Searching for the Right Words? Tip #8


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.


“She’d gained confidence and was becoming an attractive woman.”

This is bland and merely tells the reader something without showing how this change manifests in the character.

“She’d grown in confidence and this was reflected in the way she now held herself. No longer the round shoulders and stooping walk, no longer the shuffle of shame. She was upright and open. Her face had taken on a semi-permanent half smile, as if she was pleased with everything she saw. And this smile lightened her face and brought a sparkle to those glorious eyes that were so deep I feared I might drown in them. She’d started to put on weight now she was no longer walking miles every day. And the new flesh was distributing itself with real promise. She was on the way to becoming a very attractive woman.”

This sample, from my romantic thriller, ‘Breaking Faith’, provides the reader with details, allowing them to know something about 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 lives just behind me on my reference shelf. Other books of word choices, which I consult when the apposite word continues to evade me, live beside it. But first I try to gather that ‘right’ word from the scarce grey matter that takes up some of the void within my skull: it’s good mental exercise.

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.

2 thoughts on “Searching for the Right Words? Tip #8

    1. I suspect, as writers, we’re constantly aware of word count and this can sometimes inhibit us in our search for those phrases and words that express more precisely what we want to say. It then invokes that terrible process of selecting which of our ‘darlings’ we must murder to stay within the boundaries of the word count. This is especially the case when writing for competitions, of course.


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