Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Perfect Word

I am recovering from an ugly bout of the intestinal flu and I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about how miserable I felt or how much I suffered.

Just the phrase, ‘intestinal flu’, has enough power for all of us to conjure up more mental pictures than we’re comfortable with. We don’t have to mention, the queasiness, the vomiting, the diarrhea, the cramping, the sweat, the aches and pains... Well, you get the picture.

When it comes to description many of us are victims of the “first word club”. We use the first word that comes to mind. Often these are words we’re very familiar with. They’re like comfortable slippers we wear around the house. But writing is all about stepping out of your comfort zone, and into the unknown, willingly.

Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors, once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightening bug and lightening.” He also said something about never using a dime word when a nickel one will do, but since I couldn’t find the quote, I’ll just wing it.

Mr. Twain is saying take the extra time to find the perfect word that describes and conveys exactly what you want to say. Don’t go with that first choice and never use two words when one will do.

We are well past flowery prose in Romance novels. There was a wonderful time when we would read pages and pages of description (even when we didn’t know the meaning of half the words) while we waited patiently for that one sentence of dialog, only for it to be too brief.

Today our readers want us to get to the point with the least amount of words and that’s a great challenge for some writers. We love to stretch out verbally and lavish the reader with big words and phrases. Alas, we can’t do that anymore and expect to get published.

There are several writers I call condensed writers. They say everything with the least amount of words. Their writing is so compact and concise I want to cry with envy. They teach me a lot. Most are my critique partners. They amaze me at every turn. Rock on ladies!

My advice is, increase your vocabulary no matter your age. I’m old, and I add a word every day. But don’t make it a big word or a word no one understands. Make it a word that is compact, concrete and clever.

Also, read, read, read. Reading makes us smarter, younger and better writers.

Write On!

Geri Foster


1 comment:

  1. Great Post Geri. I know sometimes I will search forever until I find just the right word. Great information! And you also have an amazing knack for using great words.