It’s a little cooler on the porch today, so Author Cynthia Ley and I are sipping hot cocoa with those little tiny marshmallows, a rare drink in Florida. We take the opportunity to enjoy it when we can. Cynthia has an interesting background and shares with us her writing journey and what the power of words has taught her. Let’s listen….
Kelly asked if I would share my writing journey. I’m a newcomer to the world of writing fiction, but have done research writing for a very long time. Fiction was hard for me because, as a shy young student, I was terrified of reading my stories aloud in class, and that was always a requirement in creative writing classes. It wasn’t until this last year that I started working with various authors who encouraged me and gave me terrific feedback. Three published short story collections—one of them a bestseller on Amazon–and here I am! One of my blog entries (see below for link) deals with the issues of writing PTSD.
There have been several things which have influenced me as a writer, whether doing fiction or research writing. A lifelong singer, music taught me the power of phonetics and the impact of sound. These things affect our word choices as writers. Whether we carry a thesaurus in our heads or have one on our desks, we are all looking for the exact, right words to convey a thought or action on paper. As an editor, I frequently see words which sketch out a concept; it is my job to help the writer complete the painting. As an author, I have to be fully cognizant of how sounds impact atmosphere and emotion.
Research writing honed my abilities to communicate precisely. Fluff, or filler, in research writing is just as superfluous in fiction. It has the cardinal sin of throwing readers off track, and sometimes very badly. The squirrel brain engages, leaping from burrowing underground to frisbees with no way to get back. Writing like this jolts the reader as there is nothing to connect or hang on to. Another fault is using language which is obscure for the everyday and then keeping it obscure. The worst instance of this I ever heard of was Umberto Eco. When criticized for not translating the Latin in Name Of The Rose, he replied to the effect that people who couldn’t read Latin were obviously not well-schooled enough to read the book. The reader is owed an education, not insults. As an American reader with a fair background in liturgical Latin, I struggled through it and did okay, but I suspect such was not the case for the majority of his audience. Translate, explain—and give your reader the joy of an “Aha!” moment.
Tutoring second language students taught me other ways of perceiving language—what concepts are behind words, and the many meanings they can convey. For instance, we differentiate between “house” and “home” and “family.” But in some cultures, these words all mean the same thing—the house we own, the home we live in, our family which lives there–can all be encompassed under one word. Language is a beautiful and subtle thing. A thing worthy of our respect and nurture.
Feel free to comment and ask Cynthia any questions about this post or her writing in general. Look for more about Cynthia and her books on her website and see her information on our Porch Guests page: