Have you heard the following joke about writing?
A writer receives a response in the mail from a publisher: Dear Writer, We really like the words you used in your novel. We were just wondering if you could put them in a different order? Thank you.
Not exactly the kind of letter or revision request we'd like to receive!
Word, Words, Words
Isn't it amazing that all writers have at their disposal the exact same words in the dictionary, yet there is an incredible variety of stories written? They differ in entire structures, tones, and details, down to slight nuances. Even two works using basically the SAME words, strung together differently, can have a totally different effect. I find that fascinating.
Word choice and vocabulary. As a writer, you'd choose very different words for a middle grade novel than you would for a picture book, an adult novel, or even a YA novel. Also, certain words just by their syllables and consonants can create varying moods or "sounds."
Tone and structure. How you string your words and vocabulary together into sentences and phrasings makes a BIG difference in the overall effect. Shorter sentences can indicate a younger audience--or a quicker, tense pace. Just by how you arrange your words, you can sound:
Can You Match the Excerpts to the Books?
Consider the following excerpts--their words/vocabulary, tone, structure, and phrasing. All these things come together to make a certain voice, an overall mood or effect (even at a single sentence level). Can you match them to the book they come from?
1. Slowly at first, but with ever-increasing confidence, she launched into a detailed and generally insightful compendium of his group's shortcomings.
2. Now he and his sister were looking at my brothers and me like we were aliens just landed green and mean in their backyard.
3. We are blind to continuity, all breaks down, falls, melts, stops, rots, or runs away.
4. How could he dare to disagree without casting doubt upon himself?
5. Nameless forebodings crept upon him as he sat there in the dark: He tried to resist them, push them away, yet they came at him relentlessly.
A. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by JK Rowling
B. STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE EMPIRE by Timothy Zahn
C. SAVVY by Ingrid Law
D. THE DOCTOR'S LADY by Jody Hedlund
E. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury
Have you ever shuffled your words around in your writing and discovered it sounded totally different, even with roughly the SAME words?
Have critiquers ever said your main character sounded older or younger than you intended? Do you think that's partly due to how your words were presented or arranged?
How did you do on the matching quiz? The answers used to be located below my awards, but I'll move them here now that the week is over: 1B, 2C, 3E, 4D, 5A.