As a writer, I know word choice can be a powerful tool. I love toying with words, using different groupings and phrases until I hit on just the right combination.
Action verbs can be fun to play around with as I look for that exact word that will convey the word picture I hope to create for my readers.
Bob ran down the street. Or did Bob race down the street? Rush? Hurry? Sail? Gallop? Speed? Skitter? Scurry? Charge? Each verb choice can change the scene as it’s created. Bob running might mean Bob’s getting in his aerobic workout. If he races or speeds, is he in a car? If so, is he driving a sleek sports car or a clunker running on fumes? If he’s rushing, is he fleeing an ax murderer – or hurrying to catch one who just chopped up his wife? And if Bob scampers, could he be an adorable puppy eager to meet his returning owner coming up the sidewalk?
The same thing applies with adjectives. As I write, I run a movie in my head and even as I read, I always see a scene unfold in my mind. Choosing colorful adjectives can help nail a character for my readers. My heroine’s blonde hair might be ash, platinum, sandy, or dishwater in color. Her dress could be described in varying shades of red – cerise, crimson, ruby, cherry, or scarlet. I might want the hero to think she’s being a bit stubborn about something, but shades of stubborn include inflexible, tenacious, uncompromising, bullheaded, cantankerous, mulish, determined, pigheaded, or strong-minded. Some of these could be seen as admirable traits, while others aren’t flattering in the least. If I ever want something to get started between these two, out goes bullheaded and in comes determined in its place.
When I start a new novel, I don’t have a plot in mind. I first create my characters. Before I choose qualities and personalities for my characters, I need to find the perfect names. I envision Elizabeth as a regal, upper-crust type. Terri seems sweet and fun. Samantha can go either way – very feminine and intelligent – or if I choose to allow her to go by what her father always called her – Sam – she seems more approachable and down-to-earth, practical yet charming. Once I choose a name, the character and then the plot will follow.
I hate when a word is overused. Amazing used to be saved for something incredible and out of the ordinary; nowadays, every other singer auditioning for a reality singing competition is told he or she is amazing. I’m sorry, but I reserve amazing to describe voices such as Elvis Presley and Kelly Clarkson, singers who possess a great set of pipes and who can sing anything from a country ballad to a rousing rock anthem and everything in-between on-key, with emotion, telling a story, and using perfect pitch.
Words can be challenging to say and spell. When my daughter was in kindergarten, she brought home a list of spelling words each week, usually a single syllable in length. Her teacher had a sense of humor, though, and one week the list contained the word chromatography. I don’t think I’ve ever really learned to spell it. Say it, yes. In fact, I cheated and looked it up as I wrote this, just in case spell-check fell down on the job.
(For those of you still wondering…chromatography as defined by Merriam-Webster is “a process in which a chemical mixture carried by a liquid or gas is separated into components as a result of differential distribution of the solutes as they flow around or over a stationary liquid or solid phase.”)
I am proud to say I mastered supercalifragilisticexpialidocious many years ago and have never forgotten that one. Naturally, I have to sing that word aloud, very slowly, as I type it out, which leads to having all kinds of songs from Mary Poppins in my head!
Some words are plain fun to say. Rabble-rouser, lackadaisical, and rendezvous come to mind.
But my favorite word of all time? Onomatopoeia. I find it lyrical and love the way it rolls off the tongue.
What’s your favorite word?