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The art of wordplay

Communicating well with others is is a skill. It's important. It's a necessity for personal success, and a war I'm determined to win.

Over the years, I've participated in several awkward conversations that left me puzzled. Speechless. Frustrated. Often fleeing the scene to staunch the bleeding from ripped-open wounds.

Words are so powerful!

When I stumbled across my writing proclivities; a surprising turn of events later in life, it slowly dawned on me that I put much more weight into the meaning of words than others. I take words literally. As a novelist, I spend a lot of time finding the perfect words, and I've been that way even before I started to write books. The smoke around this conundrum is still clearing, but trying to have a conversation with someone in a literal sense is not the best way to endear oneself to others, and in fact, may be a writer's curse.

I've thought about this a lot. I'm still working on a cohesive conclusion, but I'm discovering the majority of people dialogue in a "half-there" mode. Our culture is so fragmented by social media, a

zillion tasks to get done, the fear that they'll offend someone with an actual opinion (horrors!) or a wrong word; perhaps they self-edit so fast they just burble out anything. When this happens I try in vain to catch the meaning of these casually slung-around words, but I've never been a "read between the lines" person. I long for people to say what they mean, rather than hint at it.

This is where my disconnect occurs: some folks communicate on tiptoe, and I communicate with the firm tread of army boots. I am learning to pull specifics out of the tiptoe people, but I probably need more army-boot people in my life. Those are the folks who get me, who understand my need for clarity in communication. I have to be very careful around the tiptoe communicators, as they don't immediately warm up to an army-boots approach, even though I try to find middle ground. But in my defense, often the words being used don't make sense to me.

I'm also a clear-eyed optimist. This is confusing to people. Have you noticed that often a conversation will spiral into a cesspool of complaining or criticizing? I have the irritating propensity to take the conversation into the other direction, because I don't want that negative thought-cloud messing with my bright and sunny ( I try, anyway) outlook. I've found it's a great practice to guard my ears, to filter with care what goes into my brain. However, this approach alienates some people. Which is fine...optimism and hope are essential to me as breathing, and I leave these negative conversations praying that these fine folks would grab more optimism than pessimism, and begin to enjoy life rather than complaining about it.

In my stories, I grapple with words as well. With furrowed brow, I sit in front of my laptop thinking how to frame my characters' dialogue in light of a perilous situation. After all, my characters' situations are often too dark to see anything but the bleakest of outcomes. I walk through their pain with them, try to feel everything they are feeling. Even so, "hope" inevitably floats to the surface, and I start breathing again. I don't know how my characters manage to get themselves into such harrowing situations, but somehow between all the Law & Order, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds, and Tracker episodes...not to mention my own experiences...I create these chilling scenarios that surprise even me! I wonder, sometimes, about the evil lurking in my psyche, and if I should be concerned. I would love to do a podcast with Frieda McFadden, Lucinda Berry, and Jennifer Hillier, my current favorite thriller authors; about the dark meanderings of a thriller writer's mind, and the catalyst behind the words that create these chilling stories. I bet I'd discover they are all army-boot communicators, like me.


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