"Words," Tony Robbins explains, "have a biochemical effect on the body. The minute you use a word like 'devastated' you’re going to produce a very different biochemical effect than if you say, 'I’m a bit disappointed.' "
Robbins is a popular and successful motivational speaker who understands the power of both the written and the spoken word. As he has pointed out, the words we attach to our experience become our experience. When you say, 'I'm happy,' you feel differently than if you say, 'I'm elated!' or 'thrilled.'" The words we choose to use aren't just about developing a more expansive vocabulary. It's about tapping into the power of words and understanding how they affect you and your reader on an emotional and physical level. The same thing happens to your characters and your readers. The words you attach to your characters define not only their experience and character, but how your reader will respond to them in your story. For instance:
"John was a big, broad-shouldered and heavily muscled guy. He could have played linebacker for any professional sports team in the NFL. John was, as I say, BIG."
"John had to turn sideways and duck to fit through the average doorway. The width and density of his muscles suggested he might have the DNA of a Mack Truck or Tyrannosaurus Rex in his family. If he had tried to play professional sports he would have been banned from the league for being twice the size of any other player on the field. John redefined the word BIG."
Which description makes John's size come alive for you? By creating a visual image of a man so big he has to turn sideways to get through a door, the reader has something to compare his size with - a doorway!
If you're a writer (or even if you aren't) the power of words to impact others is CRITICAL to understand if you want to make an impression on your readers. Our choice of words can make our writing move, and dance or die. As Dr/ Andrew Newberg, author of Words Can Change Your Brain, said:
"Language shapes our behavior and each word we use is imbued with multitudes of personal meaning. The right words spoken in the right way can bring us love, money and respect, while the wrong words - or even the right words spoken in the wrong way - can lead a country to war. We must carefully orchestrate our speech if we want to achieve our goals and bring our dreams to fruition."
If you've never thought about how words make you feel, or their true power, remember this. God SPOKE the world into existence. When we write we WRITE our characters into existence by how we describe them. One of the hardest concepts for new writers (and many experienced ones too) to grasp is how to SHOW our readers rather than tell them about our characters.
Telling: "He was lazy and hated waking up in the morning."
Showing: He rolled over in bed and eyed the alarm clock for a full minute before groaning and covering his head with his pillow.
Telling: She was very tired.
Showing: She yawned until her jaw began to hurt, then collapsed onto the couch and flopped over, unwilling and unable to move.
Telling: The car broke down.
Showing: The car gasped, heaved, and shook violently from side-to-side - until every mechanical part it had clanked, whistled, buzzed, or clanged before coming to a full and complete stop, never to move again.
Words are your tools. Learn to use them and use them well!
Consistency Matters More Than Talent
You don't have to be talented to succeed. You do need to be consistent.