As you read this, I am looking across a room full of virtual strangers. I will speak a two-word invocation—and each and every one of them will go down on all fours and stick their butts in the air.
All week we’ve been debating in this country the power of words. From the role of rhetoric in the tragic shootings near my old grocery store in Tucson, to the role a mother’s words play in crafting her child’s future, we ask, “Is the speaker responsible for how his speech influence the actions of others?”
My first reaction is, "Well, duh. That's the whole POINT of language." My more reasoned, analytical conclusion is still a limited “Yes.” Sure I’ve been misread. I’ve been misunderstood. I’ve been mistaken (and spread my error like a disease to others). And yet, when I ask someone to please pass me the butter, he generally does.
Language is magic. We use it to change the minds and behaviors of others. We want them to love us. We want them to serve us. We want them to leave us. We want them to fear us. We want them to pass the butter. We want them to stick their butts in the air.
Words cross time and unfathomable distances—my signature has gone to Mars, but I certainly never will. The wishes of a dead woman written in a will have power and authority far beyond the requests she made when she was alive.
People I’ve never met are emailing me that they’ve begun talking to inanimate objects in their house and yard since they’ve read Stone Kissed (in which the statues talk). Did I anticipate or intend such an effect? No. But I’ve changed their behavior, nevertheless.
In my faith tradition, words go beyond a magic tool or weapon we wield. I’ve been taught, quite simply, “…the word was God.” It doesn’t get much more powerful than that.
So I write romance. If I’m going to put ideas in people’s heads, I want them to be good ones. I want to convince someone (anyone, everyone) we are each worthy of and able to find love, in spite of the most horrible things that happen to us. Love survives and triumphs in the face of everything from abandonment to the zombie apocalypse.
Through romance novels, I sneak into that space just over your left ear and secretly sway you to my way perspective. Through the stealthy application of romantic fiction, I will change the world.
I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Do you?
And can you guess my magic phrase?