I’ve never been one to dissect every word for hidden meanings (unless it’s a message from my children!). But I was intrigued when I recently heard a lecturer analyze a seemingly simple sentence: ”Listen to her voice.”
That’s actually from the Bible, which I had too little acquaintance with until a few years ago when I discovered the first Biblical heroines. (I wrote about those remarkable women in my book, Ten Women of Valor.) So I recognized the sentence this lecturer was referring to. It was said when Sarah, the first matriarch, demanded that her husband, Abraham, banish his first–born son and the woman who had given birth to him. Since Abraham loved this son, Ishmael, he was understandably conflicted. According to the Bible, that’s when God told him he should listen to Sarah’s voice.
To me , that’s a perfectly clear order. But the lecturer asked: “Why voice ? Why not her words?”
It seems that the difference is that words are utterances between people, but not necessarily what someone is feeling beneath the surface. Sarah’s spoken request was strong and demanding. But beneath this assertive speech, were fear about what she saw as a threat to her own son and anguish about this other woman. She was too proud to tell her husband, “I’m scared and heartsick.” Fortunately for her, he listened beyond the words and heard the fear and pain in her voice.
It may seem hair-splitting to quibble about the difference between voice and words, but I leapfrogged to a connection with writing. (So many paths lead to writing with me.) Too often we fill our stories, poems, even letters, with excess verbiage, when it would be better to allow room for the underlying meaning to come through. I still have to guard against a tendency to spell out every nuance, as if the reader won’t get the meaning if I don’t. In my long-ago college days, a savvy writing teacher drew huge red X’s through some of my paragraphs and wrote: Trust Your Reader.
Years later this advice was echoed in different words in a writers’ group I shared with science fiction author Carol Emshwiller. In the barrage of comments thrown at me after I finished reading my latest (wordy) effort, Carol said simply, “The most important thing in a story is the space between the lines.”
Haunting advice, “trust” and “space.” Or is it Trust Space?
Since there couldn’t be more astute advice, I won’t add extra words to this blog!
BOOKS: ROLE PLAY and TEN WOMEN OF VALOR -CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle. TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW – xLibris.com; WIDOW’S WALK – iUniverse.com