Words are powerful. They can make or break a piece of writing. The right words can shape your text into something powerful or reduce it to cosmic failure. Word choice involves repetition and complexity of meaning that can either enhance a piece or destroy it.
That’s not to say that you should spend hours looking for just the right word. There is balance to the process. Get the thought out first and then revise it to find the right words. The right words are not those that are rarely strung together in sentences. They are the right words for the job they have to do. Always remember writing has a job to do and that job is to communicate clearly. I’m currently revising a novel where I have two instances of two character’s names in one scene. One instance of one of the character names has the job of informing the reader who is in the scene. The other is near the end of the scene and it just feels right that it is there. I left both instances of that name in place because otherwise I would have gotten tangled up in pronouns. The other name has one instance establishing who the characters are talking about. The other is also keeping the scene clear and out of a ball of tangled instances of the pronoun, he. Sometimes you just have to repeat words.
You also don’t want to use too many synonyms for a word. In the scene I mention above one character tried to cast a spell on another character and it didn’t work. She is talking to her teacher about why the incantation didn’t work. I’ve used two synonyms there, spell and incantation, because in the context those words are interchangeable. I could have used the word hex, but that carries a negative connotation that I didn’t want. I need a way to talk about the spell without mentioning what it is. Word choice is important.
Each piece is different. In that story, one of the minor characters is a child. I have to make sure that her dialog is neither too old for her or two young. It’s a fine line and it has been a long time since I was twelve. I keep her sentences short and simple, with shorter, more common words. I examine each line of her dialog to ensure that she isn’t talking baby talk while at the same time she doesn’t sound like a college professor. My word choice for her is both complicated and easy. Reading the work aloud lets me hear the dialog to determine if it is pompous or baby talk.
That’s the best way to do it, just read the text aloud or have your computer read it to you. Listen with your eyes closed and you will see your characters. You will also hear words that may not be quite right in the text. Change them and do the reading again. It really is the best way to revise your word choices. It’s also good for finding typos. Rewrite anything that sounds wrong or pompous. Good luck.
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