My footsteps are muffled crunching sounds as I walk down the now silent and abandoned street. My breath puffs out in a cloud of smoke and disappears among the hundreds of thickly-falling snowflakes, illuminated perfectly by the harsh yellow glow of a streetlamp. I shove my hands deeper into my coat pockets, the fuzzy lining rubbing against my chapped hands. And although the frigid air bites at my nose and cheeks, a smile spreads across my face, because there is just something magical about the first snowfall of the year.
Sometimes I like to write short little scenes like this based off of real things I’ve experienced. Even if it’s nothing particularly exciting, I still like to experiment and see if I can write it as if it were a scene in a book. I journal fairly often, and occasionally I’ll describe bits of my day like that. (The above example actually took place a couple of weeks ago. I love snow, as you can probably tell.)
Sometimes I like to take it a step further. I’ll add fictional components. Usually this means changing the mood of the scene. For example, what was the set mood of the scene? Magical? Peaceful? Calm? Exciting? What if I were to add a few things – just a few – that completely changed the mood? Maybe add some action? Like this:
My footsteps are muffled crunching sounds as I run down the now silent and abandoned street, my breath coming hard. It puffs out into clouds of smoke and disappears among the hundreds of thickly-falling snowflakes. My footsteps are far too loud, I think. I avoid the harsh yellow glow of the streetlamp, staying just outside the circle of light. I pause to catch my breath, my heart hammering inside my burning chest. The fuzzy lining of my coat pockets rubs against my chapped skin. My fingers are trembling and I clutch at the fabric to get them to stop. The frigid air bites at my nose and cheeks. My legs are tense, as if they have frozen in place. I shiver, glance behind me, and continue at a run down the street. Suddenly the streetlamp behind me goes out, casting everything into darkness, and a gunshot pierces the still night.
Okay, maybe I overdid it with that bit about the gunshot at the end, but do you see what I mean? It’s easy to change the set mood of a scene with just a few words.
I guess what I’m really doing is changing the scene within a setting, and that changes the mood of the setting. Settings can have different moods. A different example is a forest. (A bit of a cliché, but who cares.) Let’s say a character grows up in this forest. He played make-believe there, he escaped there when he was angry or sad, he even had his first kiss there. He knows every tree, every stone, every twist and turn of this forest. But then let’s say that this character now for some reason is frantically hurrying through this forest, staring at the ground, and the trees he thought he knew so well seem to be concealing dark, age-old secrets from him. What’s different? Perhaps our character discovered that the forest is the resting place of a great treasure with a mysterious and sinister past.
Anyway, that example was getting a little beyond what I wanted to do here. I didn’t want to go on in an in-depth study of how emotions and moods change when new circumstances come up and so forth and whatever else it was that I was doing. I only wanted to illustrate how a few words can completely change an entire scene. Because words are magic.
Yes, my friend, words are magic. I’ve heard that a lot of things are magic, like writing, reading, music, words, and numbers. I agree one hundred percent with all of these, but of course, words are the real magic behind writing and reading. (Music and numbers are too, but unfortunately I don’t have time to write about that today.) Words can be manipulated, and the author has infinite power over them. The author, if they are using the words correctly, can manipulate the reader to believe, think, and feel anything they want them to.
And why is that, you ask? The answer lies in the Bible. In fact, and this is crazy, but all you have to do is read one single chapter out of the entire Bible, and you will understand. This chapter is John 1. It starts like this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (ESV)
I just absolutely love this passage, because it talks about Jesus being the Word. I had to study it a bit to see what it was saying, because it’s rather metaphorical. It’s almost like a poem.
The Word is Jesus. Jesus is God. When God created the universe, the planet Earth, and everything on it, he did it by speaking. He did it with words. These words are recorded in Genesis: “Let there be -” And whatever he said sprang into existence.
I have always compared the process of writing a story to God creating the world. God saw in his mind the universe he was going to create, and he said the words that made it come into existence out of nothing. Obviously (and I hope I shouldn’t have to explain it to you) there is a drastic difference between writing stories and God creating the universe. All we, as writers, can create is fiction. No matter how many stories we write, no matter what words we use, our stories will always be fiction. Even though we are creating something out of nothing, we can never do any better than fiction. God, however, holds the power to speak things into existence – real things that we can see and hear and touch – and even invisible things that we may not be aware of. God is the ultimate Author, and he is writing the ultimate story.
The name of my first novel is The Story and the Author. I can’t remember why I originally named it that, but I know now that it has a triple meaning. It is about a man who writes a story. The first part is the story itself (his autobiography), and the second part is about what happens to him after he writes his story, so the book is literally about a story and its author. The second meaning subtly breaks the fourth wall. I wrote myself into the story (as one of the characters, not as myself), thus, the book is about me, the author, and my story. And the third meaning is my favorite. This meaning is perhaps the most subtle of all, but it illustrates the fact that God is the Author of life, and he is writing a story – a story that started at the beginning of time and is still going. We are all characters in this story, and we all play some part in it. Except this story is very much real.
So, no matter how you view them, words are always magic. Words have the power to create or to destroy. They have the power to evoke emotion or to manipulate thoughts. With words, God created the entire universe. With words, God is writing the greatest story of all time.
We’ve all experienced how magical words can be. Where (and how) have you experienced it? In what stories? And if you like writing, have you ever written a passage that you thought was truly magical? I’d love to hear from you!