Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.
On Wednesdays we will identify an unusual word, provide its definition, and discuss its application or its impact.
Mark Twain says it so well that there’s very little left to add:
“The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
He does discuss one of my favorite topics, though, words and choosing the right ones. Look forward to Word Wednesday events, where we discuss interesting words, how they might be used, and what impact they have on the reader.
For this first Word Wednesday, I have a simple example from my current draft, where I was looking for the right word to describe gossip: “constant gossip” vs. “continued gossip.” As I was scribbling furiously, the first word starting with that hard “kuh” sound that came to mind was “constant,” which was almost right, but not quite. Half a line later I went back and replaced it with the word I really intended, “continued.”
Constant gossip implies whispers that never really die down and snide sotto voce comments whenever one enters the room that make one want to hide under the bed and never come out again. And I can’t tell a compelling story about my heroine, Del, if she never leaves her chambers…
Continued gossip, however, is much milder in tone but less avoidable. Every few weeks, someone brings the topic up again, everyone in the king’s court, not just the few snobbish courtesans who don’t like her, has heard this tidbit and they’re all waiting to see if it pans out. Del can ignore this gossip because it comes and goes, a matter of interest for the bored nobles at court but not important enough that someone will risk asking her about it directly.
What are your thoughts about the difference between constant and continued gossip? Do you agree with my word choice in the draft?
3 thoughts on “Word Wednesday – Word Choices Matter”
It depends on your heroine and her story. While continued gossip allows her to ignore it, constant gossip could allow you to show her strength. Holding your head high and going about your business while the snide comments are flying around is incredibly tough and it takes a strong women to do what she thinks is right, regardless of what people are saying. And it allows you to play with the basis of the gossip. Is it a mistake she made in the past that she now has to live with? Or is it based on a secret she is keeping that would exonerate her if people knew what it was, but that she will not reveal to make her life easier? Decisions, decisions!
Addendum: Not sure how it fits in with Del’s story, but there really aren’t enough examples of strong women in this world, either real or fictional, so my choice would be constant.
I love how you think. Although in this case the gossip around Del has very little to do with mistakes or secrets, I’d love to use gossip about those two items to create conflict somewhere in a story soon. Also, Del as a strong woman, or strong female protagonists in general, are a major theme and driving force in my writing. No shortage of strong heroines in my fiction…