Common Writing Pitfalls #4 Power It Up: Part One

Common Writing Pitfalls Series

 

Power It Up

This is part one of this post.

Once you’ve mastered grammar, mechanics, point of view, and dialogue, it’s time to add power. Power adds emotion, dimension, and layering to your story.

 

 

1.      Choose your words carefully.

Words matter. There are many ways to say the same thing.

Take the word anger for example. Anger can be replaced with fury, rage, wrath, and ire. Each variation carries a slight twist on the basic emotion of anger and makes the reader feel something just a little bit different.

Think about what you want your reader to feel—and then choose the best word to convey that emotion.

Example: Gina’s fury projected up and out—through her voice, her face, her posture.

Gina is pretty angry. We get that.

Example: Gina’s wrath was something I would avoid no matter if I had to eat one peanut butter and mustard sandwich or twenty-seven.

Gina is still pretty angry, but now there’s the connotation of revenge. See the difference?

Remember, don’t go overboard with too many fancy words. There’s a fine line between just enough and too much. Watch out for writerly words that cause speed bumps for your reader. Speed bumps slow the reader down and pull him out of the story.

Warning: Using too many words that require a dictionary as a companion to your book may cause long bouts of skimming.

Keep your audience in mind. You won’t use the same words in a picture book that you would in a middle grade or a young adult. For example, I love the word ostentatious. Would I use it in a middle grade? Probably not, although there are exceptions. Would I stick it in my YA? Yep.

2.      Use word repetition on purpose or not at all.

Using repetition to prove a point works well. Using repetition to add power kicks butt. Using repetition to propel your reader forward rocks.

I just used repetition. Did it work? I think so.

Let’s try this example: Myra rode her bicycle across the pavement. The heat coming off the pavement warmed her legs and made rivulets of sweat drip down her back and pool along the waistband of her shorts. The bike hit a pothole in the pavement. The tires stopped—Myra did not. She pitched head first over the handlebars and landed in the middle of the pavement.

Did the repetition work here? I think not. Now I’m just annoyed.

Better example: Myra rode her bicycle down the street. The heat coming off the pavement warmed her legs and made rivulets of sweat drip down her back and pool along the waistband of her shorts. The bike hit a pothole. The tires stopped—Myra did not. She pitched head first over the handlebars and landed in the middle of the road on the hard cement.

Better without repetition.

 

COMING NEXT: Part Two

8 Comments

  1. This is an excellent post. Words ARE everything and as writers, it is our job to use as few as possible to convey the meaning we want. Definitely Tweeting this because everyone should read it.

  2. Solid avice and examples. I was just talking to 3rd and 5th graders at Career Day about writing. I stressed that they should continue building vocabulary because there is just the “right word” for what you want to say.

    • Lori Freeland |

      I teach 3rd-5th graders at our homeschool co-op and they are so good at finding great words!

  3. Some great tips hon, thank you :)

    Xx

  4. I love the examples that you insert beneath each teaching point. Great post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *