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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Empower Your Writing with Word Choice by Theresa Meyers

Every author has a voice. It’s what editors, agents and more importantly readers, are attracted to in their favorite fiction authors. As authors our words are the building blocks for not only our fiction but also how our books are perceived by readers on the shelves.

What exactly do I mean?

Words have power, weight and emotional context. They can make us feel or think different things on a subconscious level. Think about it. When you are describing clouds moving across the sky, you could say the clouds slipped across the moon, or you could say the clouds drifted across the moon or you could say the clouds scudded across the moon. Only one word changes each time but the emotional context and weight of the scene changes dramatically. Slipped has an almost otherworld quality to it. Drifted is dreamlike, and the character might be questioning the validity of the situation. Scudded is much darker and ominous, hinting at danger lurking in the shadows. One word can make all the difference.

And this isn’t just the case with verbs. It’s in our descriptions too. We feel different about the colors chartreuse, emerald and sage, even though they are all different ways to describe shades of green. By using deep character point of view we can pick out words that resonate with our characters to create fresh descriptions. A Navy Seal and a preschool teacher are not going to have the same reaction when they get their hand slammed in a car door. Likewise they will picture, describe, think and see things through the lens of their own experiences. For my paranormal Hunter in my Steampunk who’s been raised in the western frontier, he looks at things from a hunting point of view.
As the dark beast entered the edge of the yellow oil lamp light, Colt could make out the massive shoulders and ridge of raised black hair along the hellhound's back. More importantly, he could see the grizzly bear-sized mouth full of bared glistening dagger-like teeth just beneath the scarlet eyes, which flickered with the glow of red hot coals in a camp fire. The thing was the size of a buffalo, black as night and as angry as a pissed off mama bear. It stalked them slowly and deliberately laying down one massive paw in front of the other, dark curving nails clacking against the rock floor as it made a beeline in their direction. 

As a bonus the word choices you make because of the way your character views the world as a result of their backstory is another subtle way of introducing that backstory to your readers without beating them over the head with it. From this example you get a very clear feeling of what this man may have experienced in their past. It’s obvious he’s obviously stalked prey, he’s seen a grizzly bear and a buffalo, and spent time around a camp fire.
Word placement can make a difference too. Where you place a key word can either flatten you prose or enhance it. By placing the most powerful words at the end of your sentences and paragraphs, you’re giving your writing a power punch that lasts with readers.
Why put it at the end? Human psychology is wired so whatever is last is remembered most.
Take this sentence:
The hand-scrawled page from Diego’s safety-deposit box was right over her heart, burning a hole in her shirt pocket.

The hand-scrawled page from Diego’s safety-deposit box was burning a hole in her shirt pocket right over her heart.

As a word is pocket or heart more powerful? The sentence still conveys the same information, but it does it with more punch when the most powerful word in the sentence is at the end. Alternatively I could have chosen to put the word burn at the end of the sentence, but I chose heart because of the context of the scene where she’s not trusting her heart to another Hunter. Since her heart is what is truly at risk, it becomes the most powerful word in the sentence to emphasize.
Even when it comes to marketing ourselves as writers, word choice is critical. It shows in how our cover blurbs are written on the backs of our books. It shows in the taglines you see as part of an author’s branding on their website. Choosing words that are powerful, convey the specific meaning and that have the right emotional weight, are important when influencing people to buy our books.
There’s a reason Edward Bulwer-Lytton originally put the now famous line “The pen is mightier than the sword” in his play. It’s true. Words have power.
Author bio:
A former book publicist, an American Title II finalist, and now a full-time writer, Theresa has seen multiple facets of the industry on her path to becoming a multi-published romance author. She currently writes paranormal romances for Harlequin Nocturne, steampunk romances for Kensington and urban fantasy and contemporary romances for Entangled Publishing.
Find her at...

I hope you will join my class

Writing Back Cover Blurbs That Sell

Hosted by

Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers

This 2 WEEK class starts October 8th

For more information click HERE 


Unknown said...

Never heard of the leave-the-most-powerful-word-at-the-end trick.
Will have to try it out!

Will you be making a SteamCon appearance?

Nancy Lee Badger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Lee Badger said...

What I meant to say...the positive words will help, but your upcoming class on writing book blurbs really caught my eye!