Only So Far…

The difference between fear and terror is one of intensity and effect. Fear is authoritative. Terror is dominant. Fear generates a response. Terror triggers panic. Fear leads to action. Terror results in paralysis.

Consider, as well, the difference between liking and loving. The verb form of like means ‘to regard with favor.’ Love means ‘to have a tender or passionate affection for.’

Language tends to be an inadequate purveyor of experiences that go beyond a racing heartbeat and clammy skin. Words can go only so far, but no further. But words can spark the imagination, which can take us well beyond the feeble limits of vowels and consonants. Writers try to shape responses to their ideas through words, but only readers can complete the task with their imaginations.

A writer can coax a reader to fear. I do not know of an incidence in which I, as a reader, have ever crossed the boundary into terror due to a writer’s words. Similarly, a writer can cajole a reader to like a character. I cannot imagine myself, or anyone else, falling in love with a character.

As beautiful as words and language are, there simply is no substitute for experience.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Only So Far…

  1. I think the reader has the capacity allow the words of the writer to spur her imagination, but the writer can only suggest; experience trumps words, methinks.

  2. Holly Forrest says:

    As usual, a very thought-provoking post. Here a few of the thoughts it provokes:

    1. Being me, of course, I have to provide a film clip that is on topic.

    2. I’d argue that it takes a performer bringing to life the words of the writer for those words to inspire love of character. Playwrights and screenwriters, have words transformed in ways that novelists do not. I will confess that even without it being enacted, I fell in love with Lizzy Bennet.

    3. Love letters can create a feeling of love for another. Particularly the more self-revelatory they are, illuminating a person’s character.

    4. You don’t think a writer’s words can inspire terror? How about these: We regret to inform you that your visa has been denied. Someone who had pinned all their hopes on coming to another country to escape persecution feels more than fear. Or: Your test results came back positive.

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