Whats the Magic Word

What’s the Magic Word?

Remember when you were little and wanted a cookie? At some point someone probably prompted you, “What’s the magic word?” The expected response was “please” and if the magic word worked, it resulted in a cookie. Mmm. Cookies.

As adults, there are many words we imbue with emotional significance – love, marriage, birth, and chocolate truffles come leaping to mind.  But speech in general has incredible power. How astounding that you can have a thought in your head and transfer it to mine through nothing more than speech. Even something mundane, like “I found your boots,” has a kind of transcendence when you consider the significance of words.

Abracadabra is a good example of this concept. We associate Abracadabra with magic shows, a flip of a silken handkerchief, and a wave of a wand. But the word itself comes from a phrase in Aramaic, Avra K’davra – I will create as I speak.

I think about this with respect to writing, especially when it comes pulling words out of the air. Nothing brings writing to a juddering halt the way a missing word does. A thesaurus usually helps, of course, but sometimes it doesn’t. So, I was delighted to learn about what is now my personal magic word: TK.

Every time I get stuck for the perfect word, I just drop in TK and keep writing, sure in the knowledge that I will be able to return later when I know what I need in that spot. Sinking into an abyss of internet research? TK. Lost in a sea of possible responses to a bit of dialogue? TK. See what I mean?

Professional writers have used TK for this purpose for years because it is an unusual combination of letters and so is easy to notice and to search for. It stands for “to come” as in “further information to come”. But TK is a rarer letter combination in English than TC, which might get lost in words like satchel or matchbook.

Of course, now that we have the capacity to search our documents electronically. So some writers use 000 instead of TK, and others ***. This makes sense because there are a few words which do incorporate TK. So, some writers use TKTK to deal with this problem.

This seems like overkill to me, although I understand the concern. For instance, I might write a story which depicts a hero who cuts down catkins with a pocketknife and then goes home to eat latkes. In that case, I might have to rethink my strategy. But until then, TK is my magic word.

What’s yours?

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Rose is the author of The Valora Series, The Durrell Brothers Trilogy, Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised. Her novel, Waiting For You, the first book of the Durrell Brothers Trilogy, was 2nd place winner in the 2018 New England Reader’s Choice Contest. She loves writing stories about people who do everything in their power to avoid falling in love.

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