Life is outrageous. Life is unbelievable. Life is drudgery. Life can be all of those things and more. Story is the outrageous and unbelievable without the drudgery, without the breakfast cereal, the ‘hello, how are you this morning,’ and ‘how does your garden grow?’ unless, of course, the cereal is laced with arsenic, the hello is from a serial killer or the garden hides a body. In other words, unless they are vital to the telling of your story. Keep your story moving. Match the pace to the story. Don’t slow it with unnecessary words, beautiful though they may be, if they don’t progress the story, they don’t belong in it.
A great writer is that way by intention. Each word is carefully selected to create just the right mood and atmosphere. Clarity and ambiguity are never left to chance but are by deliberate choice.
Weed out the unnecessary, the showy, the waffling and the cutesy words and phrases which cloud the issue skies and leave only the best.
Make every word earn its place in your manuscript, preferably with more than one reason for its particular use over another, more general, less specific word. The choice of sound, sense and sensitivity are chosen with the reader in mind rather than the writer. Less show, more beauty.
My given name is Zoe, derived from the ancient Greek for life. As a girl, fascinated with words, I came across zoetic in an old dictionary. A rare or archaic word with the same derivation as my name, zoetic means living or vital. Also from the same derivation is zoetrope, the Victorian toy you see below.
Words on the page, of themselves, are little more than patterns of ink on paper and can be just as dry to read. Like a zoetrope, my aim as a writer and editor is to give life and vitality to black squiggles. Words ought to sparkle, shine, and move me to laughter or tears before I send them out into the world. There I want them to sing and dance in the mind and imagination of readers.
How could I call my business anything but Zoetic Words?
Emerson was reportedly speaking of Michel de Montaigne, a sixteenth-century Frenchman and his literary idol. “The sincerity and marrow of the man reaches to his sentences. I know not anywhere the book that seems less written. It is the language of conversation transferred to a book. Cut these words, and they would bleed; they are vascular and alive. One has the same pleasure in it that we have in listening to the necessary speech of men about their work, when any unusual circumstance give momentary importance to the dialogue.”
A great writer appears on the page in a voice as individual and distinctive as his or her thoughts. Relax into your voice. Be your unique self, open your heart and let your voice shine.