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2016/09/25

How to Write: Week 20: Using Stronger Words: Sunday (Method)

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    What’s the difference between big and enormous?  Which feels weightier?  Which feels more alive?  There is no answer - only your relative experience.
    You are writing to stay alive so your writing must reflect that.  You don’t have to use complicated words to convey life - you only need the truest ones.
    What feels more alive: his muscles rippled under his shirt; or his muscles were going to burst his shirt at the seams?
    You perceive things as they are most of the time.  Sometimes you might lack the strongest, most accurate words to describe that perception.
    Word strength is not as much about sophistication as it is about specificity.  If a cat is small, then a mouse would be tiny, a flea would be minuscule, a cell would be infinitesimal.  A cell would also be unable to bee seen by the naked eye.
    Synonyms are important, so are antonyms.  You can catch different shades of meanings of words to find the right words for your expression to bring it to fruition.  The dictionary and thesaurus are your friends as a writer.
    Word strength is also a matter of how a particular word affects your audience.  If you are writing to a Jewish audience the word “Nazi” is going to have a stronger effect than “bad guy.”  Whether you want that effect is up to you, but there is always a spectrum of effect.
    Different shades of meaning mean different grades on that spectrum.  Consider your audience, consider what kind of effect you want and bring the words that most enliven that experience them.
    The only real limits to this might be offending people with grievous use of symbology which hurts people.  That is not to say corral your expression.  No.  Express however you need to, but there are limits in what you show people and if something you show might hurt them, don’t.
 
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Azriel Johnson is an inkspatter analyst by day and a serial writer by night. He runs a small, not money losing publishing press and a weekly open mic with monthly features called Writing Knights Press.

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