Ever gobbled up a book? Obviously I don’t mean actually chewing up the paper and swallowing it down. Not the right kind of roughage. Trust me on this. What I mean is, do you remember a particular reading experience where you were almost literally voracious for the next line, and when you had devoured the whole story you were left sated and blissfully full?
Whether reading or writing, a storyline that satisfies is the ultimate goal of the journey. Some stories are snack sized and fluffy, others are a Thanksgiving feast you will feel long after the last bite. Some are simply a sweet treat and others are for sustenance. But I think we can all agree that a great story told poorly is like consuming empty, unsatisfying calories. What’s the point?
The words are not only the skeleton of your body of work but they are also the lifeblood, the muscle, the nerve endings, the skin, AND the cosmetics. Each one nourishes the body of the story while feeding the readers appetite. Word choice is so very crucial simply because your words not only ARE your story, they also give it its flavor. You might be thinking, right. Words+Plot+Paper=Story…. What is she getting at?
What I want you to ask yourself is….
How well seasoned is your story? How flavorful are your words?
Using lots of big, high-falutin, twenty dollar words can quickly get tiresome. You may have an exceptionally large vocabulary and like showing it off but more often than not this will slow and frustrate the reader. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your reader doesn’t have to stop and seek out a dictionary to figure out what you are trying to say. If they can’t draw meaning from the context you are using words that sour rather than stimulate your reader’s taste buds.
On the contrary, using only bland, basic language and descriptions can make a reading experience rather stale and uninvolved. And a bland meal might fill your stomach, but very few will be anxious to go back for seconds.
Whether I’m reading or writing, running errands or having a conversation with a friend I am always on the lookout for what I like to call “JUICY WORDS” to store up in my arsenal. These are not just terms that describe foods or reference our sense of taste. They are sensory words that are so flavorful, whether in tone or feel, meaning or cadence that they activate my senses and awaken my palate so I can almost taste them! Jeans might look buttery soft molded to lean hips. A cutting remark might swallow down like a breath of broken glass. A laugh could be effervescent. The wind melodic. There are so many liberties you can take to make ordinary words vivid and succulent and ultimately extraordinary.
And how do we do this? Simple. Befriend a Thesaurus! (The resource--My sons think this is a dinosaur!) Also keep a notebook handy to jot down a word or phrase that grabs your attention. Inspiration is everywhere!
Wanna play writers workshop? Do you dare put your words to the test? This could be lots of fun! Let’s see how tasty our pages are….
1. Post a line from page 7 of your WIP that you feel is the juiciest morsel you can find.
2. Then find another one that could use some extra spice and we’ll shake some seasoning on them. Let’s do this workshop style. Any and all suggestions welcome.
And don’t forget to check up on your stuff from time to time. Flip to some random pages and have a taste. Are you salivating?
Happy reading, writing, and editing!
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Amy Leigh Simpson is the completely exhausted stay-at-home mama to the two wild-child, tow-headed toddler boys, one pretty little princess baby, and the incredibly blessed wife of her hunky hubby.
She writes Romantic Suspense chalked full of grace that is equally inspiring, nail-biting, and hilarious. And a little saucy! Okay fine, a lot saucy. :) She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and now uses her Sports Medicine degree to patch up daily boo-boos. Her greatest ambitions are to create stories that inspire hope, raise up her children to be mighty warriors for Christ, invent an all-dessert diet that works, and make up for years of sleep deprivation.
She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc.