It’s been unseasonably hot here in my part of Texas this week. Feels like summer, and it’s not even June yet. This afternoon I went out into the back garden with Jake, and noticed the crape myrtles blooming and the Confederate jasmine spilling its fragrance into the warm, still air. The cardinals have settled into our old trees for the summer. Sitting in the warm sun while Jake chased squirrels, I remembered my favorite quote from writer Henry James: “Summer afternoon, summer afternoon….the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Immediately I pictured my grandmother’s creaky front porch swing, a cushy pillow and a book, and a frosty glass of iced tea.
I’m a beach girl so naturally my “most beautiful words” list includes these: sea breeze, tides, starlight, sand, ocean, watery light.
In Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose says that because we have learned to read quickly in order to keep up with the ever-burgeoning amount of stuff to be read, it’s surprising how easily we lose sight of the fact that words are the raw material out of which literature is crafted. Yet all the elements of good writing depend upon the writer’s skill in choosing one word instead of another. What keeps our interest has everything to do with those choices. She suggests that as we read, and as we write we slow down and think about what sort of information each word–whether it explodes like fireworks onto the page or is as simple and plain as a Shaker box— conveys.
What words are on your “most beautiful” list? How can you best use them in your storytelling?