March 14th, 2017


Writing Excuses 12.11: Diction

Writing Excuses 12.11: Diction


Key points: Diction, word choice, how do you pick the right word? Don't try too hard while you are writing. Fix it in revision. What does this sentence mean, why is it here? Make it more specific. Don't go overboard! Make sure you use the word with the right meaning. Keep a list. Watch for terminology. Think about simplicity versus more specificity. What's important for the character? Don't let the experts bury you. Lyrical, easy to say out loud. Watch emphasis! Unintentional alliteration and rhymes can make it hard to read. Is your style transparent, windowpane prose, or something more stylized? [Bracket] overused words to help with revision. Limit your favorite phrases. Use text-to-speech to listen to your prose.

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[Brandon] Now I will say that we're doing an entire podcast coming up later this month on how to write beautiful prose. So I'm going to cap this session here. I'm going to let Mary give us some homework on diction.
[Mary] Right. So, what we've been talking about is how to choose the right word, and the area of intention, and all of these things. So what I'm going to ask you to do is to take something that you have recently written and go through… We're just going to look at dialogue on this one, just to make it easy on you. I say easy. Mwahaha. As an exercise, what I want you to do is, I want you to replace all of the dialogue, and you're not allowed to use any of the existing words in those sentences. This is to force you to think about what these sentences actually mean. I will grant you that you are allowed to use the articles and the prepositions, but no verbs, no nouns. The only ones that I'm going to allow you are like names or a MacGuffin that is very specific to that world. Otherwise, I want you to replace every single word and get deep into why you are picking that word.
[Mary Anne] Can I just add one more quick exercise?
[Brandon] Yes. Go for it.
[Mary Anne] My students love this one. It's so frustrating. You write a scene in sentences that are all seven words or less. Then you write the same scene in one long sentence. It's really good for making you think about sentence structure. It's super frustrating trying to write in seven words or less sentences. Which is good for you.
[Brandon] Okay. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.