Last month, we discussed “words that sing,” and a number of you transformed a mundane paragraph into a powerful dissonant melody. How did you do this? You awakened the lackluster scene and infused it with chords of pain and despair and negativity. Well done, all who participated in this writing exercise.
Now let’s venture a bit farther into the musical element of writing. Without question, well-chosen words bring melodic harmony, agonizing discord, and dramatic crescendos and decrescendos to the printed page. Interestingly, the medium that delivers this compelling symphony is . . . dance. Dance? Think about it.
What is dance? Action. Expression. Power. Whether the smooth flow of a waltz, the seething emotions of a tango, the gymnastics of break dancing, the happy conclusion of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, or the poignant sadness of his Swan Lake, action creates the dynamic of the scene. Without action, without expression, without power, there can be no dance. Without action, without expression, without power—without strong verbs—the most eloquent words fall flat.
Imagine that you are sitting in the front row of a large theatre. Spotlights draw your attention to the beautiful velvet curtains. You wait. The orchestra assembles in the pit, and its members fine tune their instruments. Then the conductor appears. Whining violins and the hum of human chatter cease as though an invisible operator had flipped an “off” switch. The maestro taps his baton on the score stand. House lights and curtain warmers dim. Spots high above encapsulate him in a white ray; he raises his arms. The music swells, and the curtains open. You sit forward in your seat when the stage lights begin to glow. In a moment, their brilliance illuminates a magnificent backdrop. Your heart yearns to walk into the scene, but the way is obscured. Then the dancers appear. Life fills the empty stage. The passions, the hopes, the dreams, and the heartbreak grip you. You “walk” into the scene.
What pulled you into the heart of the above scenario? Was it not the action? The dance?
Write a scene that dances. (It need not be about dancing.) Use verbs that give it power, warmth, emotion, verbs that invite your reader to come in, stay for a while, become part of the story. If you have questions, please ask. We’ll do our best to answer them.
Linda Lane works as a writer, editor, and publisher. She particularly enjoys helping new writers to hone their craft.