Choosing the Right Word

The English language is very rich, and as a result there are often several words available for saying the same or almost the same thing. We can get something, obtain it, acquire it.

In normal speech or when writing to each other it doesn’t much matter whether we say I stopped or halted or whatever. However, these choices and alternatives are valuable tools for the writer of fiction. Not only can the right choice of word add colour and life to a scene, it can also be an aid to brevity. You could write that Fred looked angrily at Jill but as well as being a bit clumsy it isn’t as concise as Fred glowered at Jill. (Remember, though, not to overdo it or become repetitive. If there’s no particular point to make don’t feel the need to always elaborate, because it’s all too easy to have people glowering and gazing at each other all over the place.)

The right choice of words can also make a subtle (or not, as the case may be) difference to how we see a scene in our mind. Using what I call functional words, you might write Fred walked up to Jill, but if you wrote Fred marched up to Jill I’m seeing not only a more fully formed scene, but a different situation altogether.

So when your characters are putting something down, might you be able to tell the reader more if they are plonking, slamming, tossing, placing, arranging? If they are looking at something or someone, maybe gazing, peering, glaring, staring would tell us more about the emotion of the scene as well as simply the physical action.

About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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2 Responses to Choosing the Right Word

  1. chloefb says:

    I agree! Though I think your most important comment here was the one about not over-doing it. Too many “interesting” verbs and you begin to look like you’re doing a creative writing exercise at school. I liked your walked/marched example though – that’s a good illustration.

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