Greetings, noble scribes! I interrupt the regularly scheduled Word Arsenal programming with news of the greatest significance. In my relentless and fevered pursuit of le mot juste, my epic and endless peregrinations over the vast wasteland of interweb hooey, I have stumbled onto a tool that threatens to tip the scales of balance in our ongoing war. I daresay it could make poets of us all! (more…)
Ladies and gentlemen, round six is upon us! There’s been a lull in the fighting of late, and the enemy has grown complacent. Across the field, beyond the bloated corpses of the fallen, we can see the lambent light of fires hovering over their trenches, hear the singing and laughter of their soldiers. They mock us. They think our words incapable of harming them, of breaching their redoubt of ignorance. (more…)
“Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Great books remain relevant for a reason – because they teach us something. They better us; broaden our understanding of the world and its many fascinating inhabitants. And for that reason they deserve to be re-introduced, from time to time, so they may find in this vast ocean of distractions, some few new fertile islets upon which to propagate.
One such enduring saga is Irving Stone’s 1980 exploration of the life of Charles Darwin, The Origin. So much more than a fictional biography of one of the greatest minds who ever lived, it serves to immerse us in his world and enable us to understand better the true heights of his genius and courage. It lays bare the distinctly human aspect of the man himself through an exploration of his fears and insecurities over his own writing, and how the world may ultimately perceive him. (more…)
This is a kick in the ass to you, to me, to everyone who ever wanted to write and had an hour that they wasted. Writers are dreamers. They have to be. It’s in the job description. But not all dreamers are writers. Some go on dreaming, and their stories are never written, never shared. That part of dreaming is hard work. It’s easier to read silly articles like this than to find the courage to dive in. It’s easier to write silly articles like this than to dive in. Whatever demon is holding you back, I’ve already encountered it, danced with it, sat on a porch and had a fiddle duel with it. Let me save you some trouble.
That’s a comforting little prolepsis, isn’t it? You can’t succeed either, though. Next! (more…)
I take no pleasure in delivering this nasty little word to you. Actually it’s not so little – do the Germans have any words under 13 letters? – but it is in rather poor taste. It’s a deviant word, really. Downright sadistic. But war is a messy business, and we can’t stand by watching the other buggers enrich uranium without cooking some up ourselves. Unless they don’t know what they’re doing, of course. In that case it might be fun to watch.
Okay, okay, on with it. Word number 5 is: (more…)
It’s round four in the word war – time to break out the big guns. It’s all about superior firepower in this installment. Feeling like that first guy who brought a gun to a sword fight, or a cannon to a castle wall. This word is like having a bazooka on your shoulder when the savages are charging on horseback. You feel pretty good about your chances, I think, calm, unperturbed by the wild ululations of the painted-faced hordes. You watch with mild amusement, disdain, even, as they raise their spears and shake fists at you, and then… fwoosh! Splat. Horse bits raining down, a fine red mist in the air.
That’s what this word is all about: (more…)
It’s time to fight dirty. No, we’re not going to sucker-punch or pull the proverbial hockey-jersey over anyone’s head. Nothing like that. This will be much more fun. More arousing.
We all need a word or two like this in our arsenal: a word to tickle our tongues, to savor; a quadrisyllabic, orgasmic firecracker of a word; a word so fun to say it’s banned in 43 States. (more…)
One in particular caught my fancy, for its unassuming I’m-not-trying-to-impress-you-ness (is there a word for that?), for the way it sneaks up on you, its shiftiness. It’s a big word in a small package, a dagger of a word, stealthy and sharp – they’ll never see this one coming. (more…)
In this business we’re all a little odd, some more so than others, and we each have our own peculiar way of doing things, don’t we? A little bit of lunacy is a prerequisite, I think, to even consider embarking on a project as daunting and all-consuming as a novel.
There is a great deal of chatter out there in the ether about this plotting vs pantsing business, and on which side we happen to fall.
For some, a book’s plot is hatched whole in a revelatory flash – driving, or on the toilet, perhaps – and they have only to pull over safely, or make a mad dash with pants around ankles for a notepad, or a computer, or lipstick on a wall to capture it. And they’re off – the thing unfolds largely as they’ve mapped it. For others, it might be a character or two who pop into their minds, say hello, have a little chat (the line between writer and schizo is nebulous), and they seem like interesting folks, worth getting to know, so the conversation is continued on paper, or onscreen, to see where it leads. Both approaches have yielded astonishing works – the trick is to figure out, before you write half-a-draft and are forced to start over, which works the best for you. Perhaps, like me, you’re a little bit of both? (more…)
Vocabulary is the writer’s sword. Interesting words, when employed properly, arm our prose with creative expression. But like any weapon they should not be wielded without practice, without a measure of competence, as they can just as easily cleave a sentence and leave it bleeding on the page.
In the Word Arsenal section the goal is to seize new arms, and make them yours. You only retain new words through repetition, through looking them up and using them in a sentence of your own. (more…)