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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Finding The Right Word

Image: NaNoWriMo


I just have to laugh at myself. I said I would be posting a wealth of NaNo help tips... I think I've done like 2 posts? Surprise surprise, now it's Day 18. e_e

I promise you precisely THREE MORE before the end of this month, and that is a GUARANTEED PROMISE because I am going to pre-schej them RIGHT NOW, and I won't even post this post until that's done (LOL at the verb-noun pun). So if you're even reading this - you're gonna get NaNo help posts every Tuesday and Thursday 'til December, YAY!!!

Lil' Bit Of Motivation...

Some days are poopy days. It is a fact of life. Some days you'll write, and you'll write the most awful drivelly poop in the history of mankind. However...
'Bad writing is better than no writing.'
That from one of my favorite writer blogs, So You Want To Be A Writer (check out the post, it's a really good one). I had more written, but as it turns out I'm not very good at motivation after all so... yeah.

Main Topic: ... what's that word again...

Everybody knows what it's like when you're trying to find the right word for something. On the one hand, it's kinda dumb that the English language has so many ways to say the same thing. On the other hand - and purely from a writing perspective - the beauty of that is that each separate word has a particular feel, edge, emotion; it conjures up a certain set of (er... mental) stimuli that its synonyms wouldn't. Let's put this to the test.

Here is the first line of Chapter Six of my novel, (working titles OOTD or Karalan's Legacy.)
'There was one girl of all the villages of Bless’d Bay who was desired, hated and envied by every other girl and boy, and it wasn't Karalan.'
Desired: coveted, yearned for, revered, idolised
Hated: loathed, detested, abhorred, despised
Envied: begrudged, resented, rivalled

I picked those particular words for a reason. 'Desired' because it is not necessarily an attraction for her or a yearning for what she has; it refers to many aspects of her and her life that are desirable. The other choices are too strong. 'Hated' because the extent of the hate is not great, it isn't intense. Like when you might say "Oh, I hate people who put their feet up on the bus." You don't actually HATE them, you just hate the fact that they do that. 'Envied' because the focus is on the fact that she has what others don't, not on what behaviour that might provoke from them. That's why I don't use 'rivalled'.

Also, these particular words draw attention to the fact that everybody around Milite has some sort of distinctive (but not necessarily strong) feeling for her. I don't, however, say that she was 'liked'.

Image: Pinterest

A particular problem I'm having right now is that I'm writing a lot of 'revelation' scenes, ie. scenes where characters discover things about the world, their mission, or each other. I keep using the phrase 's/he exclaimed' or 'So-and-so said, astonished' WAY too much. That's why I always have my Dictionary & Thesaurus to hand, although of course you can just use

The picture above is for the sound of someone's voice, and the image below is for that character's emotions. Yesterday I wrote 'astonished' so many times that I know I'm gonna have to take 75% of them out, because the times that didn't need it will make the TRULY astonishing moments seem melodramatic by contrast.

Image: Twitter

Another personal bit of advice is - remember how your teachers always told you to stop using 'said' all the time? Well, like almost everything else in life that tip requires balance. Let me demonstrate.
She jumped when she saw him waiting. "Guess who's pissed." he spat.
"What'd I do?" Girl yelped.
"It's about what you didn't do," Dude growled.
"I swear I locked the door before I left! I swear!" Girl insisted.
Dude's finger made an angry jab at the light patch on the carpet and barked, "Then please explain my missing TV!"
(I wrote that just now. I quite like it. XD) See? There are TOOOO MAAAANY different types of verbs and it sounds dramatic. Half of those lines didn't even need indication at all, because the emotion is already present in the action alongside it - like the 'angry jab'. However, 'said' isn't much better either. Watch;
She jumped when she saw him waiting. "Guess who's pissed." he said.
"What'd I do?" Girl said.
"It's about what you didn't do," Dude said.
"I swear I locked the door before I left! I swear!" Girl said.
Dude's finger made an angry jab at the light patch on the carpet and said, "Then please explain my missing TV!"
... not much better, is it? This is how I'd personally prefer to write it.
She jumped when she saw him waiting. The look on his face was murderous. "Guess who's pissed."
"What'd I do?" Girl yelped.
"It's about what you didn't do."
"I swear I locked the door before I left! I swear!" she insisted.
Dude's finger made an angry jab at the light patch on the carpet. "Then please explain my missing TV!"
Words For Said

Also, You Might Like To Know...

Writers and Artists are running a competition that closes on 15th February 2015, for writers to write a 2000-word short story on the theme of 'Joy'. The prizes will be £500, a writing course, and having your short story published. I think I might enter. Why not?

Upcoming NaNo Help Posts
THURSDAY 20TH NOVEMBER - The Narrator's Voice Is Your Voice << posted
TUESDAY 25TH NOVEMBER - Descriptions: Skin Colours << posted
THURSDAY 27 NOVEMBER - The Practicalities: Dressing Your Characters

Previous NaNo Help Posts
For Inspiration - It Begins - (Fake) Nanowrimo

Sooo... Day 18! Are you writing a novel and how is it coming along?

Ashana Lian .


  1. Well, I have to be the party ruiner here but...I'm an advocate of "said". I never use any word instead of "said" except for the occasional "yelled" or something. I did a writing course (omg, best thing I ever did) and they said your sentence and action beats should carry the weight of how the character is saying it. *shrugs* Just imo.
    But finding the perfect word can be so hard! I have pet words that I use WAY too much. Like "jerk" and "snapped" and stuff. Omg, in one manuscript every single time someone looked at something I said "they flicked their eyes to it". ERGH. What was I thinking?!! Obviously not much. >_< I must've taken out 100s of "flicks". xD

    1. Haha, you're not a party ruiner. XD When I was at school, teachers always used to say to use words instead of 'said', but I think that only counts for long streams of dialogue where hearing the same word becomes tedious. Heeeey that's great! I hope to do a writing course sometime. I agree with that point; how the character is described as doing something often makes it unnecessary to use an adverb... but hey, that's just i-M-o!

      ... I go through 'phases' of using a certain word a lot. Usually I notice when the phase has passed. That's one reason I hate looking back over my old work! Thank for for commentingg c:

  2. Ah the trusty old said. Poor dear is either used too much or not enough. I try to use more action tags than anything else, but sometimes you can't beat just 'said'. (Not that I profess to be very good at writing dialogue anyway.) Definitely loved your examples. Dialogue tags are one place where so many new writers seem to think they have to spice things up, but it's really not necessary. In fact, in so many cases, having less dialogue tags is way nicer to read. I really enjoyed reading this post.

    1. Yeah, it's true. It's taken me literally years to improve writing dialogue sequences so it both flows naturally and is easy to read. I agree - when tags are used less, I don't notice it as much as if the author uses LOADS of different verbs and adverbs. I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting. c:


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