Friday, October 19, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

     When Do the Words Work?

As I proceed through the edits for my WIP I am encountering a common question for myself: When do the words work, and when do they get in the way? Due to my love of whimsical and quirky words I tend to use a lot of them in my writing. However, if I am noticing the words alone, and not the story, that's a problem! As a writer, making great word choices is essential; it is no less important than the colors of paint an artist chooses to cover her canvas. That being said, I want to draw readers in, not keep them out by putting up walls with my choice of words. I remember my mentor (Carolyn Rose) saying, in one of my creative writing courses, "Do you want the reader to love your story, or do you want them to notice the wonderful way you write?" I could reply they should be the same. However, we've all read books where we marvel at the author's word choices - but did we love the story too? I know that I have read many books where the words were like stumbling blocks to me - even in a children's book! In the end, I am trying to use quirky and challenging words judiciously, like a good seasoning. (A little salt is great, but too much and the dish is ruined!)

The other part of this dilemma is that as a writer for middle grade readers, I am constantly reminded that the vocabulary cannot be too adult. I must confess that if I challenge the reader a bit, I see this as a good thing. I love learning new words, and I'm betting that young avid readers do too! (However, agents & editors may not agree. ^_^) I am drawn to books such as: The Mysterious Benedict Society - by Trent Lee Stewart, The Miraculous Mechanisms - by Lissa Evans, and Wildwood - by Colin Meloy. All of these middle grade books use a multitude if whimsical and challenging words. Wish me luck!

Have you ever read a book and felt like the words got in the way?

6 comments:

  1. I have read a book where the words got in the way. Many times it felt as if the author was on stage performing before us. Sometimes it was just a word or two that felt awkward.

    I have had crit partners call me on words they didn't think quite right in my manuscripts. Sometimes I can see their point. Some times I think "are you crazy? That's a brilliant word right there" But then I have to wonder what the reader sees. If it stands out, or if it fits the story.

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    1. Thanks, Sara. In the end, we as writers must make the final call. However, each person's vocabulary varies, so what sounds great to me, might not sound great to you. That's why we need beta readers and editors. Have a great weekend!

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  2. Words should flow out of your voice, no? If you're changing too many at a low level, then perhaps the real issue is at a higher level. Can your lovely prose grow out of your beautiful story?

    I am currently reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf. It's taking me a while to acclimate to her prose. The question is whether or not it will click, and how long that may take. Right now it seems tedious. Who knows, though? For someone else it may flow.

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    1. I agree, word choice flows from voice. My voice, as a narrator, has been called too adult. But I love writing for middle grade readers! A dilemma. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. Good Luck, Victoria. I feel the same way about rich vocabulary. Sometimes I feel constrained by writing for middle grade, and then a read a really fabulous MG book that has a rich vocabulary and think "Go for it!" I think the danger is always if the words call attention to themselves instead of focusing attention on the story or character. Then it can get precarious.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. You described the dilemma perfectly!

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