Searching for the Right Words? Tip #10

girl with wine

Hoping to inspire readers with joy, arouse their fear, romance them with love? Or, maybe 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 had wine for the first time. People noticed and seemed to admire me. It was a lovely evening.”

An adequate description but one without emotional connection for the reader.

Let’s try again:

“The wine and attention combined to intoxicate me so that I felt alive and joyful. I was a blind person suddenly gifted with sight, a deaf person suddenly hearing music. I was admired and liked and appreciated after so many years of being despised, ignored and shunned. It was the most wonderful evening of my life.”

This sample, from my romantic thriller, ‘Breaking Faith’, provides readers with more detail, allowing them to empathise 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 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.

I came across an interesting variation on this topic on a great blog I follow. John Yeoman’s site is full of fascinating posts on writing. You can visit it by clicking here.

2 thoughts on “Searching for the Right Words? Tip #10

  1. A great tip, Stuart. We read fiction for enjoyment, don’t we? And – with the possible exception of cerebral detective stories – for emotional engagement. (All Booker Award novels to the contrary.) ‘The old cottage was white-washed and shabby’ doesn’t do much for us. Whereas ‘The cottage stuck out like an ugly tooth in a crow-picked skull’ does all too much. Somewhere in the middle lies the phrase we want. To find it is the joy of creative writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As usual, your wisdom shines through your words, John. You’re right: we try to engage our readers. Anything else is surely simply reporting, and we can leave that to the likes of the Sun.


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