“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” - Diane Setterfield
I’m always amazed at the power of words. I’ve had schools pull productions not because of anything done, not because of any threat, but the mere presence of words and what they might do. Isn’t that what censorship is all about? The fear of what might happen? The fear that those sneaky, sneaky words might cause havoc in the streets?
When have you felt the power of words?
The thing is that words are sneaky. They can sneak into our consciousness and make us do things. Think things. Words sweep us away into imaginative worlds. Words make us stand up and stand behind a leader. Words can be so powerful that even if we know we’re being lied to, we believe. That is so sneaky.
As writers, it’s important to know the power of words and respect them. And not to be afraid to use words to their utmost. Words are our job. Words, for some of us, are our lives. Know the power, use the power. Write for the best effect possible.
Are you aware of the power of words when you write?
It’s important to know that “writing for the best effect” doesn’t mean manipulative writing. You want your audience to have a genuine emotional response, not one manufactured by sneaky words. I cried while watching My Girl when Macaulay Culkin died and I hated it because it wasn’t a good movie at all.
Has a movie ever made you feel something, you knew was fake?
But you absolutely want characters who are sneaky with words. Characters who lie. Characters who manufacture emotion in other characters. These are human traits and further fascinating traits.
This episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullsh*t is a perfect of the power of words and that words can be sneaky. The premise is simple, will people believe the food they’re eating is high class if they’re told it’s high class?
Check out some exercises for this concept below the video
- Make a list of convincing words. What words hold the most power for you?
- Think of a time when someone was able to convince you to do something simply because of words. Not anything that they did, but what they said.
- Think of a time that you used words to convince someone. What were you trying to accomplish? What words did you use?
- Create a character description of a good liar. What words do they use when they lie? Why do they lie? What makes them a good liar?
- Write a scene between the Liar and their significant other. What lie is being told in the scene? What sneaky words do they use?