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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Words With Impact: Develop Honest Code

 Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“And all the time he taps he is asking himself, Is there anyone out there listening?  Can they hear me? Do they understand?”  Mollie Hunter

In her essay, “Talent Is Not Enough”, Mollie Hunter says that a writer is like a person locked in a cell for life, who learns things they desperately want to convey and develops a code to tap out the messages on the wall of the cell.

She points out that “the range of a child’s emotion has the same extent as that of an adult, and all the child lacks, by comparison, is the vocabulary to match his range.”  Often in children’s books I’ve found that there is superficiality. Instead of dealing with deep emotion with respect, it is stereotyped. That same lack of connection can occur in all other genres and audiences as well.

The books that resonate are the ones that take both pain and joy and treat them honestly. Why are true emotions so often avoided? Is it because, as writers, we ourselves have not learned to come to grips with the emotions that result? Or it’s too difficult to cross the chasm of vocabulary to make the connections in clear simple language?

That same concern can work in reverse, when trying to establish a symbol or theme in our world building. How do we find the one word, or phrase that will capture the essence of the theme or emotion or question?  How then do we bring this same clarity and simplicity to fiction without the story itself becoming simplistic? We need to find the right words in all genres.

Action Steps:

1. Download a copy of a visual image of a stained glass window and use it as a personal map over the next several weeks, or year. Fill in an interest choice for each space and then prepare to read/write journals, vignettes, or poems for at least a week in each category you have chosen.

Some examples: music, memories, special moments, secrets, smells, photographs, hiding places, family, friends, movies, house, room, back yard, and your favorite sport.

2. For this week choose one key category for yourself.

3. Then take one of the emotions you connected with and apply a similar code to your hero or heroine.

Share: What could you choose from your list for your protagonist’s personal map that no one else knows about?

Read deep, marcy


  1. Absolutely love this, Marcy! Write honestly and from the heart is perhaps one of the hardest things to do, and to do it with such grace and tenderness...

  2. So very true! Thanks for your encouragement, Tisha. :)


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