Those Pesky Words

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Writers often “see” a scene long before it’s written. There’s where the problem lies. It happens to me all the time! Unfortunately, my vocabulary falls laughably short of my imagination’s ability to frame action. Often, my frustration manifests like this:

Billy pointed the gun and yelled, “Don’t make me use this!”

* Nope*

Billy’s shaky hand lifted the pistol and aimed at the officer. “Don’t make me do it, man,” he yelled.

*Blah!*

Before Officer O’Maly could react, Billy trained the Glock sites square at his forehead. “Don’t make me shoot you,” Billy shouted.

*ARGH!!*

You see what I’m sayin’? I can see this intense scene from half a dozen differing angles, but I struggle to find the right words to make you–the reader–feel the emotional suspense! This kid is pointing his gun at an office, ready to squeeze the trigger. The challenge is conveying that moment.

The less-is-more rule works in many different scenarios, but there are times when you need that perfect combination of colorful adjectives and adverbs to bring a scene to life. I don’t necessarily believe your words have to be intellectually gigantic, but they should be chosen in a manner that will draw your audience into the fray of the action. A lot of times, I’ll keep my scene building short and sweet before returning later to bulk it up. That first strike-out up yonder is a good example. It was short, sweet and boring.  But, for me as the writer, I needed that as a starting point.

Don’t be afraid to write skimpy sentences. Hey, that’s what drafts are for. Write those thin lines to get that story moving. You can always fight with pesky words to fatten up the scene description later. Just remember not to go overboard with the descriptors. There is nothing worse than this:

Billy’s sweaty, shaky left palm tightly clamped the polymer beaded grip of the Glock 19 Gen 4 pistol. He slowly raised the cold steel barrel toward officer O’Maly’s receding hairline temple, before the policeman could adequately react. Sternly, Billy pronounced, “Don’t you make me blow you away, cop!”

*REALLY?!!!*

Those pesky words, I tell ya. Use with caution, but keep on writin’ Wordsmiths.

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