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Thesaurus in hand……….

June 7, 2012

As I chronicle this writing journey of mine, I am trying to remember the little things that are making a big difference for me.

Making the most of my words is a very important part of my writing experience.

I keep a thesaurus right beside my computer. I am kickin’ it Old School and keep a real hand-held copy at the ready at. all. times. The computer has one – but I like leaving my words to rest on the screen, while I search for their companions. That way I can easily scan between the sentence on the screen and the options on the page.

Personally, I am not brave enough to delve into big words that I cannot spell and don’t really understand anyway, so with my Thesaurus I rarely need a dictionary. (Just ignore the ‘dictionary title’ part of this graphic – it was all I could find.)

As a child, I wrote a lot of (really bad) poetry. In poetry, you have to be concise. It’s best if the words you use portray exactly what you mean. So if you struggle with this concept, just try writing some poetry. Try describing something in five words or fewer without using the object’s name. Spoon for example – that sterling silver soup server . It’s not great writing – but you get the point, right?

And yes, sometimes, a simple spoon is simply a spoon and it’s perfectly fine to say that.

However, when you are writing a novel, you are going to have to express some ideas over and over again and it will be tempting to rely on familiar words. But that will get boring to your reader. A Thesaurus will help you make your writing more interesting.

But it will also help you pinpoint exactly what you are trying to say. Let’s just say that Sally is a detective and she has to walk into a lot of rooms to do  her investigating. I am sure you can appreciate why you don’t always want to say, “Sally walked into a room.” Consider these options…..

Sally walked into the room.
(Sally is boring)

Sally danced into the room.
(Sally is graceful and probably happy. She might even have good news.)

Sally marched into the room.
(Sally has a purpose or is mad.)

Sally crawled into the room.
(Sally is a baby or doesn’t want anyone to see her. She is possibly hungover or sick.)

Sally tip-toed into the room.
(Sally is sneaky – I like Sally.)

Sally got tired of being an example and huffed out of the room.
(Sally is a brat.)

See the difference a word can make? What do you do when you get stuck on finding just what you are trying to say?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2012 7:43 am

    “The difference a word can make.” Such a true statement. And I like tip-toeing Sally too. I like where her heads at.

  2. June 8, 2012 9:02 am

    I like it! Sally is a princess! 😎 I will check it out.

  3. June 8, 2012 1:50 am

    How about Sally sails into the room (Sally thinks she’s a little princess)
    I used to do freelance tech writing once, where i had to read someone’s post and rewrite it. thesaurus(dot)com helped me pass my articles through copyscape every time. 🙂

    Do visit BTW!

  4. Tina L. permalink
    June 7, 2012 1:03 pm

    There is always another side to the thesaurus argument. I just read a book that used every conceivable word to articulate the word house. Abode. Dwelling. Sanctuary. While reading the book, I thought – by god, this author has a thesaurus.

    Sometimes it’s just as well to repeat yourself – seriously, I think we writers get into a thesaurus funk. Thinking we’ve got to use new and exciting words and images to keep a reader’ interest. But good writers find a phrase or image and use it through out their book to enhance plot and theme. In Dolores Claibourne, Stephen King uses a phrase repeatedly and to good use: “Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me…Fool me three times…”well, in Dolores’ world, watch out, you might get killed.

    Moderation always seems to be the right course.

    • June 7, 2012 1:07 pm

      Hi there Tina! You are right – using a thesaurus to simply say the same thing a different way is ineffective. I really mean that you must say exactly what you mean. Dance is different than walk is different than crawl, etc. Can’t wait to see you Monday and catch up on Hack Magic.

      • Tina L. permalink
        June 7, 2012 3:27 pm

        Good point. Specific words are better than vague ones. And like any writer I often search for that perfect word on my thesaurus app. However, I’ve found , lately, that plain jane words (like walk) belong in my story. That’s the art of writing . I believe selecting the right words is like an artist selecting bush strokes. Yay for Alligator purse. Put up a chapter why don’t you? 🙂

  5. June 7, 2012 12:37 pm

    I too don’t like using big words, and I try to avoid using one word over and over again. In fact I make it a point to avoid using any major words twice in the same paragraph. When I’m stuck on something, I either ask my fiancé for help (he’s a writer as well), or I turn to Google for common expressions that could portray what I’m trying to say.

    • June 7, 2012 12:42 pm

      Welcome ZenScribbles – what a fun name – you clearly have a penchant for words/names! Google is good too – and lucky you, a fiance who writes. That’s fabulous! Thanks for stopping by!

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