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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Grandiose Words in Fiction

I've been trying to read some of the books in my extensive 'to be read' digital pile lately. As I was reading one of them, I was reminded again why having a good crit partner or partners is so crucial.

Let's face it, writing a novel is a huge undertaking.  There are 12 million details to keep track of, and seemingly 12 million rules of writing that the world wants you to keep in mind as you revise.  Sentences and paragraphs that make perfect sense to you might have a glaring error that your crit partner finds.  There have been many times where I've read a section of my manuscript for what feels like a zillion times, only to have someone else come along and pick up on something that, when they point it out, seems quite obvious.

In one of the books I recently read, they could have used a crit partner to point out their heavy handed use of what I call "ten dollar words."  I don't mind a few of them.  In fact it's cool to go to a dictionary once or twice and look up a long and unfamiliar word.

But when it happens multiple times within a few paragraphs, and then multiple times throughout the manuscript, the novelty of dragging out your dictionary loses its luster. Unfortunately, it begins to sound like the author sat there with his manuscript in one hand and a synonym finder in the other, looking for the longest, most awkward words possible to replace simple, clear and easy words that could have been used in its place. 

In the grand scheme of things, I don't see this problem too often.  Perhaps that's why when I do, it does seem so glaring.

So do me a favor.  When you're writing, go ahead, throw in a few ten dollar words.  I like my dictionary.  We're friends.

Just don't get carried away.


Jackie said...

If I throw in a word you have to look up, I've completely slowed the pace of my novel.
I love the picture on your blog, it's beautiful!

B.K. Jackson said...

Thank you, I love that picture too.

RE: slowing the pace--I suppose that is a risk, and some readers tolerate it more than others, but truly, I don't mind the challenge of looking up a word or two per novel.

Especially since I'm bound to read something about someone with a career specialty I know little about, whether it be a firefighter, a geneticist, or who knows what.

I guess that's where we writers have to go with our gut as to whether it's a good thing or bad thing to include a particular word.