Jennifer Hillier

The words get in the way

Aug 3, 2009 | Uncategorized

I’m trying to expand my vocabulary.

I suspect my range of words is shamefully limited.  And I don’t think it’s improved much in the past couple of years, mainly because I write the way I speak.  I have a very conversational writing style – which works mighty well for blogging and non-fiction – but since I tend not to drop big words into my real-life conversations, I don’t do it much in my work.

But I often worry my conversational style is too informal to be taken seriously.  I once read a scathing review for a novel where the writer allegedly used only “simple” words – and the critic didn’t mean this in a good way.  And it wasn’t a young adult novel or a book written by a mentally challenged person.  Like, ow, dude!  I’d die if someone said my work was “simple”.  It’d be hard not to take that personally.

However, there’s got to be a fine line between sounding smart and sounding pretentious.  Nobody likes reading stuff that requires a dictionary.

So I made a list of words that I’m determined to somehow use in my current novel, Magnolia.  No idea if this is possible, but I’m going to try.  Here we go.

Jenny’s List Of Cool, Writerly Words Intended To Make Me Seem Smart:

Now, I have no doubt that all of you are familiar with these words and can define every single one of them if I asked you to, and use them properly in a sentence.  So can I, and that’s not my point here.  The point is try to incorporate these words into a fictional story in a way that sounds natural, either for the purposes of narrative or dialogue.  And that’s not so easy for me to do. I mean, when’s the last you said the word hyperbole out loud? Me?  Never.  And while the word proselytize sounds comfortable to my ears, I can’t recall a time when I’ve actually used it in conversation.

If you have any more cool, writerly words to add to my list – and they must be reasonable, not words that only a doctor, scientist, or lawyer would know – then please let me know.  Not saying I’m going to use them (they have to work in the story), but trying to make them work would be a worthy exercise.

Challenge me!