I’ll Take Your Words And Be Gone

Dic · tion (dik-shun) – (n) Style of speaking of writing as dependent on choice of words Seems simple enough, right? Word choice, when it comes down to it. But at it’s core, it is the most basic building block of writing – before plotting, before characterization, before setting scenes, even before sentence structure and coherent paragraphs. And we – as writers, as readers, as human beings as a whole – consistently forget about it. Of course, when it comes down to it, word choice is what makes up what we do here – writing is diction, really. Without words, there would be no writing, no storytelling, no communication at all. We’d all just be imagining, inside our own heads. When words are used well, we never really notice them – or, we only notice the beauty and rhythm of the words, getting caught up in the sound and poetry of the sentences and paragraphs rather than the meaning of the individual words. But no, mostly we just don’t notice it – the words fade into the background, while the fantastic scenes the author thought up play out on the insides of our skulls. Even English fanatics like me don’t notice them when they’re good. It’s when diction goes bad that we notice it. I’ve been noticing it a lot in the Inheritance Cycle, which I’m halfway through (so, sorry for judging if it gets better. I’m too poor to go buy the last two books right at the moment). I like to think of it as Twilight syndrome, which is when it’s just so clear and obvious that the author had a thesaurus next to them while they were writing and spent just as much time consulting it as they did writing (drinking game alert: drink every time you come across a synonym for perfect or beautiful! Just kidding. Don’t read Twilight). Now, as you can clearly see, I have no problem with an extensive vocabulary, and I think it can greatly enhance your writing. And, truthfully, I think that it’s the chief job of a writer to increase his or her vocabulary by reading, looking up words, and talking to other writers to learn the meanings of words. There are huge shades of difference between sad and moody and disheartened and morose, and using one when you mean another is a good way to throw your entire scene or story or characterization off track. Words are important. What I am specifically talking about is using ten cent words when they are unnecessary and distracting, and therefore take away from your story. In Meyer’s case, she just keeps describing the same thing (Edward’s stupid face) over and over again and has to come up with new and interesting ways to say it. Paolini’s problem really just seems like he’s young, and excited to be describing all the things he’s describing (which, to be fair, are really fucking cool and he describes really fucking well), and well, sometimes he doesn’t know the right word to use so he goes and looks one up and it’s just…clunky. It yanks me right out of the story and sets me to staring at the book just puzzling over this single word going “hmmm…that seems odd.” If I were a heroine in a crime novel, it would be a clue to who was trying to kill me. Seriously, it jumps out at me THAT MUCH. As a writer I don’t tend to give my diction much thought during my rough draft process. Usually I’m just scribbling away in a notebook and then pounding out what I’ve written on a keyboard in a mad dash to get it all down before the ideas leak out from whatever orifice they escape from if I don’t get them down in time. Ironically, given this post, that’s the state in which they’re most likely to appear on this blog, since I’m searching for feedback. It’s during my editing stage – the stage I hate the most, since I’m such a perfectionist – that I obsess over my words, wondering if I should change individual words to more perfectly capture a mood or trying to rewrite phrases to flow better. Sometimes I worry I’m polishing the silver while the roof is caving in, so to speak. But at least it’ll be beautiful. And as we all know, “Beauty is a form of Genius–is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in the dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.” (Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey – of course. There was a man who had his diction game on point)

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