“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11(NIV)
I’ve always loved this verse for the advice it gives and for the beautiful word picture the simile evokes, but I had never thought of it in terms of my writing until I read it in The Message version:
“The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.”
As a writer, I’ve spent much time studying plot, characterization, goal, motivation, conflict, etc. But no matter how exciting my plot is in my mind or how real my characters are to me, they are useless unless I choose the right words to convey them to the reader.
How can we find not just a good word, but the best word to use? Some helps are a thesaurus and books or classes on writing similes, metaphors and word pictures. And, of course, lots of practice.
I think of this practice as polishing my golden apples (words) in my silver bowls (stories). Silver turns dark if it is not kept clean and polished. To keep our stories from being tarnished we need to work on cleaning up our words (yes, even delete some of them) and polish those words that remain until they shine like golden apples.
Let’s go back to the simile The Message used: “like a custom made
piece of jewelry.” I’m one of the rare women who does not
particularly like or wear much jewelry. But, those pieces closest
to my heart (and skin) are those “custom-made” pieces, my plain
gold wedding band with the words ‘I Love You’ that my husband
had engraved inside forty six years ago and the grandmother's necklace with the grandkids' name engraved on it. These pieces
have much more meaning than is noted by the single words "necklace" or “ring.”
So, let’s keep polishing our writing, looking for that custom-made
word that conveys the exact meaning we desire and which
shines like “apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Rose McCauley has been happily married to her farmer husband
for over forty-six years, and they have three children and five
grandchildren. After teaching school for over twenty-five years, Rose
retired to pursue her dream of writing. She is published in several nonfiction
anthologies and has finished several novels and novellas. Her first published fiction novella was Christmas Belles of Georgia in 2011.