Searching for the Right Words? Tip #9


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.


“We went to the second hand bookshop in the walls and I found a book of landscapes. I found Faith sitting on the floor, reading.”

A piece of reporting, rather than a scene from fiction, this.

Let’s try again:

“We visited the second-hand bookshop at Bootham Bar where I looked for photography books. She left me to my own devices and set off to explore the musty treasure trove. After a while, browsing, I discovered a volume of Ansel Adams landscapes, reasonably priced and went in search of Faith. She was sitting on the floor, displaying her knickers to the world, and reading a tatty paperback.”

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.

5 thoughts on “Searching for the Right Words? Tip #9

    1. You’re obviously a compulsive book buyer, Meg. My wife has a strategy that attempts to stop me going into book shops. When I spot one, she always says, ‘OoH Look at that flying saucer over there!’ pointing in the opposite direction to the bookshop. It doesn’t work, of course, but it does occasionally remind me that I have over a hundred titles in print form I still haven’t read!

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      1. Yes! There’s especially something about “old” books, too! I am an e-reader too, but I love the feel and the smell of an old book! I’m probably giving myself asthma from the dusty old pages…. 😀

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