Searching for the Right Words? Tip #28

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This series aims to help writers use the right words to express their meaning and, more importantly, the feelings of their characters. 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.


“He woke up and looked down onto the face of the woman still sleeping. She looked peaceful.”

This tells the reader something. But it lacks detail and provides no emotional engagement to the scene.

Shall we try again?

“Morning brought brightness to form a dazzling rhombus on the whitened wicker of the inner wall beside the bed. It reflected onto their faces and woke Aklon-Dji. He rose on one arm, listened for signs from outside and heard nothing but nature. Looking down at her, blue-black locks shining with health and tumbling wantonly over honeyed shoulders, he felt her vulnerability. He watched her breathing; the slow movement so peaceful in sleep.”

This passage is from Joinings: A Seared Sky, an epic fantasy trilogy. The scene shows readers detail that allows them to empathise with the character and the experience.

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.

4 thoughts on “Searching for the Right Words? Tip #28

  1. Mrs Dji awoke upon her pillow, where a square of light illuminated Mr Dji’s ghastly smile – cast above her eyes. She shuddered visibly, devoured once again at 6.30am by Aklon’s lustish tendencies. Feelers pinned her to duvet, fangs dripped saliva, his breath offended even pets.

    ‘My god, you are so beautiful,’ he said, a gurgle rising, and she swiped the wriggle atop her kneecap…’

    ‘Cup of tea,’ Mrs Diji cried, knew somehow she had to defeat the monster for a half hour, at least.

    Yours is better, I’ll go read some more 🙂

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    1. Thanks, brightonsauce, for your entertaining take on this. An interesting deviation from the actual book in terms of treatment and style. But, hey! all writers use their imagination to create what they may from the words they find.
      BTW, ‘Dji’ is actually a title for the character, and the lady in the bed is definitely not his wife!

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