Monday, April 27, 2015

A to Z Challenge: W is for Word Choice

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

W is for Word Choice

Some people may not think word choice (or diction) is as important in fiction as in other types of writing. It doesn't matter what words you use, you're just telling a story, right? 


There are three major points to consider when choosing the diction for your fiction.

1. Mood and tone. I already did a post on this topic, but we're circling back around. Word choice definitely affects the mood and tone of your scene. If it's a dark, scary, tense scene, use ominous words that will evoke your mood. If it's a happy scene, lighter words that lends themselves to a cheerful tone are more appropriate. The words you use can make or break the feel of your scene.

Tip: While of course you don't want to be using a thesaurus on every other word to make yourself seem smarter, a thesaurus is actually a great tool in this case. If you scene just isn't coming across quite the way you want, try thesaurus-ing (totally a word) some of your verbs and adjectives. It will open your mind to new vocabulary and help you enhance your scene through diction.

2. World-Building. This one has to do with the story itself, rather than the writing. Think about your setting and world. What words would be used there? Is this a period piece, where their English would be a bit different than ours? Is it a high fantasy world where they'd have a completely different vocabulary than ours? If it's realistic to our world, where and when is it set? What country, what part of that country, what dialects and cultural words are present? 

Examples: People living in Victorian England wouldn't use modern phrases that teenage Americans use. Someone from Middle Earth wouldn't use words associated with modern politics or our world's historical events. See what I mean?

3. Character. For any POV character, you have to really know them to know what words they would use, even just in their heads or narrative. This is character building 101. A redneck from the southeastern United States wouldn't have at all the same vocabulary as someone who grew up a few miles from Oxford, or someone from third world Africa, right? 

For editing purposes, comb through each scene and POV character, asking yourself a) if your diction is realistic and b) how you could make it better to enhance your scene or better personify your character.

How do you spot bad diction in your writing?


  1. Trust me, rednecks do not speak that way!
    Hardest thing for me was to omit Earthly phrases. In fact, more than once I almost wrote the words 'What on Earth?' before I caught myself.

    1. LOL. Yeah my writing group has definitely caught me on that too, especially with my epic fantasy. :D

  2. Yeah, using words and phrases that are related to or come from periods and events that don't exist (or haven't happened yet) in your story is the worst. A lot of idioms, cliche's and other figures of speech fall under this category.

    I remember reading Shakespeare's Julius Caeser in high school and being struck with how many anachronistic phrases were in the story. There are constant references to God and Mary, etc. In a play set in 48 BC.

    1. Yeah, that's actually common in a lot of the classics, which is funny. I remember that's how I learned the word anachronistic in school was because they existed so often in the books we read in English class. :D

  3. Word choice is definitely needed! Not only does it add a bit of spice to your writing it helps make distinctions of characters. For example, my short story collection takes place in a High School. The way I write dialogue for a 4.0 honour student is vastly different from the ditzy, clueless student.
    Which one would say, "Your retort illustrates how ignorant you are" and which one would say, "That's not funny". Makes a big difference.
    I love writing and deciding word choices for my various characters.

    1. Yeah, it can definitely be fun. In my WIP, I have an evil dude with a Jamaican accent. It took me a while to get it right, but it was really fun to do. :D