The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Good g*d, what a week. Fortunately the w-f-h deadline just moved back a little, so I can have more fun with the w-f-h stories. They should be fun to write, and fun to read.

I was thinking about word choice, about how in my own mss--if there seems to be a option, given constraints of voice and pov--I go for the easiest words possible that get the feeling across without interrupting the flow. Because the goal is to engage the reader and pull them* along almost against their will. I prefer not to use the word that has the exact right definition if that means the reader has to choose between blipping over without understanding, or stopping to go find a dictionary. I'll write a long way around a word if I think it will cause that.

Sometimes if a word seems right, even if it has nothing to do with the situation, I'll try to find a way to use it anyway. I guess I like metaphors and similes okay, and use them often enough, but what I really like is a good strong evocative verb, if possible. Sometimes another word can be strong, too--a nice, plain word can do so much, and is so fun to work with. Sometimes I'll come across words during the day and think, "Wow, what a great word." Could be something like: Ice. Taint. Slice. Jagged. Crisp. Muffle. Spark. Flicker. I noticed while trying to define words during reading comprehension in tutoring that when you say a really good word, you can make it sound like what it means when you pronounce it. Often you don't have to provide a regular definition, you can just say it the right way and maybe add a gesture and the meaning is clear. You can't do that with words like perspicacious and interception. You can't even do it with words like adept and charade. Those aren't plain and strong enough.

In w-f-h, the reader is going to get pulled out whether I like it or not. One of the points of writing for educational publishers is that the reader has to stop and make sense of words, to use strategies to pronounce or define them. And if you don't have hard enough words, the editor has to go back and put them in. When I decide about word choice in w-f-h, I think "Do I like this word enough to ask the reader to stop and figure out how to say it/what it means?" Or "Do I think this word is good enough to use up precious specs on it?" Words that have passed muster in some of my past w-f-h mss have been splat, Sasquatch, nerdly, rattlesnake, lightning, jowl, and yuck.

I really do like words. I guess the question is, how far do you let them take you from the story at hand? At what point do they become about themselves? I know that different readers have different tolerance levels for lyricism and word play. And every ms has a different rhythm and flow. Dunno.

*Yes, yes, I know this is incorrect usage, but I do not give a flying you know what.

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