Monday, June 8, 2009

Thank you Mr. Twain

I want to go back to that quote I brought up last time by Mark Twain. “The Difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.”

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LIGHTENING BUG AND THE LIGHTENING. That’s everything for a writer. A little bug flickering in the back yard is nice but, come on, it won’t illuminate the night. It’s definitely true, as Meredith pointed out in her comment on my last blog, that we novelists need to move our story along to get from strike of lightning to strike of lightning, other elements like story and character, for example, being just as important to a novelist as language.

Still what Mark Twain so beautifully wrote, choosing the exact right words, was, I think, a reminder we have to be vigilant with ourselves and never allow ourselves to settle for the almost right word. If through our own limitations we are unable to get the right word, well, that’s life. But if we miss our chance because we are too lazy to struggle (rewrite, rewrite, rewrite) for the right word, that’s unfortunate. The difference between success and failure in a story is sometimes slim. Too many lighting bugs can be that difference. Choosing the right words and using them at the right time in the right way is how you make the words become living people living vivid stories. That’s the big flash blowing up the sky. That’s the whip of lightning that can split a tree in two.

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