Searching for the Right Words? Tip #30


This series is intended to help writers select the best words to express the meaning and emotional content of their fiction.

As writers, we want to inspire readers with joy, stoke their terrors, romance them with love, overwhelm them with horror, inflame their passion. This set of posts examines ways of influencing mood by illustrating how choice of words and sentence structure can alter the reading experience. All thoughts and comments are welcome.


“They’d walked a long way to the plateau. The mountain’s sheer face rose against the sky ahead, it’s black surface lifeless and cold.”

This informs the reader. But there’s nothing here to show the reader what the character is experiencing. It doesn’t really engage the reader.

What do you think of this as an alternative?

“Seventeen weary leagues had brought them south from Morstahn up to the gentle slopes of the plateau. Only the sheer face of Ytraa’s Peak, rising some five hundred manheights to its jagged point, broke the skyline ahead. Early morning sun cast an orange glow across the menacing obsidian face that formed the lower half of the mountain. Sparks of brightness scattered from myriad small irregularities and, here and there, dazzling reflections from larger mirrored facets, confused the observer. Yet, there was no life or warmth in that indifferent rock.”

This passage is from Joinings: A Seared Sky, book 1 of the epic fantasy trilogy. The scene provides details that allow the reader to empathise with the characters and their 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.

A’Like’ is nice, but a ‘share’ will bring more readers to the piece.

4 thoughts on “Searching for the Right Words? Tip #30

  1. Explain that you’ve decorated it in your imagination, Roger. Give her the full works: colours, wall decorations, ceiling finish, and explain the new ambience, the specific scents of the paint, paper and paste. After all, if you’ve done it in such detail in your mind, it’s as good as done in fact!


    1. Well, Roger, you’re a writer, so she’s probably right! Just explain that the void has a positive function, in that it gives your extensive imagination plenty of room to expand, explore and generally have a good time!


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