by Bruce Brady
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words. Proverbs 15:28 (NLT)
What an awesome opportunity and responsibility!
Words cause many world problems. Wars, suicides, addictions, and cruelty are often the result of angry words, hurtful words, or even words withheld. Sticks and stones rupture blood vessels, damage internal organs, and break bones. Words crush souls.
However, unlike sticks and stones, words can lift spirits, and instill confidence. They can help shape the future of others.
As writers, we influence our readers more than we may know. Our words affect their lives. Sway their thinking. Legitimize or invalidate their lifestyles. Our words offer a better way of life, or perpetuate hopelessness.
People want to know good will conquer evil. Yet, we’re barraged by television, radio, internet, and print media reports telling us the bad guys are winning.
How can we writers show them reasons to press on, expecting the best for themselves and their families?
As Solomon says in Proverbs 15, we can. We must carefully choose our words, ensuring the Lord inspires them. We can’t write from our humanity, expecting to appease and comfort because we each have our own agenda. And it’s not necessarily for the good of all.
We must consider the effect each word will have on our readers. Will they uplift? Maintain the status quo? Or throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth? Life on earth will happily provide the last two.
I prefer words that uplift. Of course, we need evil characters, life-threatening situations, human intimacy, and death. That’s what stories are born of. But those characters need not be lewd. Completely detailed live or die situations aren’t necessary. And the explicit details of sexual intimacy needn’t be inlcuded. We need only give our readers a few, well-chosen words. Just enough so their imaginations will fill-in-the-blanks.
I’ve noticed when I’m tempted to use obscenities, pornography, or graphic description, it’s because I’m lazy or in a hurry. And I owe it to my readers to stretch myself and choose words that best convey my message.
Think about the scariest movies you’ve seen. Films like The Godfather or Silence of the Lambs. The greatest terror from these were words delivered by soft spoken men who didn’t use profanity or violence to get their points across. Horror classics like Halloween or Friday the 13th scared millions without a single word being spoken by the villains.
Since our words help shape the futures or our readers, let’s give them better alternatives than the world offers. Sure, we can still give them conflict, intimacy, and danger. But we can do so by expanding their vocabularies, lifting them to higher levels of literacy, and giving them hope for a better world.
Many in our profession tell us we must relate on a base level to connect with our readers. However, the base level of today is a product of this type of thinking. Do we really want a world where 8-year-olds commonly use four letter words? And do these words really convey our exact meaning? Just as peer pressure has reduced conversations to include offensive, depraved language, we can refuse to perpetuate this trend. We can use words to raise conversations to a greater level of civility. Through our concerted effort to find the best possible words, we can positively affect the lives or our readers.
Bruce Brady is an author, writer and playwright. His work has appeared in Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, www.ChristianDevotions.us, and on stage. Currently, Bruce is working on a Young Adult Novel about a boy who must deal with the death of his dad, being bullied, and helping his mom through her grief. His first five pages took third place in the ACFW South Carolina Chapter’s “First Five Pages” contest.When he’s not writing, Bruce spends time learning from and helping other writers. He serves as Mentor of Word Weavers International’s Online Chapter, and as a member of Cross ‘N’ Pens, The Writer’s Plot, ACFW’s National and South Carolina Chapters.