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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Importance of Word Choice

Have you every read a short story or a book that felt off? The story itself was good but something just didn’t feel right. There is a good chance that it was poor word choice that was throwing you off.

The way I see it, one of the most important things a writer can focus on is word choice. Especially when it comes to dialog. Dialog can make or break a story. As a writer I need to know when to have a character say “hello” versus having a character say “hey.” I need to know the connotation behind words, particularly if I am writing a period piece or a story taking place in a certain country (if the story takes place in the US but a character had just moved there from London, it would be a smart choice to have the character use British slang versus having them use American slang.) 

Along with good word choice, I find that my favorite writers aren’t afraid to use “colorful” language. They use cuss words and content appropriate slang. It’s kind of sad that I feel the need to mention this, but Americans are extremely weird when it comes to language. The word “fuck” will have some of them up in arms and they will act like you’re obscene idiot for using the word, but they have no problem watching something extremely violent as long the language isn’t too filthy (PG-13 movies.) 

Why is using colorful language important to me? Because it makes your characters easier to relate to. Think about Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s hard for to me to take it seriously because of the language that the characters use, whether in dialog or their head. The main protagonist is 22 and calls her vagina “my sex.” She says “holy crap” and “double crap” way more than most adult women do. The only Latino in the books says “dios mios” almost every time he appears. (Basically, you should read Fifty Shades of Grey as “what not to do” example.) It’s all good to have a character who has a tagline, but to have them repeat the same words over and over feels cheap and lazy.

So, when you’re writing your next story or editing your current story, please look at your choice of words. Did you make sure the language made sense? Did you make productive choices? If a sentence doesn’t sound right, try changing a word or two and see if that helps.

I hope this helps you in your writing. Please let me know if you have any word choice tips or advice!

Next week’s blog will discuss getting a job that allows you to use your degree. I would like to give a shout out to my great friend, Lori, for the idea!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Change: A Story Needs It

Last week I ranted about the changes that I am currently going through and I promised to share how one could use that change in their writing.

Well, how do you use what you’re going through in your life in your writing?

  1. Keep a journal. Writing about your feelings about things as you are feeling them is the best way to capture the emotions in a raw way. 
  2. Use that journal to help mold your characters. It is much easier to write a realistic emotional scene if you know you how that emotion actually feels. For example, if you have ever moved and felt said about it, you will know exactly how to have your character emote that without it being over the top or unrealistic.
  3. The changes in your life, no matter how small, can be used as inspiration for your story. Maybe you have a character that feels like their life is piling up on them but it feels off to have everything be a major issue. I hate it when I read stories about people who literally have every bad thing you can imagine happen to them. So, if you have a character who has gone through a series of bad things (they got into a car wreck and lost their job in the same day) using a small change could be the best way to set the character off (like their favorite snack being taken off the market or even going to. different restaurant than their usual for a birthday dinner.) I feel like making the tipping point something small makes the situation for realistic. 

Why do I feel that way? Why wouldn’t it be something major that sets a character off?

When I think about my own life, I was fine with moving and getting a new job, but it was spending a holiday (Valentine’s Day, a day I don't even care about) in our temporary living space that made me cry. With everything changing around me, I couldn’t help but long for something to stay the same. I feel like that tends to be the case with most people. Most people say that big change freaks them out when it’s really the little things that get to them. For example, moving is a big change and while it is normally not a bad thing, a lot of people hate it. I don’t think they hate it because they don’t want a change of scenery, but because of the little things that will be different (you might have to use a different grocery chain, your bedroom might be set up differently, but mostly, it’s just not the same.)

Why is using your experience with change important in your writing?

Because you have no story without change. If your character’s life is the same from beginning to end, if there is no change, no growth, then you didn’t tell a story.

I hope this helps you harness your own experiences and using them in your writing. Next week I will talk about words and why word choice is extremely important.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Change is the Only Constant

Lately it feels like everything in my life is changing. We have recently sold our first home and are moving into a new one, but we haven't closed on the new house yet. I feel like I am in limbo in our temporary shelter, living out of a suitcase and never feeling quite right. I may have somewhere to lay my head but I feel homeless. 

I also got a new job as a Digital Marketing Assistant with a small, woman-ran company. So, I quit my part-time gig and while I should be so happy that I finally got a job that allows me to use my degree, I can't help but miss my co-workers at H&M. Some of those people are like family and it's going to suck not seeing them daily. BUT, I am happy about my new job and I love that I am helping companies reach out to their customers in an organic way (the only downside is my lack of time for writing...)

My sister is getting divorced, making holidays and family get togethers different. America is being ran by a narcissistic psycho, making me fear for the future. The QuikTrip near my work is closing and being moved down the street. In 2018 my driver's license won't be an acceptable form of ID to fly because Missouri is stupid. My kiddo will have to go to a new school district because of the move and he fears he will lose his friends. I miss our first house terribly and makes me regret the decision to move.

I just want something to stay the same in my life, even if just for a minute, but it can't. The only constant in life is change.

And how can I use my feelings about this change in my writing?? 

I'll tell you next week...

(P.S. Thanks for reading my rant about problems that aren't really problems. I don't handle big change well and writing about it helps.