Sunday 18 March 2018

The Music of Words

When I was a child, about 8 years old, I was given extra reading classes at school. My teacher thought I couldn't read. The truth was, I didn't enjoy reading out loud. I wanted to keep the stories I was reading inside my head because when I did they lived. I'd invent dialogues in my imagination with characters, always with the right inflection that each of them had: their own soulful vocals would lend themselves to reveal their true nature.

I have always loved words - ever since I learnt to read. I wanted to absorb them. Feel them. Taste and smell them.  I wanted to hear them. Above all I wanted to hog them privately to myself - because that is the beauty of reading. It is a secret and personal joy. It is a lovely and amazing pastime. For a short time a story is yours and yours alone as you connect with it. This is why words are powerful, intimate, magical, poetic and incredibly musical.

When I'm working on a book or story I often think of music (my other passion). To me words are chords and notes. They are the beats that move a story in a certain rhythm. They flow with the energy of music and have their own melody. Writers, like musicians, can hear this flow and then they write the story that comes from their hearts. The story that just has to be told can then be shared.

Some of the greatest works out there have music in them. I refer to writers such as Tanith Lee - sadly missed - she was one of the greatest word musicians in the world.

Maybe you already understand what I mean about music in words ...?

We recognise the rhythm as poetry, poetic prose, a narrative voice: that is the skill of the writer. We label it as verbs, nouns, adjectives, similes and metaphors. It speaks in onomatopoeic tones, and personifies inanimate objects.

And what I feel about this is, that anyone can learn to write if they choose to, but not everyone can hear the music of words. Perhaps the tune is not always to their taste, or is discordant. Whatever it is, when the music is missing the rhythm just isn't there and can't be felt.

So when you are reading something new - perhaps if I'm lucky it will be one of my titles - look out for the music. It might be in the roll of the sea, the caw of a bird flying over a barren wasteland, or maybe it will be the cut-off cry of a victim silenced in the night.