I thought I’d write my post today on words.
No, I’m not talking about using them to speak or write for the most part. What I’m talking about is the power that they hold.
Now, if you are an avid fantasy reader then I’m sure that you have either read or heard of a book where the magic system uses words. You can see words used in Harry Potter (along with a wand), Eragon has the Ancient Language, and of course I can’t forget Skyrim (yes I know it’s a game, but I love it) which uses Shouts, among other forms of magic.
Now let me just jump off on a tangent and say right here and now that I hate naming characters and places, well, I love coming up with great names but it’s terribly difficult for me. The reason it is so difficult is because just like words names can hold a certain power of their own.
For a great example of this turn to Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicles. His first book is The Name of the Wind (emphasis on Name). The magic system he uses doesn’t revolve around words and using them, but to know the name of the wind means that you can control it. Knowing the name of something means controlling that something.
To me names are a vital part of the story.
Not only does the character have to be well developed but they have to have a name that can add depth to them as well. An example for me was when I had originally created the villain for book 1, his name was Damon. It’s an okay name but I never really liked it. It wasn’t until recently when I was thinking about a new name that after an hour of searching I found Lucian. Damon to Lucian, to me it’s an obvious choice. The name Damon to me represents a bad guy, but it ends there. The name Lucian represents a bad guy that on the surface appears to be a charming type of guy but swirling underneath is a soul as black as night.
I also tend to try and find meaning to the names of places and things.
So, if I have a really tall mountain range then I might try to find the word air in another language. In doing this it can represent that the mountains and sky are one.
Once my books are written and hopefully published will the reader know all these little details?
No, they won’t.
But you know what, that’s okay. The meanings of names and the extensive history on, well, everything is for me to be able to add depth and substance to the story. Without that depth and substance how can I expect a reader to be fully immersed in my story, only coming up for air when absolutely necessary and usually not willingly.
If I can write a book where people can connect to the characters on a personal level, and it has a story where people aren’t willing to come up for air and climb out of the river until they have been through all of its twists, turns, rapids and falls and come out on the other side, then I think I will have written a book that I am proud of.
Now, the interesting thing is the kind of power words can have in real life. Think of any time that you’ve read a book where your heart raced because the protagonist was in some sort of danger. Sure it comes down to the writers ability to create that connection with you as a reader but that connection is made through words. If they had written the story differently you may have put the book down because you couldn’t connect with anyone that you were reading about.
Look at religion; Christianity for example, God spoke everything into existence. I mean, it’s not called the ‘Word’ of God for no reason.
The fact is words are a powerful thing, one might say there is a certain magic to them. In every day life you talk with many people, what you say to them can have a profound impact in their lives. You could walk down the street one day and say something polite to someone and that is the one thing that they needed to hear to save them because they were planning on ending it all as soon as they got home. (Yes, you may have saved a life without even knowing it. Cool, huh.)
On the flips side, those mean hurtful things you said to the girl or guy with low self esteem could be the final straw and suddenly they’re in the paper because they took their own life. (Not so cool, but it’s a reminder to say things that help to build up those around you, you never know when they will need to hear those encouraging words.)
You could think of it this way, you have magic that gives you power over life and death. (Not that I’m trying to be overly dark and foreboding or anything.)
Magic doesn’t just exist in books, we use it on a daily basis to the good or bad of those around us.
So remember to use your magic wisely. You have a great power within you.