Saturday, October 24, 2009

Creative word collections

It works like magic. You paste your text into and a few seconds later you get a picture of what you said.  The more often a word appears, the bigger the font.

It's a great way to analyze your texts. And see what the story is mostly about.

But there is a downside. When you look at texts this way, the magic somehow disappears. You discover that your cake is made from flour, salt, milk, eggs, shortening, sugar and baking powder but you do not get a cake. The combinations of two or more words that tantalize or excite the human brain, that communicate complex ideas with remarkable ease are downgraded to their constituent parts.

Those word pictures that excite our imagination dim. The lights go out. Our concepts become nothing more than a handful of grains of sand among the billions upon the beach of human creativity. We can see the edge of the water and the stretch of sand, but no swimming flags, no naked bodies glistening in the sunshine, no lifesaver in his elevated chair, guarding the beach.  The conceptual chutzpah, that audacity of lexical contradictions and extrapolations, vanishes before our eyes.

Look at what you get from these first three paragraphs:

Some words have their own personalities. They are sometimes exotic, at other time rich, tantalizing, mysterious or musical. Like beautiful flowers. Or a rainbow of colors. Or a gastronomical delight. Like Razzamataz. Exotic. Candalabra.  Hippopotamus. Incandescent. Esoteric. Serendipity. Zillion. Sequoia. Phatamasgorical.

Here's some fun workshop warm-ups based on the idea of making new combinations from interesting/unusual words:

1. Brainstorm a list of 4-5 words that for you are the most exotic or amazing. e. abracadabra, alchemical, mellifluous, then use them all in a story.
2. Brainstorm a list of words which have the same basic phoneme, but are not necessarily spelled the same way. e.g amaze, laze, phase, braise, gaze, then use them all to write a brief speech.
3. Craft a sentence where the words are alliterative, start with the same sound e.g. lighting loves luscious little leprechauns living lately in Lithuania
4. Use all of these words in the one story. Razzamataz. Exotic. Candalabra.  Hippopotamus. Incandescent. Esoteric. Serendipity. Zillion. Sequoia. Phatamasgorical.
5. If all words had their own colors, make a list of words that are "yellow".
6. Some words sound taller and bigger than others. Make a list of some skyscraper words. e.g. gigantic
7. Some words are musical. Make a list of words that have a nice sound, melody or ring to them. e.g. catatonic, whistle, fortissimo.
8. Craft a story using your yellow, skyscraper and musical words.
9. Using the word collection (pictured), write a different story using the same words.

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