Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A way with words

I keep wishing I write more frequently. Umpteen improve-yourself sites have convinced me no-time is no excuse. But no promise as well. Let us see.

Like writing, it was a long time since I read something of substantial duration - leaving technical topics aside. I am speaking more from the fiction, non-fiction angle. So I was happy I could check off ‘Jack Reacher no 18 - Never Go Back’ from the list. It also happens that I watched the movie during the Diwali break - surprisingly low key on the cracker front. Post the Harry Potter septology, this was my first movie-book combination. That will be a separate post.

I have considered myself good with vocabulary. Much credit goes to GRE preparation I did like 15 years ago. But what really is vocabulary? If you give me rococo - I can shoot back with ornate. Synonyms for hate? Abhor, loathe, detest, despise, abominate.

But what separates master writers from people like me? They can pull out the right word for the right situation. If sentences were streets and walking was words and you came across a tricky turn, your nimbleness is what determines how well you navigate the turn. Otherwise, you take a longer road. If you cannot pull the right word at the right time, that word is nearly equivalent to being absent from your vocabulary.

This is what blew my mind -again- with ‘Never Go Back’. Lee Child isn’t the only novelist who has exhibited this trait. Any writer who is someone today I presume falls into this category. Easy flow, simple writing and connecting pipes across words you never knew were possible.

So pow-wow is an informal meeting. Jamb is the vertical part of the door frame and lintel is the horizontal part. Curliques are curvaceous parts of either calligraphy or ‘whorly’ items. Passel is a group of people. If forest is a big group of trees, copse is a small group of trees.

Now, I can get to pow-wow = informal meeting when reading. That is where the vocabulary helps. But I want copse when I want to write or say ‘small group of trees’. I wonder what it takes to get there. I presume even the giants like Lee Child put in their sweat and do their work to make their paras say just what they want to say. May be they have assistants with thesauruses and Google on standby. May Lee Child says, ‘find me a good phrase to describe a group of people who are in a state of excitement’ and the assistants come back thirty minutes later to say `passel in frisson’.

But I like to think it comes spontaneously to them. So to me it is a mountain peak spot with a peg punched in. These books represent a long rope hanging down to where I am standing. Reading and savoring them is like making a not so easy trek to the peg spot. Perhaps Lee Child has a different peg punched higher up. This how we evolve!

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