This series is aimed at helping writers use the right words to express their meaning. All thoughts and comments are welcome.
As a writer, you want to inspire readers with joy, stoke their terrors, romance them with love, overwhelm them with horror. This set of posts examines ways of influencing mood by selecting the ‘right’ words for the job.
“They were taken along to the river to bathe under the moon. The priestess stayed with them until they were ready and took them back, where she set two guardians over them.’
This tells the reader something about the scene. It lacks any emotional engagement in the scene, however.
Shall we try again?
“Kaz-Ca-Wendarah came for them after they’d eaten. Under the rising half moon, she took them along the nearby river to wash and prepare themselves for the night. As a warden, she seemed subtle and kind, even sympathetic. But it was clear she wasn’t going to give her charges any chance to run away, as they might in these first hours of strangeness and shock. She remained with them as they bathed and then settled them down with sleepsacks near the fire and set two slaves to watch over them, explaining that they would keep wild animals away. Tumalind smiled grimly, knowing the real reason for the guards.”
This passage comes from Joinings: A Seared Sky. The scene shows readers enough detail to allow them to empathise with the character and experience her misgivings about her situation.
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 prefer Roget’s Thesaurus when editing; the 1987 edition, which I started with. It still lives within reach on my reference shelf. Other books of word choices, which I consult when the apposite word continues to evade me, reside with it. But first I try to gather that ‘right’ word from the tumultuous void within my skull: it’s good mental exercise.
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.