Do you ever have that thing where for some reason you notice a word and then it’s everywhere? In each of the books you’re reading. Somebody says it on TV. It’s on the first page of The New York Times. The person reading your novel uses it.
Well, last week it happened to me. And the word was resonant, along with its little family.
resonant: “adj. 1 (of sound) echoing; resounding; continuing to sound; reinforced or prolonged by reflection….” (OAD). Then there’s the verb, to resonate: “to produce or show resonance.” (OAD) Which takes us to the noun, resonance: “the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection or synchronous vibration.” (There’s a special definition for mech., chem., and physics, but nothing for literary.) Dictionary.com also adds for to resonate: to evoke a feeling of shared emotion or belief.
The book I’m reading now, Plant Dreaming Deep, May Sarton: “I had not heard an oriole since I was a child; in my agitated state these notes fell with an extraordinary resonance. I felt reassured. It seemed, in fact, like a sign.”
The New York Times, January 28, 2009, Michiko Kakutani: “In his most resonant work, Mr. Updike gave ‘the mundane its beautiful due,’ as he once put it….”
On Friday, in another book I’m reading, An Accidental Light, Elizabeth Diamond: “Place names resonate with me, like a language returning.”
On Saturday, Jim Nance asked Mean Joe Green about his famous 1980 Super Bowl commercial: “Did you think this would resonate with so many people?”
And then again last night, in a poem, “If See No End In Is,” Watching the Spring Festival, Frank Bidart: (looking back at a life) “it is a vast resonating chamber…”
“Let your words resonate for the reader,” she said, by way of a suggestion. Which is what, I suppose, started me on this little word journey. If I needed to do it, I needed to know more about it.
And this is what I’m taking with me: Good writing sends out little waves of familiarity. It connects readers to the past or lies waiting for them in the future. It echos through their hearts. It continues to be felt over and over again, like certain words.
I hope this post resonates with you. There now, I’ve used it in a sentence.