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.
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.