THE POWER OF THE SPOKEN WORD

I showed the picture below on my Facebook page a few days ago. I suppose that, unlike the witch on her broomstick, most of us think before we speak ninety-nine times out of a hundred. But I’m sure all of us have experienced that one hundredth time. It can cause embarrassment, pain, and guilt, not to mention the fervent wish that we could bite out our tongue. But the trouble with the spoken word is that it cannot be recalled once it is out there, not when there is someone to hear it anyway.

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The written word can be just as fraught with danger and just as unforgiving in an age of constant texting, twittering, and firing off emails and comments on social media sites. In many case, though, we are far more likely when writing to think and ponder and choose our words with care and revise things before we send off the result for someone else’s eyes. This is especially true of the writer of stories and books. We can change our characters’ words and actions, even their thoughts, as often as we choose. If we don’t like something they say, we can simply erase it and get them to say what we want them to say. After all, we are their creator. They have no existence without us. We are in control. Right?

Well, yes–but also no! I know I am not unique in this–I talk to other writers and we often experience the same things. We may create our characters from nothing, but pretty soon they are separate beings with a will of their own, andย they decide what they are going to say and do in the course of their story. This is why I find it impossible to plan a book ahead of time. And writing a synopsis? Forget it! I never know what is going to come out of my characters’ mouths when they begin to talk. I can set a conversation in motion and often do so as I love writing dialogue, but then I just sort of sit back and let them have at it. Often the conversation goes off in a direction I had not anticipated. And often what is said changes the course of the book and establishes a theme and a message I did not see coming.

In a book I recently finished writing, for example (it is not published yet), I had vaguely planned a relationship in which seduction and a brief affair and its consequences would lead to a deeper relationship and ultimate marriage. However, when I got my hero and heroine into conversation several times early in the book, each time obligingly putting them into invitingly private settings, would they cooperate? Not a bit of it! Before I knew it, my hero was blurting out an asinine marriage proposal and I had to decide whether to erase his words and order him back to a more serious seduction or let him have his way. But letting him have his way totally negated everything I had half planned for the remaining two-thirds of the book. I let him have his way! Sometimes when words have been spoken aloud, even within the pages of a book, they just have to be allowed to stand. The story must be changed instead.

A long time ago, when I was writingย The Notorious Rake, a totally unimportant minor character, friend of Mary Gregg, the heroine, was warning her against the hero, Lord Edmond Waite, and asked her if she realized he had killed his mother and brother. I swear those words just appeared on the screen before my eyes. I hadย no idea she was about to say that. The words horrified me and terrified me. I think I felt as Pandora felt when she opened that forbidden box. Of course, I was more fortunate than Pandora–all I had to do to put matters right was delete the words and carry on with my story of a perfectly stereotypical rake who needed to be redeemed by the power of love. But I had the feeling that the friend must know something I didn’t, so I kept her words. And they turned out to be the key to the hero’s character and the whole story. Lord Edmond Waite is still one of my favorite, most complex heroes. Did he kill his mother and brother? Well, yes–and no…

notoriousrake4counterfeit-notorious4The spoken word, it seems, has a power of its own whether the speaker is a real person or a fictional character. Who will ever forget the words Mr, Darcy spoke in his first marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet? Ouch!

To one person who leaves a comment below before the end of next Friday, November 8, I will send a copy of the two-in-one republication of A COUNTERFEIT BETROTHAL and THE NOTORIOUS RAKE. Last week’s winner of two Christmas books was Rhiannon Copper. She was unable to leave a comment on my web site and let me know on my Facebook page. I entered her name in the draw anyway, and by pure chance hers was the name that got drawn!

 

 

90 thoughts on “THE POWER OF THE SPOKEN WORD

  1. I love your short story with a sci-fi twist in Bespelling Jane Austen. I’m looking forward to more short stories ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Mary!

      Your written words in each of your books bring me joy and often a realization I didn’t expect.

      When you talked about the spoken and written word it made me think and I begun to wonder which had the biggest impact and then realized they both do but in different ways. Words spoken with malice and intent can be devastating at the moment but written word can be read in the centuries to come.

      I think both kinds of communication can have good and back effects. Personally the spoken word can have a positive or negative effect on us now and some times can help us understand how others view us but the written word can last a life sometimes in a good way.

      When I think of the written word I wonder how we would be able to come to understand those who came before us. An example is I have a very old history book that refers to American Indians as aborigines. Would we be as tolerant today to let an author who came to what is now the USA write about us in such a demeaning way? What recourse would we have? I think we can learn not only what to do but also learn that we should look at the world around us without prejudice more closely.

      So which is worse – negative people telling someone how they feel face to face or in a “written” format? I personally take offense at both but also agree that there are times that there are ways to get your opinion across without offending each other and can be done with dignity and grace.

      Sometimes it’s not what and how things are said but instead the intent behind it.

    • Please please please, do not EVER stop writing your stories! Reading what you write makes me happy, and it’s an awfully good feeling. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hello!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I too am a BIG fan of your books. Right now I’m reading The Arrangement. I’m super excited to read The Escape….which seems like forever before it’s out. I love all the surviors and can’t wait to read them all. I have read a total of 35 books that you’ve written. (I work in a library) lol Sometimes I have a hard time finding some of the older books….but I don’t give up until I get them.
      You have soooooooo many series that I have loved. One being The Bedwyn Family…..love, love, love them all. Also, I loved the Huxtable Quintet series and the Web series and the Mitress Series and the Simply Quartet series. Oh….I love them ALL!!!!!!!

      Hope you have a magical writing day!!!!!!

  2. I went to my local used bookstore today and was excited to find a copy of ‘A Regency Christmas Feast’, a title I have never read. Looking forward to reading your story, ‘The Wassail Bowl’!

  3. I just love all your books! I’ve been collecting them for a while. I read my first one at 17 and fell in love right then! I can’t wait to ready many more!

  4. I often times feel this way when commenting on something on Facebook. I read it and write out a comment and when reading the comment I decide that I can’t say it that way, but when coming up with alternatives none have the same effect, so I end up just not commenting to save myself from being rude or offending said person or even another of their friends who may not read it the same way I did. On another note I enjoy your books very much. Thank you for continuing to write.

  5. Sometimes I hit the enter button 1 sec. too soon. Thank goodness some creators have the “edit” button! What a mess it is when there isn’t one. But even with the “edit” option some people still just leave it as that. – P.s. Love your books Mary!

  6. I’m know I’ve put my foot in my mouth from time to time – there’s that awful moment when something untoward has been said and then there is silence as if to underline the poor statement. Strangely enough I am often the one to lighten the moment when someone else makes that unfortunate remark. I do tend to hold on to things that I write until I can let the words mull thru my mind and perhaps find something to adjust so as to express what I want to clearly.

    I’m always on the lookout for your stories and it gives me a kick when a find a real early one at an AAUW book sale – it’s great that you are republishing them in these duo volumes – maybe someday I’ll have read them all.

  7. You are one of the first authors I started following (in other words, buying any book that had your name on it). The first was Georgette Heyer, the next was probably Roberta Gellis, with you following a close third. Then probably Stephanie Laurens, Christina Dodd, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Laura Lee Gurke, and many, many more. In other words, I have lots of books.

    I have many of your early books, including The Notorious Rake (with the cover above), but always buy them when they come out again. I just can’t help myself!

    Not sure if I have the other, A Counterfeit Bethrothal, and would love to have an autographed copy, but please give to some one else that might not be able to buy your books for themselves. Just wanted you to know that I love your work.

    Helen Ackley

  8. I wonder if the non writers realize just how much control the characters have when a book is being written? I know some writers plot every little nuance of a book and then write it exactly according to plan. And others sit down and have no clue from day to day what is going to happen until the characters tell them. Writing is not for the faint of heart either way.

  9. Such an interesting piece … foot in mouth disease (ha) … didn’t ever think it would happen with writing a book though. I do love your writing style and appreciate that you have these drawings … Thanks

  10. This is brilliant, and so true. I write stories (both short and novel-length) in my free time, and I’m often amazed at how the characters have taken on a life of their own. Regularly, my best laid plans go awry, and I feel like I’m dealing with two strangers that I hadn’t intended to create. But that also makes it so much fun, and keeps me wanting to write.

  11. I have heard that from several authors – the characters take over, have a life of their own. I think it is all that creativity in your right brain that is coming to the surface!

  12. I’ve just started reading your books and I’ve enjoyed reading your stories. It’s bad enough saying something without thinking when spoken aloud but when it’s written, it’s there forever!! Thanks for the chance.

  13. I absolutely love your work!
    Thank you for this article because it is meaningful and educational for an aspiring writer (like moi!)!
    Please keep being a fabulous writer and have a great weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I have been reading your books for years. I love so many of your books. I really enjoy your Facebook postings, the pics and rooms. I hope you have many more years of letting your characters do their own talking, and you just writing it down for them.

  15. I think all of us have put foot in mouth at one time or another in life. I’m sure we’ve all been the recipient of being on the wrong end of uncensored words, too.

    I have found when I’m writing my reviews to be as honest as I can, good and bad, and do it in a way that isn’t going to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, especially the author. I’ve seen too many reviews that are flat out mean and there is no call for that. I feel if done well, even with critique, the author will appreciate it. After all, we all have our opinions. What works for one may not for another.

    I want to take a moment to let you know that Silent Melody, after all these years, has remained a very favorite of mine. It’s one of those stories that has kept to the forefront of my heart.

  16. nine out of ten times, I can bite my tongue and not say what I am thinking. Unfortunately, its that one time that it comes out and I usually get into trouble because of it. Its also the time that I do it around my boss and she takes me to task. Of course, it happens when I am tired or just not feeling up to snuff and I don’t care what comes out of my mouth.

  17. I have a tendency to bottle things up, especially what I’m thinking. Then at the most inopportune time they all burst out, unfiltered and everything. I’ve learned over the years that the power of the spoken word, whether good or bad, has a huge effect to those it’s spoken to. The spoken word has the ability to make someone’s day, change their life, or even crush their dreams. I now *try* my best to remember that and provide my thoughts or opinions only when absolutely necessary, or requested.

    Thanks for the great post Mary! Huge fan! <3

  18. What a lovely piece! I’ve heard other authors talk (or write) about how their characters develop minds and lives of their own, and even how a new character will suddenly walk in and change the entire story. To be open to that is a gift, and I suspect it’s part of what makes a good writer. Your books have delighted me for probably 12 years now. You were one of the first romance authors I tried (on my mother’s recommendation), and I fell in love with your stories and your characters – real, complex, three-dimensional people rather than flat archetypes or stereotypes. Thank you for many happy hours of reading, and please don’t stop writing!

  19. I love your books! I just finished Slightly Married today. It was wonderful. I don’t know how I hadn’t read it before. I’m looking forward to reading the Christmas books next.
    I recently discovered that my ancestors, the Bowens, came from Wales. Our ancestors might have known each other!

  20. I love your books and so does my sister. We trade back and forth with authors we like and you are a favorite. Thanks for the Facebook postings too. Some of the reading places are so wonderful!

  21. I know what you mean! It’s like logorrhea rears it’s ugly head and there I go, just spilling out things that should have remained between two. It then comes to about four or five or six…it’s rather pathetic really.
    My mouth seems to run away all on it’s own. I seriously wonder why for I am the only in my family like that…hmmm, weird.
    Sometimes, there are some buddies who sit back and wonder what I’ll say next after they’ve instigated a subject that I am most passionate about. It’s rather funny really.

  22. I know I have read these books when they first came out but I would love to receive a copy and revisit them again. I love all your books, been reading them for almost 25 years I think. When I see your name on a book I know there are several hours of reading enjoyment before me.

  23. Mary- I constantly speak before I think, and since I’m 66 yrs old, I guess it will continue- can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  24. Hello Mary,
    I have had many occasions where I blurted out things that I may not have said, if I had thought about it before. But I think that is the charme of some of the characters I have read about. How often have I sat there reading and thought, the story could have been solved if someone at the beginning had just blurted out the obvious and saved the hero and heroine a lot of grieve and heartache. (Just finished a similar story where both of the main characters had secrets but kept them bottled up till the last minute and then had to wade through the repercussions of their non (verbal) action). Anyway, love your books and love to read them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. I remember and loved The Notorious Rake! I was managing a bookstore at the time and I have to admit I read it as a strip I snagged. I have since (20+ years!) bought a lot of your books at retail, though.

    I got back into writing in the past couple of weeks after recovering from shoulder surgery. It was on my right shoulder and six years ago, when I created one of my heroes, I specifically wrote several scenes where he was shot in the right shoulder while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. I can’t tell you how many times I typed something in to the computer or was doing something else in my real world life and had to frantically write it in my notebook and then thought, “Now where the hell did that come from?”

    I would dearly love an autographed book from you–just finished The Arrangement and it’s one of my favorites. BTW, three years ago, I wrote a blind character, a heroine and a lot of things from the book made me smile. Thanks for all the good stuff on FB and your blog!

  26. I love your take on the spoken word….and your books. I do cringe when remembering times when I’ve blurted out something inane…or hurtful.

  27. I have loved your books for years. Now I am enjoying all your wonderful posts on facebook too. Thanks for all you do.

  28. I believe that it is just a natural part of the human existence to speak before you think. I also believe that more truer words are spoken when a person is inebriated. Maybe we need not always be careful of what we say as long as what we say is truthful and not harmful. Sometimes, spoken word is a representation of how we truly like to express ourselves as a form of poetically. But if we offend, then we need to apologize.

  29. Your words just come out of the character’s mouth—– that’s why your characters seem so real. Your books are my favorites. Please keep them coming!

  30. When I retired 10 years ago, I FINALLY had time to read many books again. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I read your first book and have read you ever since. I was thrilled when you re-published your books from the 90’s with a 2 for one in each. I read many authors, but I can’t think of another author that CONSISTENTLY pleases me with every book!
    I loved this post on your blog, as I never would have thought that your characters help YOU write the story.
    I also share so many of your Facebook posts. I’m thrilled that I will NOT outlive you!!

  31. I am often guilty of foot in mouth disease and when I write and then read what the characters flowing from my pen have done, I don’t know if I should curb their behaviour or glory in the fact that all things cannot be controlled. I want to read/write about characters that don’t always do what we want, that don’t always do the right thing, that don’t always know the right thing to do, that do the unexpected, yet are the product of their character/personality not of an outline.
    Love your books!
    -Sandra

  32. That is quite interesting what you revealed in your blog post. I never thought of it that way. Again I enjoyed reading your blog and your books.

  33. When I was younger, I was more likely to blurt out something mean or spiteful, and regret it later. Nowadays it’s more likely to be just the unvarnished truth – which can be bad enough sometimes. When I retired a couple of years ago one of the deciding factors was that the “censor” within my head (you know, the one that says “don’t say that out loud”) wasn’t working so well anymore. I wasn’t “suffering fools gladly” – the fools were starting to suffer! (smile)

    On a different note, I find your blogs about the writing process so fascinating. I’m someone who doesn’t have a creative bone in her body. So I wamt to thank you for the countless hours of entertainment your books have provided me.

  34. It is funny that a writer will write before she thinks. I wonder if the case of the comment to Mary Gregg, that strand of the story was deep within your subconscious and had forces its way out. The human brain is an amazing thing and it would be interesting to study authors to see if this sort of thing happens a lot and if there is a subconscious connection ( sorry my training as a scientist pops out sometimes–even though I have not practiced in years).
    I remember sitting down once to write an essay in response to TS Eliot’s “April is the cruelest month”. I had fully intended to comment about April and instead I wrote my thesis statement: When T S Eliot stated that April is the cruelest month, it was obvious he had never lived in Vermont in February. I looked at the page surprised. Where did that come from? I went with it though.
    Glad these pop up, no matter what the cause. As you say, the writer can erase, but sometimes choosing not to can take a story a totally different place.

  35. I’ve always found it interesting how the characters come so much alive to a writer that they “direct the path of the story”, that they show you where a story is going. I am not a writer by any means, but I am thankful for writhers like you Mary! Without your wonderful imagination and your wonderful characters, what kind of world would it be? Keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading and losing myself in your characters worlds!

  36. The power of the written word, I would be lost without. It sees me through the ups and downs of my life. It brings me places I will never get to visit and I have made so many “friends” along my journey.

  37. Spoken words have such an impact! It’s not just the words, but also the tone that carries meaning. My daughter can say the most innocuous thing and yet can cause such animosity. I can’t tell you how often I have told her “It’s not what you say, but the WAY you say it that matters.”

  38. Hello Mary…….I have a whole library of your books but not the ones you are giving away. I would love to read them as well. I also enjoy your postings of reading nooks and animal pictures as I am a huge animal lover of all kinds of animals. Keep up your excellent work.

  39. The spoken word is why we read, to hear what everyone else is saying… Love your books Mary… thanks for a great giveaway..

  40. I always enjoy your books. Have re-read the ones I bought and also the ones from the Library. Don’t quit writing!

  41. I have been a fan of your books for some time now. They are always well turned, in a beautiful English and with a great plot and couple. I would really adore owning one with your autograph in it.

  42. I especially like your stories because of all the dialogue. Your post was interesting regarding the characters having their own voices.

  43. I don’t get to buy books often so I go to my local library and head straight to the shelf with your name on it! I don’t get to read as much as I like, but when I do, I get lost in your stories for HOURS! I can’t ever put them down til the wee hours of the morning. Keep up the awesome work!! = )

    ~Alabama

  44. Thank you writing such wonderful books. They have brought me many evenings of utter joy. I wish I had the talent to write books but my talent leads toward reading them.

  45. I have a tendency to blurt out something without thinking. The most embarrassing remark I’ve made to a woman with a stomach was “Oh, are you pregnant?” I’ve done this twice!!And both times they’ve looked at me and said”no!! I could have died on the spot. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. Never ask a woman with a stomach that question….ever!!!

  46. I am just thankful you write. And let your characters go where they may.. at times.. because it gives the rest of us something to look forward to, to imagine/see in our mind’s eye and enjoy.
    Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. I agree with you about the spoken word…interesting correlation to your meme. Please enter me in the draw. Marlyn (ewatvess@yahoo.com)

  48. Some years back I started reading Romance Novels, which I’d not done before: this was when my sister had had a stroke and I was the only person in the family who was able to go sit in her nearly darkened room for hours at a time. Phyllis had a bookshelf overflowing with these books and I cannot imagine not having something to read, so I started reading her books and became a fan of the genre and its nearest relatives. One of the nurses took pity on me and brought in a tiny reading light for me to use – wasn’t that great of her?

    I then found myself in the local public library at home, signing out well-loved books that many others had read. It’s a shame that some books are disappearing from library systems because they’ve been loved and read to tatters! Thanks for re-publishing some of your works; it is always helpful for readers to learn from sites whether these are newly-written or republications, so we can go through our bookshelves to see what needs to be filled in from must-have authors like you. Thanks again. You never know who will discover a really good book and go back to read everything else you’ve written.

  49. I sometimes wish I had a time machine to unseat the things I have said without thinking (sigh)

    I discovered your novels a few years ago and love the simply and Berwyn series. Please keep writing ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. Mary, I love all your words and your stories. But I think in this day and age, unlike when the written word was the prime means of communication as in letters, your picture above describes a majority of communication today – how many public apologies have occurred because people emailed, tweeted, posted on Facebook, etc without thinking first? They may or may not enjoy the surprise they get!

  51. Mary,

    Thank you for hours upon hours of escape. I love your sense of adventures, story telling and of course the romance. I find your books a wonderful source of entertainment and I’m so thankful for you. Please keep writing because I’ll keep reading everyone of your fabulous books.

  52. I just discovered your books for the first time. I read The Arrangement and couldn’t put it down. You made me laugh and cry throughout the whole book. I am excited now to purchase the whole survivors series. I need to go back and read some of your earlier work. I hope you continue to write for a long time to come.

  53. I live in Canada and my mother lives in Russian, I read your books in English and she reads them in Russian. Both of us love your books and can’t put it/them down. It is a topic of our weekly phone conversation. Thank you

  54. I very much enjoyed your blog this week. I am such a big fan of your books and appreciate the insight to your wonderful creativity. I can’t imagine Lord Edmund Waite without his sympathetic past and just another rake.

  55. The power of the spoken word!! What a thought provoking topic! Yet I think about it every day but not as much as I need to. If I could change or take back many words I have said over the years, my whole life would be different just as the words your characters said determined the course of their story. I soo get it! And here are my words in response, not so very thought through, but ever thankful for your stories and your style.

  56. Mary, I am so happy your classic regencies are being reprinted AND I look forward to reading the latest. I loved your comment about how horrified you were by the sentence you typed that came out of the character’s mouth. Your imagination is a wonderful thing!

  57. I’ve been a fan of yours for years and still have many your books which read and re read all the time.If it has your name on it I buy it because you have never let me down.My mother (who is 82) reads your novels also.Your books are truly a pleasure to read.Thank you

  58. As we grow older it seems we live vicariously through books – THE PROPOSAL and THE ARRANGEMENT sounds like an interesting read. Looking forward to reading. Have a great holiday season!

  59. Mary, you are one of the best writers I know of — and have read all, or I think all of them and have enjoyed every book. And about the Lee Child movie with Tom Cruise, I agree with you! He was a terrible pick for the part of Reacher. I love Lee Child’s Reacher novels, I hate to put them down and it’s usually 3 or 4 a.m. before I finally close the book. I am retired (81 yrs. old) and have all the time in the world to catch up on the reading my busy life didn’t have time for before retirement. Right now, I am reading “Stealing Heaven” about Heloise & Abelard. Their famous love story back in the 12th century. And this story, was brought to my attention in the “Gabriel’s Inferno” series, so I had to go and get that book too. I have a Public Library right across the street from me and it has been wonderful to be able to walk over there and feel like I had all their bookshelves full of books just for my pleasure!

  60. I am a huge fan of your books. Yours are the kind of books I need a lot of free time for. Once I start one I don’t want to put it down. Thank you for your wonderful stories.

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