Word Choice Part 1

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The question has been asked (paraphrased here) “How does word choice and sentence structure affect the reader, and how can we do our job as writers better?”

It’s a big subject and I could teach on that for days at a con. But for here at MW, I think one agonizingly long blog (smiles) broken up into two or three short blogs will cover the subject. And I’ve pulled out some tried and true writing examples for this purpose.

As with any topic about writing, there are the macro devices and effects and the micro devices and effects. And I think it all comes back to (maybe?) a subtitle under pace. Pace on the macro level can be described as the speed of the conflict development, or the speed at which the story develops When a writer is doing a good job pacing 1.) story arcs,  2.) character development arcs, 3.) scene anchoring, and 4.) stays in character voice, then the macro and micro parts of word choice all fall together.

For the purpose of this blog, I’ll concentrate on Macro pace and Micro pace as they relate to voice, story, and the emotional reaction of the reader.

Macro is the events per page or chapter.
Micro is the pace by line and word. 

Just a rule of thumb about sentence structure:
To increase the pace, use shorter sentences and sentence fragments.
To decrease the pace, use longer, more descriptive sentences.

The reader hears the increased or decreased pace as well as reads it. A well crafted scene can and will affect the breathing and heart rate of a reader. But, as AJ mentioned in his recent blog, when a writer tosses in nothing but short sentences and fragments, the reader has no time to reflect or pull it all together, and so needs the longer, more complex sentence in the midst of the shorter one to regroup.

I’ve used the these examples in other blogs, so if they seem familiar, well, they are.

Awful sentence structure ex:

His dark blue eyes and pinpoint pupils touched me where I stood, trapped and shivering in the corner, dripping wet and wrapped in my floral towel.  He took a single, long step toward me and wrapped his fist into my hair as he pulled me close.  I noticed the strong smell of cheap wine on his breath as he smiled.

Breakdown of what is wrong with this example.

His dark blue eyes and pinpoint pupils (two things where the reader should feel one) touched me (Just touched? Where is the menace?)  where I stood, trapped and shivering in the corner, dripping wet and wrapped in my floral (who cares that it’s floral? If I had paced the scene properly, I’d have mentioned the towels earlier, before the menace started.) towel. (Are we waltzing here? I’m trying to write a scene that should grab and slap the reader emotionally. And this sentence does not do the job.)  He took a single, long step toward me and wrapped his fist into my hair as he pulled me close. (Ditto) I noticed (passive word choice in an action scene slows every thing down.) the strong smell of cheap wine on his breath as he smiled.

It just didn’t work. A better version:

Pinpoint pupils in dark blue eyes speared me. Trapped, I backed into the corner. Pulled the towel closer to my dripping body. Shivering. With a single step, he reached me.  Twisted his hand into my wet hair.  Pulled me close.  The scent of cheap wine rolled over me, a wave of fear.  And he smiled.

Broken down:

Pinpoint pupils in dark blue eyes speared (menacing word choice) me. (The sentence is not broken, but it leads into shorter structures.)  Trapped, I backed into the corner. (Action and reaction is predator / prey response. It resonates in our primitive hindbrains.) Pulled the towel closer to my dripping body. (Fragments can increase tension.)  Shivering. With a single step, he reached me.  Twisted his hand into my wet hair. Pulled me close. The scent of cheap wine rolled over me, a wave of fear. (Longer sentence, now, the reader gets to regroup, and active word choice, despite the fact that it’s about the character’s reaction.)  And he smiled.

Notice the difference in rhythms –  ex1 is waltz-like and thoughtful.  ex2 is more like a machine gun. The word choice is emotionally cleaner and sharper. If you want to take the bad example, or even the better one, and make it even better, go for it!

If you don’t own a *really* good thesaurus, one that offers and explains the emotional nuances of individual words, then I suggest you get one. It can make all the difference in the world to your writing.

I’ll pick up on word choice next week.
Faith
FaithHunter.Net
GwenHunter.Com

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53 comments to Word Choice Part 1

  • You are just so good at the writing samples thing. Much better than I could ever be. This is a great way to introduce the topic. Word choice and pacing are so important to conveying mood, emotion, as well as character and narrative. You and I write differently, so my example 2 would differ from yours, but the effect would be similar I think. Wonderful stuff, Faith.

  • Megan Haskell

    I’m a newbie who’s been lurking around here for a few weeks now, but I wanted to give this one a try…

    Dark blue eyes pierced me to the core. My heart sputtered. I was trapped, backed into a corner. Shivering, I wrapped the towel tighter around my chest. I could feel his anger, his malice seeping from his pores. A step closer and his hand yanked my wet hair. My head snapped back. My back arched. He leaned over me, blowing hot air across my face. I gagged on the scent of cheap convenience store wine. He smiled.

  • The one thing that keeps catching me is the pinpoint pupils, and I had to go to wikipedia to check on whether they were supposed to indicate the amount of alcohol in him (maybe, but the articles were contradictory), his emotional state (nope, he’s aroused, he should have dilated pupils), or the amount of light in the room (which I hope is the right answer).

    Note that I’m not the standard reader: I’m proofing a manuscript where people are interacting with many non-humans (pets, aliens, you have it), and body language is how they often communicate. I’m having several people from very different backgrounds read the manuscript as well, to see how well the body language translates to the reader. It’s a fascinating and educational process.

    Still, it’s an important point about right word choice. I tripped on those darn pupils, and they aren’t the most important part of the paragraph. That’s another aspect of word choice.

  • Actually, the first thing I noticed about the first version was that the eyes, as well as the brain, stumble over the beginning, which detracts greatly from the scene. When I’m editing my own work I read aloud and if I stumble over the sentence then there’s something inherently wrong with it. It’s obviously very bright in that room if his pupils are pinpoints, unless he’s really something other than human. I’d probably cut the pupil descrip out entirely as it feels extraneous, unless there’s something really different about his eyes that make them stand out as a feature worth noting. Also, what’s the difference in smell between cheap wine and expensive wine on a person’s breath? I like your fix of the fist. You can wrap fingers in hair. A fist, not so much.

    It’s fun to note that every writer will probably rewrite that example quite differently. Mine would be different as well because my style is a bit different than either yours or Davids. I’m not one to write fragments, for example. I find them a bit jarring, oddly enough. I always want to pause at the period, which actually has the opposite effect than intended. 😉

  • Great stuff, Faith. Is it next week yet? lol. Just kidding. Much appreciated on picking this topic up and running with it.
    Cheers,
    NGD

  • As always, Faith, you nailed it on the head. Sentence structure is key to pacing and your examples illustrate this admirably.

    Regarding the posts above and the whole “pinpoint pupils” thing: I had no problem with it. Frankly, in the final version they connect with the word “speared” so well that I wouldn’t want to change it. Pinpoints spearing is perfect — it’s sharp, dangerous, and sets up the rest of the paragraph. Sometimes we have to go for the emotional weight of our word choices over the more practicality of the choice (although, I don’t really buy either of the arguments against “pinpoint,” so you’re doing fine in my book regardless).

  • @Stuart. Yeah, Faith’s fix was much better. My comment on the pupil issue was to the original example. I just didn’t see a need for it in the original example at all.

  • I’m not much for sentence fragments, either, but great examples. For me, the sentence variety is important just because of the rhythm involved (but that partly gets into word choice, too). Each sentence, IMHO, needs a certain number of beats in order to fit with the flow and tone. Otherwise, it just feels awkward.

  • Faith,

    You’ve left me feeling very uncomfortable (product of the second example, not the post :D.) and ready to fight off the guy whose “attacking” the MC. (seriously, my hands started swatting at the empty space btw me and my monitor.)

    I’m a little confused about the fragments still though. I get what you are trying to do and I see that it makes all of the difference. I’m uncomfortable, which is the emotion I’m sure you were trying to provoke, (and please forgive my ignorance) but starting a sentence with “Pulled” just feels so wrong to me, will the constraints of what I have been taught diminish with time and the pursuit in finding my writing voice?

    Honestly, I see the difference, I felt the difference and I understand the explanation, and my question maybe something that you can not answer, I just never thought of using “pulled/trapped/twisted.” I think it’s come out by accident, but never on purpose… I would always go back and fix it afterward…

    You have given me much to thing about, thanks 😀

    And bc you asked (and I like to play!) here’s what I came up with, although I’m not sure if it’s better or not.

    Dark blue eyes with pinpoint pupils pierced my heart. I was trapped. Shivering, I clung to my towel. With a single step he wrapped his fist into my hair. Yanked me towards him. Breathing the scent of cheap wine over me with his menacing smile.

  • Hi Everyone! Back from lunch with Tamar Myers, and I’m so sorry I took so long eating. Okay, gossiping. Must be honest here. (smiles)

    David, it goes back to the writing exercise thing. I find it very hard to come up with the bad example, but easy to come up with several different forms of good (or at least better) ones. Yes, I think our versions would be very different — and they are supposed to be. Correct me if I’m wrong) but yours might be more like … Hinny’s? More … poetic almost. More flowing, whereas I tend to the hacked off ending. (Mental pics of severed limbs here, but I’m in a weird mood. I’m still blaming it on the Zyrtec.)

  • Hi Megan! (Waves to first-time poster!)
    There are two things I have a bit of trouble with (and one is from the tea drinker in me and may be ignored for that reason alone.) One is the line:
    “I could feel his anger, his malice seeping from his pores.”
    To me, seeping is slow and good, so the word choice doesn’t work. However, I fully admit that *seeping* won’t bother 99.9 percent of readers.

    And two is a body positional thing. I can’t see how he can approach from the front and have this happen unless he reaches behind her first:
    “A step closer and his hand yanked my wet hair. My head snapped back. My back arched. He leaned over me…”

    Perhaps have him, “He reached toward me, traced my wet hair back from my face, his fingertip chilled and damp. Slowly, gently, he gathered the long tendrils. Twisting them around his fist. He yanked. My head snapped back. My spine arched. He leaned over me…”
    It works, I think.

    But what do *you* think about the positional part, Megan. Did you see him approachign from the side? Thht would work too, and all you’d have to do is specify his position.

  • Het, it’s my medical background. The pinpoint pupils and the alcohol breath point to drug *and* alcohol abuse. Any medical person would instantly cringe because mixing, say, meth and alcohol, or cocaine and alcohol, or worse, PCP and alcohol, might give pinpoint pupils and indicate a level of unpredictable violence. While not all readers would *get* it, the ones that did would be taken to the next level, that wary, *I’m in danger* sense of ER and medic workers the world over.

    And Daniel, I gotta say, the smell of old, cheap wine on breath is pretty awful… Expensive wine (the good stuff) actually smells less sour. And the scent of beer, wood smoke, and body odor is something else again, and is the signature scent of the homeless man. For the homeless woman add in the scent of semen. It’s the medical part of me, and often I write with that awareness of the human condition foremost. In fact, I have to consciously tamp that knowledge down when I write a character who has no medical experience.

    Also, how do you wrap fingers in hair? Fingers have no power, while wrapping hair in (or around) a fist gives leverage and strength. I remember the visual of a police sargent demonstrating how an assailant controls a woman. He went straight for her hair, wrapped it around his fist and pulled the female cop down. It took about a half second. So I’ll disagree with the fingers/fist issue, though that’s just my opinion and others clearly see it differently.

  • NGDave, you come up with great questions and thoughts and it helps to have them. I run out of things of substance to talk about otherwise.

    Thanks, Stuart. I liked the pinpoint / speared thing too. I’ve played with with this para-scene before and this was the first time I used it. It was a *slap-my-own-head* moment. As in *of course!*

    Moira, I totally agree. The beats in a sentence take the reader farther, further, deeper into the scene and the emotional reaction is more intense with the right combo of *power words* and beat.

  • @ the fingers/fist comment we could just say:

    He balled up my hair in his fist…

  • Well, either way, you have to grab it to wrap it, which is what I was getting at. A closed fist can’t grab. 🙂 Your change to “hand” gave a completely different vision and worked. 🙂

    And I guess I’ve never really had someone who drank cheap wine breathe on me to know. Which is a lack of detail thing for me. What does it smell like? Which goes back to one of your blogs a while back about using senses.

    Going back to the pinpoint pupils, I guess that’s one of those things where it completely depends on the context in the story that took place before the scene.

  • Megan Haskell

    Thanks for the feedback Faith! I can see where I needed to add a bit more description around the body placement and movement. However, as far as “seeping” goes…the word gives me the willies. To me it’s slow and insidious, almost oily feeling. But a tea drinker might certainly have a different interpretation… 😉

    (Total side note: I love that JY is so into tea. It helped me round out my characters when I realized that they should have a hobby like real people.)

  • Hinny, full sentences are the product of, and stimulate, intelligence. Researchers tell us that being exposed to varied, complex language in our early years can stimulate intelligence in human young. And those young then grow up to speak and write in full, complex sentences, a bit like the snake eating its own tail.

    But under pressure, stress, fear, our minds revert hindbrain thinking, to images instead of language, and when there is language it’s broken, fractured, repetitive, and carries the rhythm of the speeding heart. (Again, being part of the first responce team in an ER for years has given me an assurance of this.)

    As a writer, I have to show the reader what is happening, what the character is feeling, without telling. Speaking to that hindbrain in us all is one way.

    I once heard an agent say that he could always tell when an English major sent him a book, because the sentences were all so perfect. He was being insulting. For him, perfect sentences were lacking in voice and tone and emotional context, and I’ve thought about that for some time now.

    Perhaps his comment had merit, in part because perfect, complete sentences speak only to the frontal brain, not the animal brain in each of us. The hindbrain is not poetic. The hindbrain is prey and predator. We have to speak to the total person when we write, and part of us is animal.

    *Can* it be done with full sentences, even when the character is facing great danger? Yes. Is it easy? No. For a lot of us language itself is a stumblingblock. For me, short, fractured, broken, splintered language fits with fear. For me, it works.

  • Hinny — good go! I like!

    Daniel, good point. And the pupils won’t affect everyone the same. Some just won’t get it and will (hopefully) let their eyes flow over it. For the medical/LEO/shrink/etc person, they will get it and it will add demension to the readign experience. Cheap wine smells very, very, very sour. When it seeps (to use Megan’s word!) out of a drunk’s pores it is vile. When they breathe it out, it is vile. I can cook with it. I can’t drink it.

    But Megan… Whaddya mean *like real people?!?* Jane Yellowrock *is real!* (laughing) And I do like my tea….

  • Megan Haskell

    Hee hee…I had a feeling I would get you on that one Faith! I should have said “like everyone else!”

  • Hey Faith, thanks!!

    I think my Achilles heel right now is that I’m still learning technique, I get so wrapped up in grammar when really all I need to do is to go with my gut. But the nagging “you don’t know anything” negative, little dark voice loves to poke the secure “go with the gut” side.

    It’s a fun time in my head… let me tell you 😀

    I think you’ve made great points and again thanks for breaking everything down. It is truly helpful and valuable information.

  • Actually Faith, my wife and I had the day off, so I was having fun considering the sentence as we walked through a wildflower-filled field.

    You’re absolutely right on the medical background part–that was as obvious as me putting names on the plants. In both cases, it’s a tripping point: I may think that a body lying face down in a field of ripgut and black mustard provides a powerful subtext, but that’s only for people who know what the heck I’m talking about. Otherwise, I could simply drop the body off in a patch of weeds, and that would get the point across to everyone.

    The bigger problem is that it’s hard to see pupil size against dark irises. I didn’t realize this until I looked at my wife’s eyes, and realized that I could not tell what size her pupils were.

    As for the wine–right on! I was introduced to the smell of cheap wine long before I ever tasted it, and it certainly does precede the imbiber by quite a few meters. Amazing stuff.

    The solution for the eyes might be simply to move them to later in the paragraph. Here’s a sketch:

    Rapist, reeking of cheap wine, breaks into bathroom, grabs protagonist’s hair, forces her up against the wall. He pulls close and smiles, pawing at the towel she clutches futilely to hide herself from him. Gagging on his reek, she sees the tiny pupils in his bloodshot blue eyes. “Oh expletive,” she thinks, “he’s (slang term for being intoxicated by a particular banned pharmaceutical to be filled in for maximum dramatic effect) too.”

  • Sorry for the double-post, but I’d better explain the last sentence in the previous entry: I can’t tell when and where the scene is set, and the setting is a strong determinant for any slang and expletives used. That’s probably a whole ‘nother blog entry in itself. Feel free to set this in 1960’s Georgia vs. 2005 San Francisco Chinatown, if it helps.

  • Megan — thank you for that! (laughing)

    Hinny, you are welcome. Technique and devices give power to voice and character. Indeed a writer does need both. Or would that be all? Yes, all.

  • Het I totally disagree, simply because you used fabulous *weeds*. >>a body lying face down in a field of ripgut and black mustard provides a powerful subtext.>>

    O.M. Gosh! YES! The subtext is *totally* powerful, despite the fact that I have no idea what they are. Why?
    rip = violence
    gut = intestines
    ripgut = a violent scene where the hindbrain sees guts ripped from a body.
    black mustard + dark and tart and potent and fast growing, like evil in the field itself.

    You totaly, completly got it!

  • Emily

    Faith> Thanks for this. I have huge thing to ask… can you demonstrate this in third person, not first person. I don’t write in first person, and I’m struggling to get the same pace, emotional, and all of that in my narration/voice. Is it just a matter of putting “she” where there’s “I” and “her” where there’s “me”?

    redone the redone post you did in third person:

    Pupils in dark blue eyes speared her. Trapped, she backed into the corner. Pulled the towel closer to her dripping body. Shivering. With a single step, he reached her. Twisted his hand into her wet hair. Pulled her close. The scent of cheap wine rolled over her, a wave of fear. And he smiled.

    Okay, so I guess I answered my own question. It does seem to work just as well, just as fast. It’s less intimately personal, but only as much as 3rd is from 1st. But do you have any comments on 3rd person stuff? Or is it really all the same? (And sorry this comment comes so late… been a long day. Normally I read MW by about noon EST).

  • former us medic

    I have to agree with faith in her comments about the eyes. In my experience drug induced euphoria and rage also comes with pin point pupils for quite a duration of time. This effect can be even more devistating and unpredictible with the addition of alcohol.

    To tell the truth, i immediately got the impression of drug use simply by that fact alone and i believe that a majority of the population is savy enough about drugs to view it in the same light. I also have to agree with a former post that you really won’t see it until close up. Thanks for the post, you all have made both my writing and ready experiences more complete.

  • Love this article. Great sample sentences that really hit home for me. Will be invaluable during revision time. Thanks! Looking forward to the next articles.

  • Ben J

    I am going to delurk myself after a few months of reading.

    This post and it’s replies show that there is no one “right” way but plenty of “write” ways to compelling writing.

    I’m looking forward to the next post.

    I’d also like to say I appreciate the time and effort all of the Magical Words’ contributors put into their posts.

  • Ah Faith, that’s precisely why I wouldn’t use ripgut and black mustard.

    Here’s the botanical version of what it means: ripgut is a grass that’s named for what the seeds (fruits to be technical) do to cattle. They are long and sharp, and many vets put their kids through college by removing them from dogs’ noses.

    Black mustard: that’s the same thing you get your grey poupon from. It’s a pretty yellow plant up to two meters tall. It’s also a major nuisance, because when dry, it burns very nicely in wildfires. You’d be hard-pressed to see anything black about black mustard (it’s named for the color of the seeds, nothing else).

    In the LA area, these two are very common on vacant lots, particularly now. In a wildland, they indicate a place that was highly disturbed, graded, plowed, and/or burned frequently. These areas are very common, sadly.

    So if I found a body out there in the ripgut and black mustard, it’s been abandoned in a waste area, someplace no one cares enough about to build a home on or to restore it to natives. It’s nowhere, really. A wasted space for a wasted body. I would use this image if I was writing on the theme of restoring something that someone wasted, something like dignity, meaning, the richness of life it had before.

    Now the critical point here is that I’m not denigrating your poetic view of the plants. The point I’m making is that what you read it is not what I was conveying, so we didn’t communicate. That’s why word choice matters.

  • Melissa P

    In a slightly different vein, may I ask for recommendations for a good thesaurus?

  • Emily, you did it perfectly! I’d say you answered your own questions, which means your writer’s mind is functioning on all sorts of deep levels. This is wonderful, because it means you are developing a fluid creativity, which is much needed in a world where editors make sometimes-startling requests and a writer has to follow and comply or possibily lose that contract.

  • Medic, it all goes back to each person’s life experiences. As writers, we have to write what we know and often get pummled when we write in areas where we have no experience. That bit of realism tossed into the mix of a scene can make it work. And for people with no life experience in the areas we are writing, most times, they simply skim over it and keep reading.

    JR, I’m having fun with it. Thank you.

  • Ben — absolutely. Hey, de-lurk more often. (grins) Good comment!

    That is why Emily’s 3rd person rewrite worked, and why I’ve used this very paragraph / scene so many times over the years, rewriting it in different ways, which is a great writing exercise. In fact, I’ve tried writing the scene in longer more complex sentences, and I can’t make it work for me. It isn’t my style. But I’ve discovered a few people over the years who just blow me away with it. For them, it works that way. It’s all a part of developing a style of your own and then find ways to be creatively fluid with it.

  • Sorry Het. I totally, completly disagree. Your image worked with or without the plant knowledge, and that comes back to life experience. (See the comment I made to Medic.)

    Abandoning a body in places where the plants have awful names leads the unconscious mind (through language) to awful images. You consciously did NOT use plants with names like dandelion. You used plants with names that led to violence. Yes, people with your specific knowldege base will get more out of the names, but it worked nevertheless. It was poetic and it was full of image. And frankly, I don’t know why you are not pleased that it worked!

    And may I point out that you really have no idea what I know about plants… You only know how I broke up what the mind’s eye *saw* about the plant names.

  • Melissa P, David’s is better than mine, and I’ve asked him to reply here. (So I can copy down the name again!)

  • Far as Thesaurus’, I have Roget’s Super Thesaurus, which is my wife’s, Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, and I use:
    http://thesaurus.com/

  • Faith, I think you’re missing the point, and I suspect that you’ve missed this particular point without realizing it many times before.

    Yes, plants have poetic names. Nowdays, newly discovered rare plants are often given beautiful names (blazing ground-star, for example) to get people to protect them. Similarly, weeds are given nasty monikers, particularly in areas where they cause problems. Koster’s Kurse, Mile-A-Minute Weed,etc. Ripgut’s the old rancher’s term for that particular grass.

    This is done by botanists mostly, well, because more people will read about them than realize that they’ve been driving by them every day. That’s the tunnel vision that I mentioned on David’s blog earlier. You are missing 90 percent of the world around you when you focus on the poetry of the names and get stuck there.

    What you are missing in particular is any sense of setting or context. Plants do not grow randomly, and if you know just a little about an area’s plants, you can know the area’s history just by seeing what plants are there. You can also know a lot about the ecology, such as where the water is, how often it gets burned, what animals are present, and so on. I generally teach this in about an hour when I’m doing public hikes, so it’s not esoteric knowledge.

    That’s why, if I was writing, I would not use the plant names to put a body into a wasteland, at least, not at first. As you’ve demonstrated twice now, you tripped on the plants and missed the setting that I was trying to convey with them. Like the pupils in the dark blue eyes that started the whole thing, this is a great example of how using words that are technically accurate can really go wrong.

  • Thesaurus: Roget’s International, 6th edition — revised and updated. It is a monster — 1250 pages or so — and like the original, it is arranged thematically rather than alphabetically, making it rather cumbersome to use. You first look up the word in the back, find it’s entry number, and then go to that entry. But it is the most thorough thesaurus out there, and because it’s arranged thematically, it offers information that no other thesaurus will. For instance, it not only lists alternate words for clothes, and different kinds of clothes, it then goes on to list, for instance, 40 different kinds of pants or leggings, including ones from other countries and regions and time periods, 50 different kinds of shirts, 60 different kinds of undergarments (I kid you not). It does the same for foods, listing not only different words for what we eat, and types of foods, but also, for instance, 70 different varieties of cheese, hundreds of desserts, beers, wines, etc. It is far and away the most important reference I own.

    http://www.amazon.com/Rogets-International-Thesaurus-Barbara-Kipfer/dp/0060935448/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271345351&sr=8-1

  • Yeah, that does indeed sound awesome. Looks like the next reference book on my list to buy. 😉

  • Thanks David. I *have* to get that thesaurus!

    And Het, my last comment to you is that I agree to disagree with you.

  • Emily

    Faith> Thanks for the cheerleading…it’s lovely to hear. I’m working on making my words do more work (that’s a lot of work!) as I revise my novel. Just finished editing and now I’m revising (that’s what I call it, anyway–I read through, marked it up and made A PLAN). I’m keeping the passage you gave here and some of the others from your “crutches” blog last week as examples of writing that works and writing that doesn’t that I can turn to, so when I reread for voice, I can find the weak verbs and weaker words/constructions and replace them.

    And I’m thinking I’m going to cave and buy the thesaurus. 60 different kinds of underwear! I have to see that. 😀

  • Thanks for this entry. I tend to use a lot of sentence fragments in my writing, both for emphasis and for pacing issues. My critique group also tends to point out the sentence fragments as something wrong, suggesting that they need to be changed into complete sentences.

    I think I will stop feeling the pressure to comply.

    I can’t wait to read the next entry.

  • Emily, I am going to buy the book too. I *need* another book! Really! [(Laughing at my book budget!) Budget? We don’ need no stinkin’ budget!)

    But Emily, take a deep breath. For some people the rewrite stage can be a cold feet stage. It’s when the writing is nearly done and the next big step is … is scary. You can do this! You really can!

    CLNorman — It is always your book, your style. Even here, I’ll agree to disagree with anyone because it has to work for *you!* If you like the fragments then go for them. The main thing? More important than anything else?

    BIC (butt in chair) and FINISH THE BOOK!

    Nothing else really matters. As Emily is discovering,there is always the rewrite phase to make any changes that pop up their silly little heads. I vote for what works for you.

  • I use sentence fragments because I’m disorganized. Then too there are some people who have no real understanding of what a sentence fragment it. I’m one of them. My mom, an English teacher among other things, put it best when she said, “As long as other people understand what you’re trying to say.”

  • Alan, I think we live in the same micro-world! I’ve been known to rely on family or friends to explain what I was trying to say…

  • […] The Importance of Word Choice and When enough is enough with revisions– Magical Words […]

  • Faith,

    In short, you have your own unique way of explaining yourself.

    The cold grey tendrils of morning crept along the late night ground, bringing to pallid light deeds wrought under starlight and a wan and waning moon.

  • Where are these links coming from?? Curious…

  • Todd

    @ NewGuyDave

    If you are referring to some of the apparent autopost comments that do not directly contribute to the discussion, I am watching to make sure that they are not directly spam related in the sense that they link back to a site that has no relevance to writing fantasy or science fiction.

    As webmaster for this site I have not fully decided that they serve no purpose.

    While they do not directly contribute to the discussion they may serve Magical Words and our writing community in general by providing relevant linking to our site.

    This linking from related and relevant sites are votes for our site in the eyes of search engines like Google. This increases the likely hood that Magical Words will become more popular in search engine ranking. This means that people who are interested in writing novels in the fantasy and science fiction arena are more likely to find us.

    This in turn means that more people can either contribute to our discussion or even as lurkers gain benefit from our authors and the discussions in general.

    Should they become a problem or bothersome I will delete them as they occur or block them but for now they do not appear to be a problem overall unless I begin to see more complaints.

    Thanks for your concern.

  • Alan,
    Um… Is that a god thing? lol

    NGDave — links make us famous.(That’s what I’m telling myself…)

  • Melissa P

    Thanks for the thesaurus information. Sounds like I’ll have to smash the piggy bank.

  • Me too, Melissa! It sounds expensive, but well worth it.