Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Music in My Life


“Vatche, how are you ever going to make it as a writer with the words you use?” Clara took a bite out of her ice cream sandwich and sat at the table.

“What do you mean?” I snagged an ice cream sandwich for myself out of the fridge.

“Well, you use a bunch of simple words to convey your thoughts. You don’t use big, extravagant words like some of those people that comment on your blog or other writers.”

I took a seat at the table in front of her. “You don’t understand.”

“Hmm,” she said with ice cream in her mouth, “what are you trying to say that I don’t understand?”

“Writing is like playing an instrument like for example, a harp.” I placed my hands in front of me and started to press the strings of an invisible harp. “You see, writing is like playing a harp for me. You press one string and you make a sound. You understand that one sound that the string makes, as a listener in the audience, right?”

“Of course,” she finished her sandwich.

“If you write one word, you also make a sound—a sound in the mind of the reader. You strike a chord in their mind. You strike a chord in their heart. You strike all these things with a single word that the reader understands. What I’m trying to say is that I know the value of being simple.”

“So what about those people who use those big, fancy words?” Clara crushed the wrapper in her fist. She brushed her brown, stringy hair out of her face. Crickets chirped outside the house in steady beats as they called out to their families and lovers.

“Those words are like a cacophony.” I smiled as I saw her face twist.

“What’s a ‘cacophony’, Vatche?”

“Exactly. Does that word strike any emotion for you?”

“No, not really,” she shook her head.

“Readers want words they understand. If you use words like that, they won’t get it. Like I said before, it’s like playing a harp. You play a word that a person doesn’t know and that word sounds like an off-note, something that doesn’t belong in a piece. Some people just try to sound smart by using giant words and they create these pieces that sound like a group of wrong notes. They don’t get their messages across using those words. It’s conveying those messages, those themes, with the simple words that make a person a good writer.”

“What about all the writers that you read? Are you saying they’re stupid now?”

“No, don’t misunderstand me.” I smiled. “The writers that I read, they use the simplest of words. Remember a few weeks ago, I saw Jim Butcher?”

She nodded her head.

“Well, even he said to use the simplest of words, because no one will understand what I’m trying to say if I use those fancy words. He and all those other writers that I’ve met always give me the same advice: to write simple and to simply write.”

Clara shook her head in agreement and took my sandwich wrapper out of my hands without another word. She threw both our wrappers away into the plastic abyss of the trashcan and smiled at me.

“What? Why are you smiling?” I looked into her eyes.

“Maybe you stand a chance in this world,” she said, “as a writer.”

The crickets ended their songs.

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