Adventures in Diction!

Sometimes, finding the right word can make or break an entire story. I like to think that I scrutinize each word in a story to make sure it is what is referred to in the Pokemon universe as SUPER EFFECTIVE!!!!!!!! Like when you use a water pokemon against a fire-type… but, of course, with words. Maybe I don’t, though. Use super-effective words. Sometimes I get very involved in the story, so the words simply get jumbled. That’s why editing is important. That’s why we spend months combing through sentences to make them work better.

While editing that novel I keep talking about (yes, it’s real), I came across the following conversation:

      “Honestly, I don’t find anything attractive about smearing s**t all over your body.”

“Sebastian, its mud, not s**t. And what I do not find attractive is this pervading stench. Did a rat die or something in here?”

The huge problem with the following is that I used the wrong word. It’s not that the word doesn’t make sense or is not something I’d write, but rather, it’s not something a certain character would say. The speaker in the second line is a woman named Elaine, a crude sex addict who is also Sebastian’s landlady. She walks into his apartment where he has been keeping the decapitated head of a dead hooker. Although she is very knowledable about things such as a.) sex b.) Nazi history, she would probably never use the word “pervading.” The sentence is clunky.

So I changed “pervading” to “f***ing” because it was much more appropriate. I know what you’re thinking: Derek, that raises your F-word meter to 53. So, diction is a funny thing. Sometimes, maybe it’s not finding the most obscure word possible to describe something. Maybe it’s just about finding the right word.

Especially, if that word happens to start with an F.

Like… Fettuccine.

Quote of the Day: “Because when you’re nobody, you can be anybody.”

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on June 17, 2011, in novel, Word Salad, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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