I always wanted to stab a pair of cutting shears into the throats of people who said, “I’m in love with words.” Or “I’m a lover of language.” Who says that? I wish I could turn people like that into deformed Muppets. Make them share a bed with Beaker.
Despite my aggressive outlook on the subject, I keep a running list of words I like. Because there are some days where the writing just falls out of me–to the point where it doesn’t even feel like it’s me who’s writing it–and other days, most days, where I have to work my way through it. That’s where persistence kicks in, and you just grind it out. That’s where my lists and writing exercises come in.
In place of “She was reading a magazine,” I’d consult my word list and decide, “She leafed through a magazine.” “He pawed his way through his mother’s lingerie catalog.” Plunder. Inchoate. Rife. His relish of. Her sapor. Glut. Ruth. Potters. Solder. Succumb. Bespeak. To be clear, I do not want to marry these words, or even get a room for that matter. Though, I wouldn’t mind buying them a cup of coffee and a Ho Ho.
Then there are sayings, turns of phrase that stand out, things I want to remember. It’s all Jesus. Cowboy up. Hulk out. I have less of these, as you can cull a crapstack of ’em from UrbanDictionary (but if you have to explain what the phrase means when used in context, nix it).
A list of odd character details that somehow immediately explain all you need to know about a person. Like a man who hires someone to install his window screens. Her favorite book is Pretty Little Potholders, by the author of Pretty Little Pincushions. You get who that lady is right away.
A list of oddball observations that don’t make much sense but somehow do, like the way you can drive but don’t really see the road when you’ve just come from a fight. That we’ll watch a movie we’ve seen more than a dozen times, one we even own on DVD, when it’s on TV (with commercials) instead of loading up the DVD, NOT out of laziness but out of a sense of community. TV is less of an isolated activity when you know other people, somewhere, are watching exactly what you are.
I should keep a list of comedic techniques. You could simply watch your favorite comedies and take notes on the technique. A woman role plays with her friend on how she plans to break up with a guy if he asks her to move in without a proposal. She holds her ground, is thoroughly convincing. Next scene: Guy asks her to move in. “Okay, I’ll call the movers.”
I’m surprised there aren’t books that do exactly this in list form. Are there?