“Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
Words have real power over me.
My life is defined by them.
Every day I write hundreds of words; not all of them are fiction (I work in public relations for a university), but I know how they can have an incredible amount of power over people’s perceptions of reality.
Think about how many thousands of words you are exposed to each day; by reading the newspaper, or scrolling through social media. The impact they can have upon your mental state is astounding. A half a dozen simple words can cheer you up or infuriate you. What about a 600-year-old Constitution, or a Bible? Do they confine or release you? The only thing for certain is that words define us all.
My latest novel, Pandemonium, the sequel to my 2011 novella, The Noctuary, is about the power of words, in particular, the words penned by one of the characters, an author named Simon Ryan. Ryan is a “dark scribe”, a soul chosen by a group of Dark Muses, to rewrite human lives to fulfill the Muses need to damn every living soul.
When I started to write Pandemonium I knew I wanted to push the boundaries of my original story and explore the very nature of words and how they can corrupt. All religion and philosophy is rooted in words and myth, with people first telling each other stories in darkened caves tens of thousands of years ago. Language and story are what separates us from all other species, but where did language come from?
This idea – and the philosophy of “good and evil” has always fascinated me. What if language was the root of all evil, or allowed us to “comprehend” the darkness within ourselves? This is all deep psychological stuff, hence the decision to make the central character in Pandemonium a psychiatrist. Through Dr. Desmond Carter – the psychiatrist who first treated Simon’s psychological scars – I explore these notions and retell The Noctuary all over again.
If you could retell your story, would you? If you could right a wrong, or undo a tragedy with the flick of a pen, would you? If you looked deep within yourself what would you find there? How much darkness might you find there? Where did it come from?
Even now, as you read these words, you are asking yourself these questions, influencing your thoughts.
What power do words have over you?