Word choice is important. As writers we write things. We build worlds, actions, and people using words as our building blocks. We build stories. To do that we need to use the right words. Words have meaning. They also have nuances and connotations beyond the basic meaning. Someone can run. That’s a basic meaning. It means a person moved fast on foot. That same someone may need to get somewhere fast, so they might run, but they may also race, dash, or fly. Maybe the need to get somewhere isn’t as imperative so they jog, sprint or rush.
Choosing the right word can convey more than the mere action. It can give a sense of urgency. It can help define a character. Debbie ran to the store. She needed to shop. Debbie raced to the store implies she had had an urgent need for something at the store. Maybe Debbie just raced everywhere. Maybe she has a nervous energy that she just has to burn off.
Consider this: Carla watched Debbie get ready for work and looked at the clock. They had an hour. Now compare that with this: Carla watched Debbie race around getting ready for work and looked at the clock. They had an hour. The latter tells you Debbie is someone who worries about being late. It also conveys a little bit of Carla as well. She is more relaxed. Your words can convey a lot.
Sometimes you need to choose words to make dialog more realistic. “I cannot fathom your reasons for your actions.” Few people talk that way. Most would say something like, “I don’t understand your behavior.” Of course, if you have a pompous character the first bit of dialog would be appropriate, if exhausting to read.
By all means write the words that come to mind – in your rough draft. You can fix it in revision. You can fix anything in revision, except a bad premise. I’ve been reading some fan fiction and thinking how I would write the story differently. One of the stories referenced ‘a little age’ which I took to mean ‘a young age’. That could be due to the author writing in a second language for which I give kudos. I couldn’t do that. Sometimes I have a hard enough time writing in my native English, or American English, I should say.
Whatever language you use, just remember that words have connotations as well as meanings. Like colors, they have hues. Use the correct word and the story shines like a masterpiece painting. The wrong word can dull it. That’s a lot of pressure, I know, but that’s what revision is for. Read your work. Read it aloud. Read it again and decide if it says what you want it to say. That’s what revision is for.
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