Last week I talked about the pros of using short and simple words in writing.  It tends to keep prose clear, concise, and on track; good aims generally.  I do however think a hard-line fundamentalist view can limit your options for language. 

The wonder of English, after all comes from a fairly simple syntax with a huge well of vocabulary.  There is great joy in dipping into that well.  Fancy words, slang words, old fashioned words:  each can serve to add texture or heighten effects in writing. 

Clear is good, especially if you want a fast pace but what if you want a more leisurely pace?  Maybe you can get the reader engaged in the nuances of different words and phrases.  A glass window might be clear because you can see through it but a clear person and a transparent person are two different things.  An opaque window means you can’t see through it but if a person is opaque it might mean a number of different things. 

Adverbs are reviled by many writers as weak but sometimes you might want a man to breathe heavily rather than pant.  We tend to use adverbs naturally when we speak so if you really like them you can hide them in dialogue.

  Dream-like or fantastical pieces almost need lyrical, florid words to paint the right picture.  Poe and Lovecraft were going for radically different effects than Hemingway and London and the word choice reflects that. 

The danger, of course, is when you’re at your desk weaving what you’re sure is a rich and vibrant tapestry when, in fact, you’re stirring up a big plate of hash.  This is where feedback from a writers group can come in handy.  It’s okay if they’re diplomatic as long as they’re honest ( ‘dense’ and ‘a lot to chew on’ are code for ‘cut this beast down’ ).  But hey, as long as you’ll have the nerve to cut it down later if it needs it, don’t be afraid to strike out into labyrinthine passages of purple prose, rife with tangled description and resplendent in lyrical glory.  Why learn all those words if you’re never gonna use ’em, eh?

I Need Help With My Breasts (NSFW?)

Writer #1:  If you ask me, word choice is everything.

Writer #2:  You couldn’t be more wrong.  Diction is everything.


So I’m writing what may or may not be a love scene.  There’s definitely a good looking young woman with no clothes on.  There’s definitely a young man admiring this young lady and her nakedness.  But halfway through I’ve encountered a rare problem:  too many breasts.  If it was first person from this randy young fellow’s perspective I could just use any slang a teenager would use seeing his first live and in-person ta-ta’s.  But no, it’s a third person narrative so I’m just writing breasts over and over again.   Too poetic (milky swell of womanhood, say) isn’t right, the kid’s not that slick.  Heaving bosoms are right out.  She’s not even wearing a bodice to rip.  Boobies is always fun but it’s a little too juvinile even for my young lovers.  I personally don’t have a problem with titties but it has just a hint of X-rated that doesn’t feel right on the page.  But breast just feels so…boring.  It’s what most people say when they’re too shy to say knockers.  It’s almost clinical really, just short of mammaries.  How many breasts can a paragraph have before it starts to sound redundant?  Why can’t the kid at least try to look somewhere else?  I mean they’re nice knockers but come on.  She could put on a shirt or something too.  She knows the dude is checking out her chi-chi’s.  Damn teenagers anyway. Show some restraint. 

Hooters.  Rack.  Naughty Pillows.

Maybe I can just get ’em a room.