Some words have weight — they add gravitas to dialog and descriptive text. Other words are shrill or hushed or pound a fist on a table with emphatic power.
The other day I was trying to write a scene in a novel involving dancing. You’d think this would be very easy for me. I go out Tango dancing a few times a week, take at least one Zumba class a week, have been known to show up at a Swing dance and I’m always looking for a good belly dancing class — but writing about dancing is something else.
I’m not the character and the character is not me. Writing about her first experience with the Tango means putting myself in her shoes — her shoes not made for Tango — and writing about her sensual and sensory experience of the dance. This naturally got me thinking about Tango lessons (not the film ‘The Tango Lesson’) and how different instructors have used words to convey with sensory experiences.
One of my favorite tango teachers once challenged me to dance different textures. She proposed that I could alter the feeling I communicated to my partner by dancing FUR, SILK, etc.…. Altering my presence in the embrace to reflect these entirely different textures as part of my interpretation of the music. Fur and silk were easy. In one I was cuddly and soft, the other I was smooth and cool. I tried taffeta and that was great too. I was crisp and precise in my movements, but light and happy to move, move, move with the music.
Words convey textures and in storytelling. I want to try to access this bag of verbal tricks to bring the reader inside the experience I’m describing. So, as I ponder the dancing scenes in the book, I’m thinking about the textures of the character’s feelings and her impressions. To dance Tango well, you must be grounded and yet ready to move. The words create a contraction — a tension — between weight and flight, but tension turns any dancer into a statue (made of wood or granite). Smooth polished granite and roughly hewn wood (wonderful textures) make terrible dancers, but add wonderful texture to text.
Maybe I succeed in finding the right words to describe this bright spot in a tale about terrible deeds and monstrous people? My efforts will likely it some rough patches, but in the end it will be smooth.