Saturday, January 13, 2018

Flavoring—The Difference Word Choice Can Make

Flowery prose fell out of favor long ago; it's way too sweet. And what are commonly called ten-dollar words are often inadvisable; they're way too heavy. Attempting to capture the attention of readers today with either ploy is more likely to yank them from a story before it’s hardly begun.

Spice It Up a Little—The Difference Word Choice Can Make
Ensuring word choices have enough flavor, however, makes sense. And one more round of self-editing to add more flavor to words or phrases more bland than they need to be can do the trick. 

Does Anise give her seat to an elderly woman on the bus? Maybe she can relinquish the space instead, if she'd been inclined to hold on to it at first.

Does Dunkin’s date walk across a room when she spots him waiting for her? Perhaps she glides or sashays—depending on her grace or attitude, of course.

Do the children in the church choir know the words of their song? Maybe they’ve memorized the lyrics.

Did the boss tell everyone at the office he was retiring? Or did he announce his intention?

Those alternative words and phrases still might not be the best choices, but you get the point.

Here’s an exercise for you: Open the book you’re currently reading and peruse the first few paragraphs. Do any words or phrases seem too bland or downright flat to you than necessary? If so, what words or phrases would you substitute?

This idea is not meant to criticize any author, and often the more straightforward and simple word choice is best. But sometimes a little more flavoring in the words chosen can push a book’s interest factor up a notch, right from the beginning.

Now, what word or phrase substitutions would you suggest for what I just wrote? Go ahead. Tell us. I won’t be offended!

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries 
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren, with foster grandchildren in their lives on a regular basis.

photo credit:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Authentic Contradictions

Michael Hauge is a Hollywood script consultant whose plot workshop several of us attended at the ACFW conference in Indy a few years ago. He's a keen observer of what animates characters in books and movies, as well as real life, and he made this comment in his Christmas e-mail greeting:
...All those people cramming the malls and clogging the freeways and jostling onto airplanes and enduring long lines so their kids can talk to Santa are doing so in order to bring a bit of happiness to others...Their actions are all driven by a desire to offer someone else a sign of their love or affection or gratitude.
As Michael notes, our holiday actions speak more ardently than our words. We tell our friends and family how much we love them, but we make it even clearer when we brave those crowds at the mall.

On the other hand, holiday stress may cause us to act contrary to our motives. While we want to do something special for those we love, we groan at the thought of elbowing through crowds to buy gifts for them. Nerves fray. Patience fails. Emotional outbursts flare.

Just before Christmas, I overheard a woman criticizing her husband with venomous sarcasm because they had waited so long in a supermarket checkout lane. She stormed out in a fit of pique, her partner following meekly behind, and they abandoned a cart full of groceries selected for their holiday feast. Her actions contradicted her motives.

"Contradiction is character," says New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik. Be mindful of such contradictions as you write. Complex persons (i.e., authentic ones) often do just the opposite of what they intend.

Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.