language is power

I wanna be upfront about something before I begin: Writers are masters at manipulation. It’s all about using language to make people feel what we want them to feel, want what we want them to want, believe what we want them to believe.

So really, it only makes sense to learn the language of manipulation – or powerful self-expression, depending how you look at it. I’m going to look at one specific example.

I was told once that the sentence structure “X but Y” is less powerful than “X and Y”. I could say to you, “I feel for you, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” Or I can say, “I feel for you, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

It’s a subtle difference, but the two statements are worlds apart. When you use “but”, one clause becomes the negation of the other: only one can exist, and by choosing one sentiment over the other, you’re declaring what’s important to you. When you use “and” you allow both sentiments to exist equally: you allow the ambiguous nature of human emotion to be expressed.

It’s a pretty powerful thing in real life conversation – give it a go.

But I’ve also found myself using it in my writing, to good effect. It could certainly be used to create complex, nuanced dialogue, but I use it more often when I’m narrating a character’s internal world.

A simple example of this would be taking something standard, like, “He drove her crazy, but she loved him,” and turning it into, “He drove her crazy, and she loved him.”

Isn’t the second option so much richer than the first? To me, the first evokes that most annoying kind of heroine who understands herself badly. She finds herself drawn to the hero despite his bad qualities. The second evokes a heroine who sees herself and her hero clearly.

It allows for contradictory emotions to exist side-by-side, and you don’t get much more human than that.

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