What’s “Word Choice”?

You know, I’d like to say I was a child prodigy at writing, but in elementary school, I got fairly average grades on my pieces, and my worst grade was usually in word choice. (It was a happy day when I found out that using the word “said” over and over again was okay because it became invisible.)

Unfortunately, I still have very bad word choice, or, at least, I don’t really think about it when I write. I’ve read a lot, and I do know plenty of words, but I have to actually concentrate on using the right words when I write, otherwise it all ends up kind of bland.

When I was younger, I used to think that word choice just meant using big words. I liked to use “gargantuan” and “stupendous” a lot, because they were big and I thought no one knew about them. (My grades on word choice didn’t improve much when I used them.)

Over the years, I’ve learned that word choice is more than that. Most, if not all words have connotations to them, feelings and moods associated with them. Consider how I can change the entire mood of just a sentence by using different word choice.

Beads of rain danced through the sky, glittering in the sunlight like tiny diamonds.

Or:

Torrents of rain plunged toward the ground under the gloomy, gray light of a watered-down sun.

As you can see, the sentences, though the subject is nearly the same, have a completely different mood in our minds. Why is that? Because of the word choice.

They both talk about rain falling, and how the sun shines on it. The real difference between them is how they are portrayed.

In the first example, the words like “danced,” “glittering,” “sunlight,” and “diamonds” give us a bright, shiny feel. In the second example, words such as “torrents,” “plunged,” “gloomy,” and “watered-down” give us a darkened, lonely feel.

This can be applied to any scene, any mood, and any feeling. In English, words mean more than their dictionary definition. I think of words kind of like linder, from the book Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. In the book, the characters find a way to communicate with each other through the linder stone, but it’s not in words. They speak in memories and images that convey the message of the words.

For me, it’s the same way with words. When I see the word “glittering,” it makes me think of shiny things. If I see “gloomy,” I think of gray and depression. When I see “watered-down,” it makes me think of the non-tasty taste of hot chocolate without enough powder.

Putting together words like this creates not only imagery, but also mood. I remember that shining things are pretty, gloomy things are sad and lonely, and watered-down hot chocolate is very depressing, and it gives me a feel for the scene.

 

It’s definitely hard to write with word choice all the time. To write like this, I have to constantly think about it, and to be honest, it’s kind of daunting to think of trying to write this way all the time.

But like all things, I’m sure it’ll come with time and practice, and I’m going to try to be better at it and make my choice of words reflect the mood of the scene instead of being bland and boring. After all, watered-down words are just gross.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “What’s “Word Choice”?

  1. Kellyn Roth January 11, 2016 / 6:38 PM

    I’ve never really had this problem … that I’ve noticed. Hmm. Knowing me, I could be very bad at word-choice and never know it. Good luck with getting better at word-choice. Keep up the good blogging! 🙂

    Like

    • Lana January 11, 2016 / 9:31 PM

      No, you’re much better than I am. But I’m hoping to get better at it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Shim January 14, 2016 / 3:35 PM

    The thing that makes it even worse is there’s “general” associations we have with words, and then there’s some random ones that individual ones have. And even the general ones! You said “watered-down”, and you though of hot chocolate, but I thought of orange-juice. Thankfully, watery orange juice is just as depressing as watered-down hot chocolate, so no biggy. But then, say, the word “glittery”. Typically, it’s exactly what you said in the post, but I personally always think of the Fruit thread before I think of shiny when it comes to that word.

    But authors, when we write things, we can only know the general things, and our own personal ones—some random author I read cpuld describe an object as glittery, and how should they know I’ll think of my friends before I think of shimy, glittery?

    Or take the word “shimmer”. That’s an even better example. I’m pretty sure every other person on the planet thinks of a shimmery light when they see that word. And me? When an author describes something as shimmering, I get this foolish, giddy grin on my face. Every time. I’m grinning foolishly right now.

    I kinda found it intimidating, actually. I’d read writing advice saying that we should make things more personal and be aware of what we’re saying because that’s how we build connections to our readers. Or even, I’d see things say we need to know our “ideal reader” and what they like and stuff. O_O How am I supposed to know that?

    You really aren’t, though. All we have are the general associations, and we have to manipulate that to get the effect we want. Like your example. (Brilliant example, by the way. I loved it.) And then, we just occasionally have the lunatic like me who beams and bounces off the walls with giddiness because you said shimmery, when this shimmery object is actually a dangerous item that’s going to end the world and is despicably evil and brainwashes people in it’s near vicinity and more bad stuff. But it’s not shiny or glittery or mesmerizing, it’s shimmery so eee. (Yup, that’s me, the lunatic.)

    Um, anyway, good post! I kind of gave you a mostly irrelevant, off-topic essay comment about my obsession with shimmers.

    Like

    • Lana January 15, 2016 / 8:55 AM

      o.o That was like a blog post all on its own, hehe! But yeah, I definitely understand what you’re saying. (And, for the record, the word “shimmer” also reminds me of you, at least some of the time.)

      And about the “ideal reader” or whatever, I feel like my answer to that would just be that you’re supposed to write the story that you want to read, and then usually other people really will like it too.

      Hehe, but I enjoyed your irrelevant, off-topic essay comment. 😀

      Like

      • Shim January 15, 2016 / 9:20 PM

        It was, oops.
        (Heheh, I’m not really surprised, considering that’s my username. 😛 )
        Maybe? I think I’ve seen differing opinions on that, too, but I think that’s probably what I agree with. That’s basically why I write, anyway. Well…I write the stories because they’re bugging me to be told, and I think I’d probably read them. So. Eh. You know what I mean, I think.
        Hehe, I’m glad because there may be more in the future. >_<

        Like

      • Lana January 18, 2016 / 3:23 PM

        Never doubt the power of the Rambler.

        (Hehe, I guess not. Also, I think you told me to look out for the character named Shim in “Words of Radiance” a long time ago. Well, I found him!)

        I know what you mean.

        I’ll look forward to them, hehe.

        Like

      • Shim January 18, 2016 / 3:30 PM

        Hehe, yeah.
        (Yay! What’s your guess, soldier or scholar? [and I see you agree it’s probably a guy…].)

        Like

      • Lana January 20, 2016 / 5:07 PM

        (Honestly, I don’t really remember where he was in the book. Wasn’t he one of the scholars that was helping Shallan? That might be totally wrong though. And I think it used “he” or “him” once to describe him.)

        Like

      • Shim January 22, 2016 / 10:57 PM

        (Near the end, when Shallan had found the portal thingy or whatever, she had found something else…? And…told somebody else about it, who sent some person named “Shim” and someone else named “Felt” to go look at the other plateaus. I don’t think any pronouns were used, though.)

        Like

      • Lana January 23, 2016 / 8:43 AM

        (Ah, okay. I’d assume a scholar though, ’cause I think they’d have all the soldiers fighting, right?)

        Like

      • Shim January 27, 2016 / 11:17 AM

        (Yeah, maybe. If I ever meet Sanderson, I’ll have to ask him.
        Or not.)

        Like

      • Lana February 1, 2016 / 3:21 PM

        (Hehe. I actually do know a couple of people who’ve met him…though I don’t think they asked him that. Oh well.)

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s