And the Winner is: Words

Everyone has a preference as to the type of art and media they consume. Some people like books, others prefer movies, television programs, live theater, music, online content and many simply like a combination of all of the above.

Even though our modern society is captivated by “the next big thing” technologically, it is the written word, no matter how it is delivered (printed or on a screen) that has a unique ability to communicate deeply like no other medium and is still the best way (in my opinion) to consume content.

Why is that? After careful scientific analysis of my personal biases, I’ve determined that written words are king for two reasons:

  1. No musical soundtracks
  2. No special effects

Real life doesn’t have them and neither does the written word.

This concept was made real to me on an evening flight from the east coast to Chicago years ago. From my window seat, I pondered the business of the day while staring out the window into the black.  In a moment, the jet cleared some clouds and below me in the distance were the lights of Cleveland, Ohio. It was a beautiful, sparkling sight. Then, as I visualized a map of the Midwestern United States, I realized that could see the lights of Akron just south of Cleveland, then Toledo in the distance, Detroit, Michigan north of that, Fort Wayne, Indiana in the distance and my destination Chicago on the far horizon 350 miles away, all glimmering in the cold, clear air, as seen from 35,000 feet…and all visible at the same moment.

That was the point when I decided that soundtracks and special effects only got in the way. Silence was the best music and millions of lights spread out over hundreds of miles were the ultimate special effect.

I often consider how life would feel different if at various points in your day, a dramatic, comedic, or majestic musical soundtrack accompanied it.  Or when you hit your head, a “boing!” reverberates through the room and a laugh track sounds. Of course, it would not be comical at all. Hitting your head hurts and life has no accompanying music or background effects.

What if it did?

On a cold snowy morning, I dress warmly, grab the snow shovel and hit the garage door opener.

(Cue the Emperors Theme from Star Wars)

As the door opens agonizingly slow, revealing a foot of snow needing shoveling on the driveway, I pull on my leather gloves in slow motion as a puff of exhaled breath signals the start of the task before me. (The music swells to a climax)

Blogger note: Imagining scenarios like this does not qualify as mental illness. Goofy maybe, but not enough to qualify for medication.

Then, in a burst of reality, I set down the shovel, go over to the gas-powered snow blower, pull the starter and get the whole job done in ten minutes, quickly returning the machine to its spot in the garage, close the door quickly and run indoors where it is warm. The noise of the snow blower engine drowns out the background music and wakes the neighbors. (As my mother would say, “Holy cats Dan, what is that noise?”)

That is real life.

Books in any form are better at communicating real life simply because they stimulate our imaginations as well as our intellects. Movies and their respective soundtracks and special effects connect primarily with our emotions.

Of course, in a deeply spiritual or romantic view of life, I suppose there are “soundtracks” of birds chirping or babies crying, but those simply attest to the simplicity and “realness” of life, which is never as dramatic as movies make it seem.

This is probably another reason why most authors truly hate the movie version of their books. It makes the real unreal or at the very least, not what they imagined when they wrote it.

Showing a dramatic or meaningful moment in writing activates the imagination and creates a powerful, memorable mental image.

That’s why I like the written word.



Leave a Comment

Who Really Wrote Handel’s “Messiah”?

No. This isn’t really a trick question. Or one of those silly ones you play on kids like “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” But there is a wonderful bit of forgotten history in the answer. Without Handel’s Messiah we would not know who Charles Jennens was. And without Charles …

Read More

Should I Be Writing This Genre?

Often I talk with new authors writing in lots of genres. This is fine if it’s part of your personal writing journey and learning process. I want my authors to enjoy what they’re writing. But when you get serious about publication, know when to choose and what to choose. One …

Read More

Things My Editor Does That I Take for Granted

“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” – Arthur Plotnik “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” – H.G. Wells You editor is someone …

Read More

Thanksgiving Blessings

In the spirit of gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day, I share with you today’s Gospel reading from The Book of Common Prayer: John 6:26-35 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of …

Read More


Holidays. People love them…people hate them. For my family, we fell in the “love ‘em” category. Thanksgiving always means getting together, sharing laughter and great food and playing all kinds of games. We bake and decorate and spend time watching football. Even the challenging Thanksgivings become a source of fun. …

Read More

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Everyone is thinking about being thankful this week so it is comforting knowing that I am not alone on this bandwagon. When President Obama said the words, “You didn’t build that,” back in 2012 and drew such ire from opponents, I was troubled. I understood what he was trying to …

Read More