Word Alchemy

“Magic Words”

It’s interesting, the power and pleasure of words. This week, I will have the honor of hosting Kim Roberts on the Thursday Author Interview. As a poet, she is truly masterful with words, finding those phrases that speak not only to the mind but to the fingers, to the tongue, to the groove of your hip and the rhythm of your feet. Individually, words denote. They connote. They dare. Mixed together, an alchemy of sign and signifier, and they give us something new and unexpected.

I like the alchemy image–because, let’s face it, I am a medical/science history nut. What we think of now as witchcraft and wizardry was once a respected science; Greek monk Albert Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Newton and other early chemists were alchemists too–and it isn’t just about turning lead into gold. It’s about discovering how things went together, how they came apart, and what special properties came from combination.  As writers, we do this, too.For today’s Fiction Reboot, I am going to dip into my version of the writer’s periodic table: the quote journal.

If you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend a small pocket-sized edition. I use it to capture ephemera–those lost words overhead at bus stops, in doorways, on trains. Even technology provides excellent cuttings–the Twitterverse is full of such things. These are the fragments of life, waiting to be conjured into being as story. They also make great “found” poems and fun writing exercises, a curative for writer’s block. Here are a few of mine. I have collected them over the years, mostly anonymous quips and bits and pieces. I hope you will start collections of your own–feel free to share.

Periodic Table of Ephemeral Phrases

“…she could be truthfully telling me, with her smiles so maddening, that she does not anger?”

“…I don’t record my shattering moments.”

“Hand-spun, luke-warm, fragile, dirty things.”

“Your father wouldn’t notice if three naked women came in here farting fairydust”

(on a sticky note) “Have conversation with God in kitchen”

(in a classroom) “…it’s the jellyfish. That’s what so damned important!”

(overheard) “Did Walt Whitman write the Bible? Surely the people is grass.”

(in direct conversation) “You’ve lived with me for a year and you don’t realize I’m obnoxious?”

“…It’s rather like going from death to candied ginger.”

That is no ordinary bowl of nectarines.”

“Dark hotel rooms are a horror to me.”

“The teapot is my present. In my present. I am now past.”

“I used to get excited about things, but now I am old.”

As we travel through our day, let’s not forget to pick up the words and phrases that surround us like tender flowers. These are the fine filaments of our story-worlds.


On Lucienne Divers Blog today, she hosts Amanda Ashby (Sophie’s Mixed Up Magic series). Take a look at Magical Words and the discussion about Authenticity of Voice!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s