dictionary.com the first meaning is "changeable, volatile, fickle" etc. Well that doesn't sound like Alex. He's one of the most dependable people I know. The second sense is "animated, lively, sprightly, quick-witted". That's more like it. So that's what I'm feeling insecure about this month - inappropriate word choices. Not necessarily using a word with the wrong meaning, but a word that doesn't seem to fit in the story.
Let me explain. I've had more than one CP suggest that I use rather "big" words that are jarring and interrupt the pace of the story. They even told me they had to go to the dictionary on a couple of occasions, which really threw them out of the story. Now, part of me likes the idea of being an educator and introducing people to new words, but not if it's to the detriment of smooth narration. And the story has to come first above everything.
A bit of backstory. I've always had an affinity for words, from an early age, and was obsessed with knowing as many as possible. Although my writing might have many other flaws, spelling was never an issue for me. I felt that words were precious things and deserved the care and respect of being spelt properly. At primary school, classmates would come to me rather than the teacher to check how to spell something. I've shaken my head in despair at enough official school newsletters and teachers' comments since then to know that teachers aren't all they're cracked up to be!
By my teenage years, I had honed my passion for wordplay to a fine art. My favourite pastime was to hang out with my friends talking the most convoluted rubbish possible. For hours. We would try to out-rubbish each other. (It's probably why none of us ever had a girlfriend). As an example, I preferred to say (and still do) "How do I gain access to this" rather than "How do I open this" if faced with some recalcitrant packaging. (That one actually comes from the wonderful novel The Queen & I by the late Sue Townsend, in which the monarchy get deposed from the palace, and the Queen has to open a tin of beans for the first time.) Vestiges of this behaviour linger to this day and probably annoy my family no end, but it's like a nervous tic. I do have a natural proclivity to rather flowery language, which I've worked hard to pare down in my writing.
So, the point of this post? Not knowing where to draw the line. Using stronger, more distinctive words is advice that often comes up, but this can definitely be taken too far. Like most things, it's a matter of balance, and finding that balance is one of the great challenges of writing - one I think I'll be undertaking for a long time to come!
How easy or difficult do you find it to pick just the right word?
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