Some words come out of the fog, live in the darkness, hide in corners, ooze evil, and tempt storytellers. They are the words that resonate around a campfire and create the backdrop for mysteries, suspense thrillers, and tales of horror.
These words fuel a spark that becomes a story.
Late last year my conversation partner in an English as a second language program and I were pushing at the limits of her English vocabulary. We were talking about mysterious words. I picked a few, including SUSPENSE and FOREBODING, and as a lark, I suggested that we both write a few paragraphs of a mysterious story.
The following week we read and discussed our story openings. In mine, the protagonist is set up on a date with a chef who may or may not turn out to be a werewolf. I laid a few seeds in the opening paragraphs that would allow the story to go in a variety of directions—including comic and cosmic.
While my Hungarian speaking conversation partner created a gloomy atmosphere in which a man ponders the apparent disappearance of a woman, who may or may not be dead, with intimations of mental instability dropped like breadcrumbs. It was a brilliant start!
Could writing mysterious fiction help her improve her English language conversation skills? Yes! It’s a circuitous route, but it is certainly giving us unusual topics for conversation and opportunities to expand her vocabulary. It’s also turning out to be fun.