A book is many things – a great idea, a new realm of existence, a device that holds and captures the pure magic and vibrancy of the mind. When you reduce it to core components, however, a novel’s success is based on the right words selected in the correct combination. Simple, right? If only.
This concept fascinates me as I am very passionate about human language in general. I thought it might be useful to dedicate a blog to exploring where we can find the right words that we want to fit into our novels. Sometimes, I can see in my head the picture or the video that I want to portray on the page, but it’s difficult to find the words to express the potency of the message I want to achieve.
I want to use language that grips a reader with emotion, not dull words. I also want to select vocabulary that is at least somewhat commonly recognised, because showering a reader with underused, difficult-to-understand words is a bad tactic. Anyway, here are some of the ways that I explore what language has to offer. Please feel free to contribute any of your own methods for finding your words.
- The power of thesaurus. This can be a useful tool, used in the right way. You can find this in your MS Word tool bar, and if you highlight your current word it will give you a list of alternatives. Please note these alternatives are not always better, and can mean something contrary to the message you wish to portray. Those who watch the show ‘Friends’ may remember the trouble that Joey got himself into by using thesaurus to look up another word for his own name!
- Reading. Never underestimate the power of reading. Read anything you can get your hands on – it will help improve your knowledge of the writing craft, but it will also naturally expand your vocabulary. I keep a journal of words – if I find one that I particularly like, I add it.
- Keep a journal. As mentioned above, I keep a journal to add words that I find when reading. I also add random words to it that occur to me throughout the day – those that I can’t shake from my mind, or those that crop up in general conversation.
- Register for a word a day. Yes, I admit, I register to a few ‘word of the day’ websites (you can find these on a quick google search & they send a new word every day straight to your email inbox). I’m not always provided with words that I will use, but if I find any that are useful, they go straight into my journal. I get into a habit of revising these words in my mind over and over again to try and remember them. There is little point discovering such words, if you don’t intend to put them into practice.
- Your companions. Ever get the ‘gist’ of what you want to express, but you can’t quite find the right word? Why not explain the context of the word or show a written context to your friend/family member or partner? Ask whether they have any suggestions. You don’t need to necessarily take their advice, but it may get you thinking about some alternatives that would fit.
Thank you for reading. As ever, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to add below. In addition, I have developed a content plan for this blog to try and share useful posts. If there is anything in particular you’d like me to research or discuss, just let me know.