Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The Right Words
When I go back to that story, I take a day or two to revise or edit it and part of that process is to print it out. A lot of writers never read their stories in actual print on paper but I find I catch things I would never catch on a computer screen. That's just my own personal quirk.
And here's where we arrive at the word issue. I read the story aloud and circle every word that doesn't quite convey the meaning I want. A synonym is not an exact match usually. And I'm picky enough that I really try for the exact word I need. When I'm alert, most pages have a lot of red scribbles. When the pages begin to have only a few marks and circles, it's time to put the manuscript away because I'm missing stuff.
My first pass--the one where I'm actually putting words on the page--is my "get it down while the brain is still working". I use very simple verbs to convey action, knowing that I'll make a second and third pass. So while the character might walk across the field in the first pass, he might stomp across the meadow in the second pass, or depending on how the story comes together, he might race across the weedy pasture in the third pass.
There are any number of authors who have extensive education or are widely read or simply have an affinity and love for words. They are fortunate. As I've aged, I've discovered a loss of vocabulary. It's distressing because I KNOW the word is out there somewhere. But I can't locate it in my muddled brain.
Enter The Synonym Finder from Rodale Press. It's not a thesaurus. It's an enormous book that lists synonyms in a dictionary format. Exactly perfect for me. I already know the meaning for the word I'm seeking.
When I use a particular word in a sentence, that's because it's the best word I could find to convey meaning. How about you? What's your stance on word meaning and use? How do you decide what words to use?