October 14, 2011
Last week in our Cape Cod Children’s Writers group, I read chapter 7 from The Ghost of Ridge Hill, which I hope to publish this year. The group caught the word “moon” or “Moonlight” 18 times in 13 pages. Guess what time the chapter occurred!!! When I arrived home to correct my third draft of this chapter and book, I discovered the word “look” was repeated nine times.
With my “moon” slip, I just took out most of the references or changed the sentence to refer to the evening in another way. However, with “look” I turned to my trusty Thesaurus, which should be on every writer’s desk. There I found 35 words or phrases including gaze, stare, glimpse, gander, regard, check out, inspect, scrutinize, notice, examine, observe, glare, watch, etc. Needless to say, I didn’t need to alter sentences, just substitute words.
Other dead words that fellow member Linda Williams always points out include walk, run, see, said, stop, far away, and others. For instance, instead of running you could sprint, race, jog, dash, bound, scurry, etc. Look at how much more descriptive each of these words is compared to run. Instead of “say” try utter, speak, whisper, pronounce, remark, vocalize. Or with walk you could use stroll, amble, hike, march, stride, meander, and so on.
Using a Thesaurus is invaluable to us as writers. It not only improves our own vocabulary but also challenges the reader to learn new words or phrases. Try it as an exercise to find as many words as possible for a simple “dead” word.
Last spring I had to write a poem to a painting of the ocean. I had writers block! I was frozen. So I sat down and wrote every word or phrase I could think of concerning ocean and water. After two pages, my writers block was gone and I had the base for the poem. It’s a way of stretching your mind. Try it!