Tuesday, March 21, 2017

On Modifiers, or Specificity vs Not

I'm something of a word nerd. I love the cadence and flow of certain words, I love the writerly act of choosing the exact right word to convey what I mean, I love learning new words. Depending on a single word I can create a cheerful image:
The bright yellow curtains

Or a mournful image:
The faded yellow curtains

Or a shocking image:
The fluorescent yellow curtains

And that image will (hopefully) stay with the reader as she delves into my story.

Or, I might choose to simple say the yellow curtains and leave the reader to fill in the blanks depending on the rest of the story, and depending on how important those curtains will be in creating a setting.

In my last blog I mentioned the podcasts I enjoy, particularly as a fan and writer of speculative fiction. Today, I have two specific episodes that I recommend for all writers, not just those of us in genre fiction.

Last week while I schlepped about, these two episodes happened to play back to back and I think they actually fit together. Both cover the theme of words and how words are absorbed. As writers, words are our tools, the medium by which we share our art. Episode 12.11 of Writing Excuses covers the how of words: when to be specific, when to generalize, when to use modifiers and which ones. Episode #64 of Hidden Brain digs into the why of words: what happens to our brains when we listen to someone speak and why we are influenced by what others think and say.

Of course, when we write our first drafts we should focus on getting the story down on paper. As we head towards revisions, either with a chainsaw or a chisel, it's important to focus on word choice, including modifiers and when to use them. 

Give these two podcasts a listen. And let me know whether you, too, are a word nerd and what you think of modifiers.

Writing Excuses #12.11: Diction

Hidden Brain #53: I'm Right, You're Wrong

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of modifiers - well, I like beautiful, descriptive writing. I sort of think that the writing industry has taken the "minimum number of words" thing too far, out of desire to prevent overwriting and keep the fiction assembly line going: there's plenty of room in good writing for a lot of words.