Searching for the Right Words? Tip #6


Want to inspire readers with joy, arouse their fear, romance them with love, or does your story need the reader to sink into despair along with your protagonist? This set of posts looks at ways of influencing mood by selecting the ‘right’ words for the job.


“I had only ever seen a television briefly but I was curious about this device that seemed to give people pleasure. Father disliked it intensely and I wondered why.’

This provides the facts of the innocent’s experience with television, but it fails to engage the reader.

“I had only had a glimpse of a television in operation, as I passed a cottage in the village. There was one in the sitting room, crouching in the corner between the fire and window, with its great grey screen staring into the room. I had no real idea what it held but most people seemed to enjoy it. Father was violently opposed to it and I wondered what wickedness it portrayed to deserve his severe sanction.”

This sample, from my romantic thriller, ‘Breaking Faith’, provides the reader with a personal experience of the event, allowing them to feel empathy with the character.

If nothing else, I hope the series will enhance our writing with words that more precisely reflect what we’re trying to convey to readers.

I use a thesaurus during editing, when necessary, and prefer the original Roget I started with in the 1980s; it still resides just behind me on my reference shelf. I have other books of word choices, which I consult when the apposite word continues to evade me. But I try initially to acquire that ‘right’ word from the caverns of the scarce grey matter that takes up some of the void within my skull: it’s good mental exercise.

Please keep in mind that any thesaurus will provide alternatives for the idea of the word you seek, but not all those suggestions are true synonyms, so always consider context.

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