Writers Are Defined by the Words They Use

atkins bookshelf quotations“In the most basic way, writers are defined not by the stories they tell, or their politics, or their gender, or their race, but by the words they use. Writing begins with language, and it is in that initial choosing, as one sifts through the wayward lushness of our wonderful mongrel English, that choice of vocabulary and grammar and tone, the selection on the palette, that determines who’s sitting at that desk. Language creates the writer’s attitude toward the particular story he’s decided to tell.”

From Writers on Writing (Volume II): More Collected Essays from the New York Times (2004). American writer Donald Westlake (1933-2008) best known for his crime fiction. Westlake was a prolific writer, having written more than 100 novels, several of which were adapted into films — Payback, Parker, Point Blank, The Hot Rock, The Outfit, and What’s the Worst that Could Happen? He won three Edgar Awards: one for God Save the Mark (best novel); “Too Many Crooks” (best short story); and The Grifters (Best Movie Screenplay).

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