Some ten or twenty years ago, I do not remember when, I acquired some peacock feathers. From where, I do not know. Probably some good-looking, preening, strutting ostrich male peacock dropped some tail feathers and from whom, or how, I do not know, but somehow I acquired those exotic-looking iridescent eye feathers and stuck them in an empty blue vase.
It was probably in October or November of last year when I was dusting, I noted the feathers. They had faded; they were drooping; and they were ragged and shedding. This goes to explain that when something is somewhere long enough, we don’t actually “see” it. I took them out of the vase, whereupon they immediately began to disintegrate. The blue vase looked odd with out its dazzling exquisite plumage. So, when someone asked me what I wanted for Christmas, in all sincerity, I said, “peacock feathers.”
What a surprise when I actually received some, given to me by my husband’s beautiful office staff. The one who procured them told me she had “to call around” until she “located a woman who raised peacocks.” And so, the vase is once again filled with wavy, shimmering, iridescent patterns of brilliant green, deep blue and purple hues. The vase is by no means in a conspicuous place, but I know where it is, and I am happy with the results. It becomes part and parcel of the overall scenery. How does all this relate it to my craft? In writing, sometimes we don’t “see” that a certain word needs to be changed or discarded. As each feather is unique, so is each word.
Sometimes when developing and/or revising a story or play, a certain sentence or the essence of it, has to be kept. The writer stitches it into a sentence of a scene, and although no reader would notice the change, the writer would know the piece wouldn’t be complete without the rich color or meaning of that certain adjective, verb, noun.
Words are like jewels to a writer. Lawrence Dorr probably was the best wordsmith I ever read who knew how to select a certain word to add a precise and rich meaning to his stories. Some of his scenes fairly gleam. I was so taken with his intelligent use of vocabulary, that I often wrote retrospectives of his fiction. In so doing, I learned a great deal about figurative language, style, and plot.
Just as peacock feathers in their magnificent turquoise colors add richness to some décor, the words we choose to use matter. I am happy about my slippers, placemats, and food thermometer. They are practical, useful, and much needed, but like certain words add color and tone to a story, the peacock feathers delight my aesthetic sense.