Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grunting at the Willamette Writers Conference

Before words, there was just a series of grunting.

C. C. Humphreys

This year's Sunday lunchtime guest speaker at the Willamette Writers Conference was C. C. Humphreys, actor and author of historical fiction and young adult books. He spoke about not just words, but words. Words that can move, incite, comfort. Words sharper than swords, softer than velvet. He mentioned that he was disappointed at how he read the lines when he played Hamlet,
years ago, at the part when Polonius asks the prince what he is reading, and he replies, "Words. Words. Words." Like, what do you expect I'm reading? But he feels he should have delivered the lines differently, like 1.) I'm reading words. 2.) Words, which are so amazing they evoke scenes in our heads. 3.)Words that may not have completely described an allusive feeling.

I thought of it today when I turned onto the gravel road leading up to my house and had to stop for a great blue heron in the middle of the road.

But that is not how I should write it.

Perhaps it would be:

A Great Blue Heron, his long neck stretched high, and the enormous gray wings spread, blocked the gravel road, forcing me to crunch to a stop. Until then I'd been anxious to get home, but now I smiled and watched as he flapped enough air under his wings to lift, gliding down the bank to the shady creek bubbling twenty feet below.

So, I can see C. C. Humphrey's point. Words...conveying meanings. Words...conveying a picture. Words...which fail to completely capture the joy.

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