Where’s My Dictionary?

In my last post I wrote about the fact that I seem to be blessed with lots of ideas at the moment for writing different stories. Many of my ideas come from seeds taken from other stories or ideas that I read about from the wonderful blogs that are out there. The trouble is that the more I write the more I seem to doubt any ability that I might have.

One of the problems is reading other people’s work and then beginning to wonder if your own work needs to be more flowery. I sometimes wonder whether or not I should be using bigger words! Then I read Stephen King’s book – ‘On Writing’ – a great read. He comes up with a number of heartening ideas, such as:

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.

What a great thought – being ashamed of short words! I think that might be my problem. When you think about it it makes sense – when we talk to one another our purpose is to get some sort of message across, rarely are you trying to score points with the other person, trying to see who can come up with the most complicated words. Stephen King goes on to say:

Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful. If you hesitate and cogitate, you will come up with another word – of course you will, there’s always another word – but it probably wont be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean.

One of the reasons that I keep going back to this book is because it makes me feel much more comfortable with my own writing. Whenever I write a story, however long or short (more recently they have mainly been short!) I feel that I am trying to tell a story. I try to use words that I would if I was actually telling the story. It would be quite easy to draft out a story then grab a thesaurus and change as many words as possible. The problem is that it would then cease to be my words. It would be a story written by a thesaurus!

I will leave you with this idea:

Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story ….. to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.

I think that I will put back on the shelf the dictionary that I have just dusted off. Instead I will stick with the words that I think best tell the story I have written down.

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About Mike

Now that I'm retired I have more time to devote to writing my blog and creating short stories.
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9 Responses to Where’s My Dictionary?

  1. Thank you for your candidness. I went through this very same dilemma previously and came to the same conclusions that you have. My reasoning was simple – if I’m to tell a story, my main goal is for it to be understood. If fancy language is a barrier to that goal, then the fancy language must go. I don’t want to be a literary genius; I want to tell entertaining stories. I’m glad that you have decided to put the dictionary back on the shelf. Longer words do not a smarter man make. But shorter ones can make for one hell of a read. I continue to look forward to your writing.

    • Mike says:

      Many thanks for your comments.
      I love your words, “Longer words do not a smarter man make. But shorter ones can make one hell of a read.”
      I shall be looking to see how I can use these words in a future post.

  2. Nice post… One disadvantage of using big words would be if the reader doesnt understand it, he/she would have to check for the word in google or a dictionary… Too many such words n the reader might loose interest… Nice to keep it simple n understandable to all kinds of readers… Have a nice day…:)

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for dropping by and I really appreciate your comments.
      I know what you mean – many a time I’ve given up on a book because there have been too many words that I didn’t understand.
      Once I would have blamed myself for not having a wider vocabulary, but now I’m more likely to blame the writer for not telling me a story that grabs and holds my attention.

  3. I believe in the KISS method – Keep.It.Simple.Silly. It is so important to write in simple words. You never know who your audience is. Honestly, use whatever technique works best for you. Your blog is your unedited version of yourself. I personally, do not see why you would want to change anything about your writing. There’s no need. People want to know what people think, crazy as it sounds they want to know what you think. Tell them exactly what you think. The personal nature of your blog is what I and others find appealing.

    Successful blogging is not just about being the best writer on the web or even the most prolific. Being a successful blogger is about creating a connection with an audience.. your friends that visit your page, by providing relevant content, nurturing that relationship with comments and links and keeping the dialogue flowing. There really are no defined rules or set procedures when it comes to creative writing, especially when blogging. Blogging is about having fun and following ‘rules’ isn’t always fun. 🙂

  4. Such good points in your blog. I think that is why I really like your stories and blog. You don’t bog us down. And there are many good lessons for me here. I also like your comment …..”I try to use words that I would if I was actually telling the story…”. Sometimes writing and ‘telling’ are so far removed from each other. I will put these tidbits in the back of my mind and next time I can’t find a better word I will reconsider the first one that popped up, probably the better choice, anyway.
    Thank you!

  5. Hi, new here. I like a nice synonym. I work on dictionaries and I love words. Though I firmly believe in the keep it simple method for leanness, and believe the main goal is to tell the story without superfluous sentences, the language should still be intelligent.

    Increasing your vocabulary is good for you and your readers. They don’t have to be uncommon or esoteric words, but they should be a cut above the average vocabulary.

    Take care,
    Debra

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