Searching for the Right Words? Tip #7

The road to Goredale Scar in the Yorkshire Dales, Where ‘Breaking Faith’ is set.

Hoping to inspire readers with joy, arouse their fear, romance them with love? Or, perhaps your story needs 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 watched the road as it took us over unknown hills and dales. My childhood suddenly came to mind and I realised that, since Mother had left, all my days had been dull.”

This explains that the narrator is on a journey she’s not previously travelled, and that losing contact with her mother has somehow led to a dull life. But there’s no real emotion, no connection with the events.

Let’s try this:

“I gazed at the curling strip of tarmac flowing quietly beneath the car, unwinding as we drove over hills and vales as foreign as a distant land. Pictures of my childhood filled my mind and I was suddenly aware that Mother took all joy and laughter with her. All the days since then were grey.”

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.

5 thoughts on “Searching for the Right Words? Tip #7

    1. It’s odd, but for this sort of reference, I prefer the printed version. Though I have been known to sneak a peek at the built-in thesaurus in Word when in a hurry and the old brain refuses to co-operate!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Although Neil Gaiman suggested you should keep a thesaurus, but only in a distant location, I think they should be on hand for use during editing. Mine reside on a shelf just behind me, within easy reach if I turn in my chair!


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