Wednesday, March 14, 2012
With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, are you seeing Irish green? How about spring green, avocado or jade? Kelly, chartreuse or lime? Acid, celery or pond? How many substitutes for the word “green” can you make? I've got a list of 72!
Readers like to second-guess what’s coming next. The best writers throw surprises,don't they? It is the secret to what keeps us turning pages. It is our job to learn how they accomplish this feat. The best way I’ve found is to push past the first, second and third idea that comes to mind. Instead of using the word "green" for example, is there another word that fit the setting more precisely? One that will more completely capture the tone of your scene? Pond green might convey a stillness, or gloominess, to a "green" scene, whereas jade implies mystery. Lime adds zest!
If a description, action, characteristic, or mystery-solving plot point shows up high on your mental list, chances are good it will occur to your readers in a heartbeat, too. As a writer, we don't want to be predictable. Push to see what creative idea lurks brilliantly further down your list. While I agree with writing "How-to" books that discourage using adjectives and adverbs, writers can evoke memorable descriptions with an occasional powerful choice, as in "After raining all day, the summer-sweet lawn beckoned to the golfer who jumped from his armchair without further argument."
Beyond the Thesaurus
Scour bookstores for unique "wordy" reference books. Beyond the common thesaurus, there are many books crammed-full with words and ideas perfect for expanding our creative diction. A book of police terms sets the scene for crime writers, while a cookbook of old country recipes offers authentic language to write a story set in a one-room cabin.
While munching Irish soda bread or hot cross buns this weekend, challenge yourself to create banquet-worthy words for your next language feast!