Searching for the Right Words? Tip #14

bwauntagatha
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

This series aims at helping writers find the right words to express their meaning. Your thoughts and comments are welcome here.

Do you want to inspire readers with joy, stoke their terrors, romance them with love? Or, maybe you need your 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.

Example:

“Her aunt glared at her. In most company the situation would have been embarrassing, but here it wasn’t. They drank in silence until her aunt said what she thought.”

A reasonable description of a situation. But it lacks the sort of detail that allows the reader to feel involved.

Shall we try again?

“Aunt Agatha’s glance was flavoured with distaste. The ensuing silence would’ve been awkward under normal social circumstances but no one present was easily embarrassed. The clink of china on china punctuated the quiet for a time until Aunt Agatha brought things to a head.”

Taken from my horror short, Heir to Death’s Folly, this sample presents the reader with some insight into the nature of the characters and allows some empathy, always a bonus for readers.

If nothing else, I hope this 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.

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