Thursday, March 01, 2012

What's in a Word?

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.
~ Matthew Arnold
What’s in a word?

Well to begin with, letters, as simple as that, letters are what makes up words. But as writers you need to be careful and choosy with which word you use because just like driving a screw into dry rotted wood, the sentence just might fall apart!
And is that what you want, your sentence to fall apart?

I didn’t think so. First you need to begin with a good strong piece of wood. Okay, too metaphorical here. The strong wood is symbolizing your strong plot! You’ve got a story all ready to build so you have got your solid piece of wood and a few loose screws. Oops again, didn’t mean that. You have screws on hand and are ready to begin writing your story!

Oh my, where do you start? Do you have a character in mind?  What I mean is, has this character been knocking on your noggin begging to be let out of the closet you have her/him stored in? Well, if you’ve got the plot idea, now is the time to let Suzie McQuirkle out of the closet and let her have a run of a few lines. What? You don’t have a plot OR a character?  Uh oh! need to start writing a few sentences. We do that with words. It was a dark and stormy night. Oh that is too cliché. Try something a little stronger. The car was zooming down the wet roadway... Ah little better. You can do so much with the words in a cliché. This might be the foundational piece of wood your seeking to begin building your plot and character. 

Once you have those two elements, start asking the questions: WHY? Why was Suzie zooming down a wet roadway? Was she running from something or worse, someone? WHAT caused her to flee? WHO is she fleeing from? The law, a stalker? Oh my we’re building now! Let’s not forget the WHEN and HOW of the questions, okay?

When you start questioning your character, you have begun to pick up a few more scraps of wood to add to the little story you’re building. I hate to do this to you, after I’m always saying to just keep writing and writing and don’t stop. But stop for a minute. Yes, one minute is all I’m allowing you! Look at the words you used!!! Are they strong words? Too fluffy? Too exuberant? Ok, minutes up. You’ve looked at the words and are thinking, maybe zooming isn’t a tight word, you need something MORE graphic.

Okay, time for the thesaurus. I always have mine opened as I’m writing so I don’t use the same word twice in a paragraph or two. If it is meaning the same thing, you need to find another word! Make it strong, bring home the point you’re trying to get across.

The car was zooming down the slippery wet road, making a speedy getaway as Suzie dashes in and out of traffic, she zipped right through the scene to safety. Safety? I don’t think so. She more than likely crashed, or you wouldn’t have told the reader the road was wet and slippery.

See all those synonyms I used. Pretty easy huh? Well it’s not and it takes a lot of skill and tried and true blood, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Remember, in writing, words are your friends!  Make every one count for something as you build your little birdhouse, I mean story. A few loose screws later, you might just have something! Stick with it.


NurseArtist said...

Nice metaphors,Joni. How to write great fiction is probably one of the most often asked questions we hear. I wish I could put your link in my classroom.

Hope you are having a good time writing. I miss you.

benning said...

Interesting, Joni. 'Course you might want Suzie 'barreling' down that wet road. :D

joni said...

too cliche ben.