Last week when I wrote “Seduction” I was kind of agonizing over “finding the right words”. I’m glad most folks thought it worked out, but I actually want to clarify what I really meant when I said this.
It’s nit-picky and you might think I sound perhaps a tad bit obsessive afterwards, lol, but here it goes.
What I Mean By “Finding the Right Words”
It’s kind of hard to explain, but when I write–and especially so with these 100-word shorts–I try to pick words that play off each other and resonate together on a whole. I aim to create synergy.
With “Seduction” there were a few words I kept debating whether to use like “advanced”, “lost” and “stepped”. It sounds silly but I spent a good half hour going back and forth between alternatives for those three and I’m still not sure if I like those word choices, haha. For example, with “advanced” I wanted to use “outstretched” instead to contribute to the notion that the mist had arms, of sorts (hinted at, perhaps not so successfully, by the word “tendrils”). The idea was that the mist wanted to use these arms to “embrace” Madeline with, but I didn’t think “outstretched” was actually compatible with the “breath” imagery I was also using to convey the nature of the mist. (“Advance” may not be all that compatible, either, but again, this is why I felt iffy about this story–or more like snippet–in the first place.)
That’s how I felt about just one of the three words I mentioned. I won’t go into the other two, but I hope you can see where I’m going with this.
For me, going back to make sure I’m choosing the right words is almost like trying to tune a string instrument and putting your fingers in the right place so that when you start striking chords or playing songs it vibrates in a way that amplifies all the notes being played. When a note is in tune and you pluck or otherwise play it, you can actually “feel” it ring clearly through your fingers. If it’s a little bit flat or sharp, it feels kind of fuzzy. (I played viola up through the start of college, if you’re wondering where this is coming from.)
I don’t know how else to describe it, but I feel the same way about choosing words that work, or don’t work, well together. I get my initial impressions and attempts on to the page then go back to “fine-tune” the story so it all works together, hopefully resulting in resonance (on a smaller scale) and synergy (on a whole) when all is said and done. I don’t always succeed, though I always try to.
Synergy on a Broader Scale
Even with long stories, everything contributes to creating synergy: the characters, settings, themes, events, etc. I think the more words you put into a story, the harder it gets to practice this consistently. (It takes a lot of thought!) I don’t think I could explain how it happens on a whole on the scale of a novel, but choosing the right words seems to play a big role in helping to link all these elements together.
So that’s what I’m learning how to do. I hope that makes sense.
Do you try to accomplish the same or a similar kind of thing in your stories?
If so, how do you go about it?