Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Words, Words, Words with Chris Humphreys

(Image:  Sir Laurence Olivier in Hamlet)

 PNWA kicked-off this year's conference with a "pregame" seminar, starring Chris Humphreys, author of his latest historical novel, A Place Called Armageddon.

Chris's topic was "words, words, words," lifted from a line in Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The main thrust of this workshop was, as writers, to find words to fit our specific purpose.  Combining words is akin to alchemy, not science, and certainly not magic, but an unquantifiable combination of both.

Take the word "passion," for instance.  According to the synonym function in a Word document, the following words are considered similar to passion:  Fervor, ardor, obsession, infatuation, excitement, enthusiasm, zeal and craze.

When Chris conducted a short exercise in word-association using the same term, the audience came up with the following:  Lover(s), spouse/significant other, desire, lust, profession and cause.

Each word has a different connotation, doesn't it?  So word-choice is critical in order to convey an intended meaning, or mood to the reader.

In addition to word choice, Chris made the following suggestions to improve our writing:

--Read the poetry of the era you're writing about, it gives you the flavor of the language.
--Make good use of dramatic pauses.
--Keep in mind readers will not read exactly what you wrote and will make their own interpretations about your narrative.
--Use the Rule of Three.
--Make use of double entendres and onomatopoeias.
--Channel personal experiences into your writing and most importantly, if possible, visit the location you are writing about.

An actor by trade, Chris finished the workshop with the rousing Saint Crispin's Day Speech from Shakespeare's Henry V. 


Unfortunately for us Yanks, A Place Called Armageddon, is only available in the UK, Canada and the Commonwealth.  (Except, of course to "we happy few" who attended this conference).  However, Chris's previous book, Vlad--The Last Confession is finally available in the US.


Melanie Rose said...

Thanks for the recap! Sadly, I didn't get in early enough for that one. I did get a signed copy of "Vlad" though.

Ted Henkle said...

I'm sorry to hear you missed this workshop. "Vlad" is very good--very dark--but very good. I picked up a copy of "A Place Called Armaggedon."