Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to write a story - word choices

Finding the right word can be hard. Sometimes when I'm writing my first draft I'll skip this part because I can easily get hung up (I've been known to get lost in the dictionary) on finding the exact right word. I'll write in parentheses after the word - or perhaps the entire sentence - 'bw'  for better word which tells me that although the word I've used is close it isn't exactly what I want. 

Here's an example of good word choices:  

Mick climbed over the staircase railing, onto the structure of the tower itself and lowered himself beam by beam, down the outside.  The wooden framework shook in his hands, and the whole tower seemed to shimmy.  Equipment fell from the cupola. A crate plummeted past Mick, missing him by a yard or two.  It burst open on impact, throwing broken vacuum tubes everywhere.  Henry and her captor shied away from the shower of glass, and he lost his grip on her. She kicked him in the shin and ran, and as soon as she was clear, Mick let go and dropped like a stone.

This is from Voltage, Dianne Salerni's WIP. Did you notice the words she chose? Like fell, plummeted, burst, dropped, etc. I don't know about you but I could see, feel, and hear what was happening in that paragraph. That's three of my senses being engaged. That's how to choose the right words. 


  1. That's why I embrace and love my Thesaurus very very very much! That's the one book I'd take with me to a desert island if I must choose!

    This paragraph is AWESOME!! Thanks for sharing it here! Take care

  2. It is a nice piece--great words. I tend to worry about words on the rewrite--the first draft is for story... second draft is to REFINE the story... 3rd draft I think about words... I am inclined to just strong verbs naturally, but I am lousy for favortism, so I repeat myself if I'm not careful.

  3. My first draft is repetitive, but then the Thesaurus comes out and I find better words. She did good with that passage.

  4. Great selection! My eyes zoomed in on those action words! I also tend to get hung up with word choice but am getting better at moving along and returning later. Still got a ways to go, tho!

    Great post!

  5. Nice! Yes I totally agree about the strong words and she also has such a way with clarity. Maybe also a result of the words? I love the post.

  6. I went to my local Borders going out of business sale and was lucky enough to find the last copy of The Synonym Finder for $11. It's bigger and broader than a thesaurus, because it includes words and phrases you might be thinking of in addition to what you looked up. Good stuff. :)

  7. Thanks, everybody! And thanks for the compliment, Marcy! I admit, I loved writing that chapter where the Tower comes down. The words just burst out of me.

    However, there was quite a bit of repetition in the first drafting of it. I stripped out the repeats when I did my polishing.

  8. I absolutely agree, the write word is essential! I'm like you, and don't like to get hung up on it in the first draft, but I spend an entire rewrite just focusing on my word choice, sentence structure, and things like that.

  9. It's maddening when the "perfect" word seems to hover just out of reach. Only a writer can understand the euphoria associated with capturing it. Dianne did that beautifully.


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