Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Recently I watched a movie with a simple storyline. It was touching, tender, evoked tears, and spoke volumes. Why? What made it so special? The writers had chosen the right words and spelled them out in all the right places.

How many times have you read a good book and said to yourself, “Well, that was a simple story. I could write that?” What made it look simple were the well balanced, succinct word choices.

Every good story has acquired and been fitted with the right words. We need to do the same when we sit down and write. A writer’s goal is to create a seamless story. Simple? Not always.

To make sure the rhyme, rhythm and cadence ring clear read your passages out loud. Do they flow off your tongue or knot your tongue into a pretzel? Do they say what needs to be said with the heart and soul necessary? Do your sentences need a word extracted here and there? Or do you need to implant a few choice words to convey your full meaning?

Do you struggle to produce the right word? Sometimes that elusive word just won’t surface.

I’ve used all of the following with success:
* Off the top of your head, rattle off a list of possible words choices. Say them out loud to help savor and sample each one.
* Use a dictionary or thesaurus as a helpful aid.
* Sometimes selecting a short word over a long one, or vice versa, will provide the results needed.
* Call a friend or email your loop. That perfect word may fall from their tongue or fingertips.

When the right words jump from our fingertips onto the page you’ll know it. The flow sings with perfect pitch and clarity in your ears. The vivid imagery bursts into full color in your mind. Your heart thumps a little faster, more proof you’ve hit the mark.

What do you do when you’re stuck and searching for the right word?


Kendra said...

One quick answer: dictionary.com. I stay connected online whenever I'm editing. I pop the word I don't like into the thesaurus and get hundreds of options. I always find something more powerful and accurate.

Paty Jager said...

I use the dictionary on my computer and look at all the word choices then maybe pick one of them and see what that brings.If that doesn't work, I pull out the battered thesarus (sp) I'm hurring off to a dentist apt. and then over the mountain for the meeting.

Great subject, Lori!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Your posts are always so poetic, Lori. :) I love being able ot pick out who's blogging simply by reading the post instead of looking for the name. I always know yours. ;)

I'm like Kendra. I love dictionary.com and thesaurus.com. I spend a lot of time there when I'm editing and have it open as well. The thesaurus in Word just isn't as great.

Alice Sharpe said...

I agree with Eli, I always know it's you post from the get go, Lori. You have "voice," girlfriend.

I use all the things everyone else uses. The times it gets to me is when a word is floating just beyond my grasp and I can't think of another word to use to find it in a thesaurus or if I can, I can't spell it. This happened the other day with euthanasia. Finally called my daughter who spelled it perfectly -- the girl can spell anything.

She also reminded me of a speech class she took back in Jr. High School. A boy was giving a talk about euthanasia, listing reasons why he was against it. Jennifer, my daughter, got so confused she leaned over and asked a classmate, "Why is he so upset? What's wrong with the youth in Asia?"

Anyway, choosing words is what being a writer is all about. And stating things simply and clearly is not always as easy as it seems it should be. Thanks for the fun blog.

Genene Valleau said...

Ditto and ditto to what others have said. I always enjoy your posts, Lori, and I use the online thesaurus. It becomes addictive at the editing stage!

It's also interesting to read the comments on e-mail before reading the original blog, then try to figure out what the blog was. Silly, I know, but I don't have games on my computer. :)

See you all tonight!

Lori Barber said...

It sounds like most writers use many of the same sources when it comes to seeking that elusive word.

I'm with Alice when it comes to trying to spell a word correctly. It always baffled me in school when a teacher would tell me to look the word up in the dictionary. Still baffles me today!

Eli and Alice, thank you for the nice compliments. I didn't know I was poetic...I can't write poetry worth beans. And I have "voice" too...I'm humbled. Alice, you said I had a distinctive voice once and I chewed on that for a bit, not sure if it was a good or bad thing. I finally asked my husband what he thought it meant. He said it was a good thing. A kind word and a little encouragement conceals a multitude of uncertainty or doubt.

You ladies are the best!

Anonymous said...


Alice, like your daughter, I wondered what the heck everyone was talking about when there was the big deal going around about "Youth in Asia". I had to ask for clarification too. I felt so silly when I learned it wasn't anything to do with those young people over there. To this day when I hear, not see, the word, I still have a picture of Asians in my first flash of thought. Duh! LOL

Lori, just like the others have said, I LOVE using the thesaurus too. I have a pretty good one on my dashboard so it's really quick to reference.

And you do have a strong voice. I do what Eli does and try to guess who's post I'm reading without looking. LOL Glad to know I'm not just weird or so boring that I have nothing better to do than try to figure out who's posting. I'm usually right in my guesses too, so you girls are all very distinct in your voices. :)

Hope you all had a great meeting last night! And Lori's spot on when she said "you ladies are the best"!

Happy Wednesday!