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.
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.