Craft

Fun Words

 

I don’t usually stay up late enough to watch Conan O’Brien but awhile back I caught a show during which he campaigned to bring back use of the word thrice.

Thrice. Indeed, a fun word.

Yesterday Karen wrote about beautiful words so well that today I thought we could play with words and look at those that are entertaining. I’d like to suggest some other fun words that I think just aren’t used enough.

Slapdash

Because I’d rather negotiate contracts, send out proposals, and encourage writers, I employ a slapdash approach to housekeeping.

Draconian

While Steve Laube is draconian regarding book proposals, cooperative writers are rewarded with praise and contracts.

Phalanx

Popular agents and editors face a phalanx of proposals upon returning from conferences.

Twixt

There’s a lot of work twixt writing a proposal and getting a book published.

Ribald

We are never allowed to be ribald in CBA.

Lickety-split

I can do my slapdash housework lickety-split!

Fractious

Incoherent proposals make me fractious.

Tolerable

Oh, I’m feeling tolerable today. How about you?

 

Serious words everyone needs to say more often. Seriously:

I love you.

You are beautiful.

I thank God for you every day.

 

Your turn:

What are some fun words you like?

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Beautiful Words…100 of Them!

As someone who has studied other languages (French, Spanish, and Russian), I love the physicality of words. When you speak either French or Russian, your whole lower face gets a workout. It’s as though you’re tasting the words as well as speaking them.

Happily, English has words like that as well. Consider the following:

• impecunious
• circuitous
• mellifluous
• exsanguinate
• ebullient
• flummery

Words like these are not only fun to use, they’re fun to say. The feel of some even reflect their meaning. Impecunious has a tight, stingy feel to it. Mellifluous rolls off the tongue. Flummery feels a bit foolish as it escapes you.

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Loving to Laugh


At least once a week I’m asked if romantic comedy is currently marketable. While sometimes this category seems hot and then cold, I’d say that sharp, witty, well-executed romantic comedy can find a good home no matter what the publishing season. Note that I take the adjectives I used seriously. This is not a category that most writers can whip off with little effort. Successful writers of romantic comedy are gifted with the ability to find humor in everyday situations and the talent to share that humor in an entertaining way. The writing must fly like a magic carpet. The reader is looking for a fun story.
One successful writer of romantic comedy is Gail Sattler. Here is a great tip from Gail:

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Three)

Remember that old adage for retailers, “The customer is always right?” Well, for novelists seeking the perfect title, that should be “The audience is always right.”

Tip #4: Remember Your Audience! Novelists do a great job, on the whole, of keeping their audience in mind as they write. But sometimes when trying to come up with a catchy title or cover image, they go a bit far afield of that audience. The result is that readers who would love the story won’t even pick it up. And those who do pick it up may not find what they expected inside. So as you work on your title, remember who your reader is. For example:

Age range. If your book would appeal mostly to Christian women in their 40s and up, then don’t use a trendy title that will appeal to the twenty-somethings. And watch out for technology phrases. Unless your certain your core audience is familiar with both the meaning and use of something technologial, steer clear. For example, using RAM, bits, bytes, and bauds as words in your title may work for a younger audience, or one that’s technologically savvy, but for older readers? Odds are good you’d lose ’em. (Or have them writing you letters scolding you for misspelling bites.)
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Show or Tell: How Do You Know?

As we discussed last week, it’s okay to tell at times, but in fiction you want to show the important, emotion-laden scenes. That way the reader gets the vicarious experience along with the character. So how do you know when you’re telling rather than showing? Here are a few tips:

Beware the dreaded –ly adverbs.

“Get out of my novel, you –ly adverbs!” Alice said angrily.

Ah-ah-ah! Any time you use an –ly adverb (angrily, happily, stupidly, etc), you’re telling us what the emotion is rather than showing it. Instead, show the emotion, whatever it may be, through actions or punctuation. In the example above, the exclamation point tells us Alice is being vehement, but it’s not clear if she’s angry or frightened.

Alice stared at the page of her novel, her blood pressuring rising. Thirty-two! Thirty-two –ly adverbs on one page! What was wrong with her? “Auughh!” Her cry still echoing around her, she grabbed the page, crumpled it into a compact ball, and pitched it, as hard as she could, against the wall.

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Show, Don’t Tell

I’m From Missouri—SHOW me!

Okay, truth be told, I’m from Oregon. But in the 30 years I’ve been editing fiction, I’ve discovered a number of issues almost all writers face, regardless of how much they’ve written or been published. If I had to pick the top issue I see over and over, it would be Show, Don’t Tell.

What, you may ask, does that mean? It’s actually pretty simple. It’s the difference between telling us what someone is feeling, and letting us see it for ourselves through dialogue, action, and body language. For example:

Jack was so angry he could kill.

That, my friends, is telling. But…

Heat filled Jack’s face, his chest, his blood. His fingers tightened on the gun. Nobody did this to him. Nobody. His finger caressed the trigger, and he smiled. The fools thought they’d taught him a lesson, but they’d see they were wrong. They’d see it all right…just before they died.

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The Wrong Point-of-View

Last week we identified Point-of-View (POV). This week, let’s consider some common POV misteps.

What’s My Line?: When POV/voice doesn’t fit the character.

Here’s an example. The POV character is male and a construction worker. So is the following appropriate for his POV?

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Out of Their Minds: The basics of point-of-view

Ever been reading a novel, cooking along with the character, when you realize you’re not seeing things through that character’s eyes any longer? Somewhere along the way, something shifted and you’re inside a different character’s head. Jarring, huh? Probably jolted you out of the story, if only for a few seconds while you figured out what happened.

That, my friends, is what you want to avoid at all costs: Bumping your reader out of the story. Because once they’re out, any number of things can pull them away before they get back in.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at Point of view. First, what is POV (point of view)? Anyone? Yes! That’s exactly right. (Hey, I’m a novelist too, remember? If I want to hear my imaginary class answering me, I can.”) Point of view is the “eyes” through which we’re seeing the story.

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True Words

Several months ago someone challenged me to read an article by Marilyn McEntyre entitled “Letting Words Do Their Work.” Because I respected the editor who made the recommendation, I hopped right on over the the link.

It’s not easy reading. Nor is it a “quick read.” But I’ll tell you what it is:

Powerful truth. If you’re a writer, speaker, agent, reader, or simply one who loves–truly loves–words, you’ve got to read this article. A few salient points that resonated:

“It is hard to tell the truth these days, because the varieties of untruth are so many, so pervasive, and so well disguised.”

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The Care and Feeding of … WORDS!

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
Pearl Strachan

“By words the mind is winged.”
Aristophanes

“The turn of a sentence has decided the fate of many a friendship, and, for aught that we know, the fate of many a kingdom.”
Jeremy Bentham

Amazing, isn’t it? Something so small as words can have such huge impact.

The right word in any circumstance can bring peace, comfort, laughter, tears. It can elicit emotion, stir action, deliver forgiveness, change lives. For generations, words have moved and motivated. Writers, steeped in the wonder of words, have poured their hearts out on stark paper, only to have those pages come to life in ways they never imagined, and to have their words live on in the hearts and minds of readers long after they’ve been read.

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