There’s a quote floating around out there among writers and readers that says, “Every book you’ve ever read is just a different combination of 26 letters.” I don’t know where it came from originally. I’ve searched the Internet for a reference, but found none. However, I know that quote is true. And this past week, I’ve found myself thinking about that truth more than usual.
As many of my readers know, I’ve recently taken a dive back into my “Smoky Mountain Novel Series” to get book number 5 completed. It’s been a few years since I finished the first 4 books, and I actually had to go back and read a bit of some of them to make sure I still knew the characters well enough to continue the series. I found that I do, indeed, still know them and love them. And after a couple unsuccessful attempts at birthing book 5, I have finally managed to get it into the birth canal far enough that delivery is imminent.
But as I sat this morning pondering on this quote, I thought back over all the books that I have written. Now, I’m not even thinking about books by others that I’ve read — the multiplied thousands of them — and I wasn’t even considering them as I meditated on this thought. But considering just the books that I have written, I stand totally amazed at the vast differences in the subject matters, the characters, the environments, and the stories themselves that have all been created by using only these same 26 little letters.
I guess I’m unusually focused on language and it’s amazing power in the lives of human beings at this particular time because in book 5 of the series, I’m telling the story of a full-blooded Cherokee man who is very personally involved in a movement to restore the original Cherokee language to his people. While many of the elderly Cherokee still speak their native language, most of their children and certainly almost all of their grandchildren barely know and understand that language.
A major reason for that lack, of course, is the result of the U.S. government forcing thousands of American Indian children to leave their homes and families and attend boarding schools for years at which they were totally stripped of everything about their culture and their heritage. They were forced to use only the English language for all communication and were severely punished if they even spoke to each other in their native tongues. Naturally, that kind of treatment could easily and quickly eradicate an entire nation’s communication skills.
As I’ve been pondering these terrible events in history and working them into the story where they need to go for the sake of developing my main character, I’ve been thinking anew about how powerful language really is. And how powerful words are. As a devout Christian and one who tries to write mostly for the sake of sharing Gospel truths through my work, I’m very well acquainted with the importance the Lord puts on words. In fact He comes right out and tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
So our words have great power to effect others. And as a writer, I try to always be aware of that fact. I know that words have driven men to hateful, heinous acts against each other, and words have brought an end to wars and brought comfort and courage to thousands in times of need. I try to be aware that all my words carry some degree of power to affect others and even the atmosphere around me — for good or for bad. I believe that the words I write are just as powerful as the words I speak aloud, so it’s my aim as an author to be the most responsible purveyor of words that I can possibly be. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a great adventure — taking 26 little letters and crafting them responsibly into brand new life-sized people and their stories.
If readers would like to check out “The Smoky Mountain Series” novels for themselves, they can find them, along with many of my other books, at this site.