped me get through my terrible grief after the death of my life mate/soul mate. By putting my feelings into words, I could make sense of what I felt, and because of it, I connected with others who felt the same way. That seems to be the main purpose of language and words — connecting with others. A means of survival. By being able to express ourselves in words, from not having to rely on grunts and gestures, we’ve built a human world that spreads across the entire planet.

Which came first, the potential for world building or the potential for word building? Did the capability for language evolve at the same time as language itself? In other words, did language create us as we were creating it? I don’t suppose it matters. Today, right now, we have both the capability and the language, and we use them copiously.

But here’s what I’ve been wondering. Is language a tool of human evolution, or is it a tool of devolution? Are words a way of dumbing us down while smartening us up? Words seem to keep us focused on the humanness of our world, keep us connected to each other both when we are together and when we are far apart. But are those very words keeping us from a greater connection? Some people believe Earth is a living, breathing creature. Some people think solar systems and galaxies are also alive. Some even believe the universe — all that exists, ever existed, will ever exist — is a living, sentient being. If this is true, are words filling our heads and airways with so much noise that we can no longer feel the breath of Mother Earth, can no longer hear the music of the spheres?

Where would we be without words?


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

How Do You Create an Experience for the Reader?

My writing group — No Whine, Just Champagne — will be hosting a live discussion (#39) tonight at 9:00pm ET, as we do every Thursday. To participate, you need to be a member of Gather (free) but anyone can follow the discussion. Since Gather does not have an IM set up, you have to keep refreshing the page, but that’s a small enough price to pay for such wisdom. (I’m not being completely facetious; many good points are made during the discussion.)

Tonight’s topic,  “How do you create an experience for the reader?” poses a good question because when it comes to fiction it is the only question. Without an experience, the reader has no reason to read. In the end, that is why we read — to experience what we don’t experience in our everyday lives. Even in stories that seem to be a rehash of everyday life, we can experience something new, such as a different perspective.

There is only one way to create an experience for the reader: through the use of words. Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs give a feeling of immediacy, of something happening, of peril even. Longer sentences and paragraphs give a feeling of thoughtfulness, respite. You can create an experience by focusing on the experience — description, dialogue, action. Or you can create an experience indirectly by focusing on something other than the experience — by focusing on a lone daisy petal to evoke a feeling of love lost.

After tonight’s discussion, I’m sure I’ll come away with a better understanding of how to create an experience for the reader. And so can you.