Thursday, April 2, 2015

Throw Away That Thesaurus!

Good morning, everyone! Audra here!

When was the last time you were in the middle of telling your friends how you survived your family vacation and stopped mid-sentence to try to find a bigger, better word to embellish the story?


How about describing your last shopping adventure where you found the cutest pair of shoes only to keep your friends in suspense while you thought of the perfect color match?


Maybe keeping the boss waiting while you think of the exact way to describe the traffic jam that made you an hour late to work?

Unless you want to lose or irritate your audience, you probably don’t leave them hanging while you find just the right word.

So why do we think we need to improve, embellish, make use of seven-syllable words in our writing?

The correct answer is: Don't

When we write books, what are we doing? We’re telling (oops, sorry) – we’re showing stories. The best part of story creation is tumbling it around in your head and off your fingers, creating an adventure only you can tell. You've got an massage it around, adding bit and pieces of new information and characters until it takes on a life of its own. It’s a story that uses your imagination, your gift for the dramatic or comedic, your style of expression. It’s a story that sounds like YOU.

When you pick up a thesaurus or click on thesaurus dot com, you’ve thrown a wrench into your masterpiece by introducing a word or words that aren’t normally on your radar. Think about it. Everything you’ve assembled on the page came from your imagination – a product of your experience and voice. The minute you introduce a word you needed to mine from another source, you’ve sent a ripple into the novel-writing space-time continuum. There’s nothing worse than plucking a word from a list of words claiming to be synonymous with the word in your head. Why look for a substitute when you have the real thing already?

I know I’ve mentioned this before, I love judging unpubbed contests. The new, fresh ideas splashed across pages depicting stories – some good, some not quite my cup o’ tea – with excitement and pride. Wow, there are times I still write like that, LOL. I find the stories I like the most are pretty much stream of consciousness writing. The author has listened to their inner voice and followed his or her heart into a plot filled with complexity, emotion and uncertain outcome.

Oh my. I’m there; I with it. I’m rooting for whatever character happened to catch my interest, and then all of a sudden, the wild ride stops because my brain got snagged on one out of place word.

One word.

C'mon, really? Did you have look long and hard to come up with that complicated embellishment? Don't think the reader doesn't notice...we do.

It’s long been said that popular fiction is written at a fourth grade level. There’s nothing wrong with that. We want our audience to understand what we’re saying and enjoy the story ride without having to reach for a dictionary every ten or twelve words. That’s not to say we can’t have characters with extensive vocabularies. Do it well, and your readership might pick up new phrase or two. But for the most part, readers of romantic fiction want "Calgon to take them away." They read for the pure essence of the world presented them.

I'm not saying there isn't a place for a thesaurus. I have a well-worn volume sitting next to my keyboard. But, I only use it when the word I want is just beyond my grasp. I know the word I want...I just can't think of it. There's a big difference between knowing what you want and wanting what you know to sound more sophisticated. Don't fall down that rabbit hole! Don't look for words you probably wouldn’t use on your own.  Chances are, unless you incorporate this newly-searched-for word properly, it will probably stick out like a sore thumb. There is a time and place to use a thesaurus, just make sure you know what the word you’re substituting means and that it will work in the context of your story.

Lately, I’ve been recruited to read scholarship essays written by high school seniors hoping to find as much money as possible to fund their college education. These essays are as interesting to read as contest entries. I love how the kids take a topic and make it their own. Mostly, I find sentence structure issues or the overuse of “vanilla” adjectives, common issues we all struggle with. BUT, nothing catches my attention faster than a word that looks like it can be exchanged for another…incorrectly. The writer must remember that the words we find in a thesaurus are SIMILAR to our original word choice, but the ultimate meaning may skew the intent of your passage.

What all this boils down to is identifying and staying true to your voice. When you don’t write with your own words, you’re - in a way - cheating your readership, sending them into the pages of word substitutes that may sound sophisticated, but possibly falling short of the reading experience they're expecting.  

You've worked hard to earn the loyalty of your readership. Don't let them down.

So, tell me, how do you jog your memory for that one certain word that might evade you? Do you break down and turn to the thesaurus (yes, I've been know to do that) or do you have other creative ways to say what you want to say without synonymous prompts?? Please share, we can all benefit from each other's creativity!!

March is over which means we're all holding works of literary brilliance on the hard drive of our computers from our month of Speedbo, right? As we carve out moments to revise our work into shape, I'm offering two chances to win a copy of Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Revisions. If you missed Cathy's visit to Seekerville earlier in March, check it out here.


Vince said...

Salutations Audra:

A thesaurus is not just for finding highfalutin words that make you seem more intelligent than you are. For example:

A thesaurus can help you find a less Latinate word which is more apropos for the scene than was the word you'd normally use in your own speech. I guess this would be an example of being lowfalutin or slumming.

A thesaurus can help you find similar words that suggest different ways to express the same idea. This is not a case of going after a one-for-one substitute word but rather creating a different mode of expression altogether.

A thesaurus can help in giving a character a subliminal distinctive dialogue patter or leitmotif as when the character uses color expressions. For example: 'I'm feeling blue', 'he's yellow', 'I'm in the pink', 'It's not black and white', and 'all I see are shades of gray.'

A thesaurus can help when you are trying to put a sparkle in your style as when you want to use alteration but can think of good common word that begins with the letter you need. You know how to use the words but you just can't think of them at the moment.

A thesaurus can also help when you want to have a character misuse a word that was impropertly selected from a thesaurus which while similiar is inappropriate for the given context.

If I had a thesaurus right now I think I could come up with some more cases but it's time to go to bed. : )


Marianne Barkman said...

Good morning, Audra...yep, i don't like not being able to tell what a word means from its context, or seeing a word that doesn't belong. Of course, that only happens to authors who don't asso with Seekerville. Yeah for SpeedBo!

Mary Preston said...

I do like to have my thesaurus nearby when attempting a tricky crossword puzzle.

Mary Cline said...

Hi Audra,
When I want to remember something be it a word or someones name or a place I start going through the alphabet in my head. If it doesn't work the first time through I go through again and add a,e,i,o, or u and all of their permutations to each letter and eventually I think of it. Or not.

Keli Gwyn said...

I applaud you for taking a stand, Audra. You've made some valid points. Slipping fifty-cent words into our stories simply to sound more erudite when five-cent words would do just fine is silly.

That said, the thesaurus is my friend. As a writer of historicals, I often search for words with a more dated feel than the modern terms that first come to mind. I use the thesaurus to help me avoid repetition, too. Sometimes I use it because I don't want to say things the same old way. Other times I use it because the word that comes to mind might be close to what I'm after, but I'm sure I can find one that does a better job fine-tuning my meaning.

Time to take my fuzzy-headed self to bed and get some sleep, slumber, Zzz's. (Sorry. Couldn't resist. =)

P.S. No thesaurus was used in the writing of this comment.

Bettie said...

Hi. I was the winner of Rock your revisions during March so I don't need to win today. Thanks anyway. I like your post since I already try to avoid over using the thesaurus. However, I do find it helpful when editing for over use of a word in a paragraph.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Morning, Audra!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Keli, I do that too, or I just steal phrases from Mary Connealy and plug them in.

Come on, you know that's easier!!!!


I do use a thesaurus because I tend to be repetitive. And I don't see that repetitive tendency or word-grab from book to book... I need to then examine what I've done and vary things. Editors are great at catching that!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I find a thesaurus helps me when I want a particular word and I can't remember what it is, lol.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary Cline! I do the alphabet thing too!!

Tina Radcliffe said...


Barbara Scott said...

Guilty as charged. But I only use a thesaurus to avoid repetition and find the old-fashioned word to make my historical writing authentic. Great points though, Audra. As an editor, I could always spot a fifty-cent word that came straight out of a thesaurus to impress me.

Rose said...


I so agree. As a reader, if I have to stop and look up the pronunciation or meaning of a word it diminishes the story for me.

However, as a writer, I've had to rely on my Thesaurus when I've used the same word several times on the page. Then I look for another word that fits in my story -nothing long or exotic or relativity unknown though.

kaybee said...

Thanks, Audra. I pretty much use the words I know, unless it's a technical term or an historical word, phrase or usage. If I'm stuck on a word I do the best I can, flag it and try to improve it in the rewrite. My issue is weeding out contemporary-sounding words, phrases and concepts, since I currently write historicals. Fortunately, contest judges and my crit partner are on top of that!

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Seekerville!
Good morning, Vince! Wow, for a late-night kinda guy, you know how to take a stand! LOL. You make valid points and ultimately assure me, you know how to use your thesaurus.

Thank you!

I concede, the thesaurus is a very useful tool when used in the proper fashion. You, my dear sir, seem to have very firm grip on usage!!

Way to go, Vince!

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Marianne!

Audra Harders said...

Mary Preston, crossword puzzles are whole 'nuther animal, LOL!

Audra Harders said...

Mary Cline, cool method to jog the ol' memory! There are times I'll hit that proverbial blank wall while trying to find just the right words to use to convey my thoughts, emotions.

I hate blank. I'll try posting letters on it next time and see where that leads me.

Thanks for the tip!

Audra Harders said...

Keli, I hope you enjoyed some great ZZZs, my friend!!! Is that found in a thesaurus???

Writing historical takes a special breed of resources. So, you find using a thesaurus helps you with historical terms? Do you use a special edition?

When I work on my Victorian stories, I have such a difficult time coming up with alternate words. Maybe it's the British setting? Anyway, I have to turn to research books for help there.

I find I need my words and phrases grounded in a context that relates to the time and setting. My old Roget doesn't help me there.

Keli, please share your methods!!!!

Audra Harders said...

Bettie, I agree with you! I tend to get repetitive with my favorite words : )

EDITING with a thesaurus by your side is a good thing. It's the whole creative process that tends to trip people up.

I hope you're enjoying Rock Your Revisions!!!

Audra Harders said...

Mornin' Ruthy.

Repetitive words are a pain, aren't they? Hmm, stealing from Mary Connealy? Does she know?

Audra Harders said...

LOL, Tina. I do the same thing! When I can't find the word I want, I dance all through the thesaurus until I find it.

Now THAT'S the way to use that book!!!

Audra Harders said...

OMG, Barbara. As I read through the various senior essays, I was amazed at the fifty cent words sprinkled in.

Don't get me wrong, a thesaurus is wonderful tool when used properly. It's sad when kids think they've found a great sounding word and insert it for punch, but don't look it up in a dictionary to see if it truly fits.


Audra Harders said...

Rose, amen to that!!

Audra Harders said...

KB, God bless good crit partners!

Okay, so as far as historical writing goes, do you use any special version of thesaurus? This is such a good and valid point. Finding words with historical roots poses different problems and probably opens up a different crossword puzzle if we're not careful : ).

Sarah Claucherty said...

So many great tips from y'all! I tend to use a thesaurus more in editing and revising.

Debby Giusti said...

Great blog, Audra.

Love the pretty pics too.

I have a dictionary on my laptop that helps me ensure I have the correct word. Sometimes the actual meaning doesn't fit the way I'm using the word.

But I haven't used my Thesaurus in quite some time.

Myra Johnson said...


Sorry, Audra, but you will not separate me from my thesaurus! I use it constantly throughout my writing day.

True, many times I'm searching for that elusive word I know I want but just can't think of.

Other times I need something more accurate than "walked" or "looked" or other blah verb.

If I do purposely choose an unfamiliar term, it's usually in a character's dialogue and reveals something specific about that person. Often another character will say, "Huh????" So the speaker then has to come down off his high horse and explain himself. For me, that's a fun way to keep dialogue interesting.

But I do agree that using "big words" just to sound more literate is a mistake. Make it real. Make it accessible. Always choose wisely.

Myra Johnson said...

BTW, I LOVE the word erudite!

I enjoy sounding erudite, too!

Probably because of Grammar Queen's influence.

Bettie said...

Thanks. I am. Though I've been trying to write this past month.....

Deanna Stevens said...

I do look up meaning of words, google is my reader go to...
That's funny Ruth.. at least you give Mary Connealy credit for her help :)

kaybee said...

I have enough trouble remembering the words I do know and have to search for words in normal conversation! I often rely on substitute words like "thingy."

Kav said...

Hmmmmm....interesting angle on using (or not) a thesaurus. I keep one handy when I find I'm using the same word too many times. Very helpful when writing reviews too. Need to find new ways to say 'love it' or 'suspenseful'. But you're right, just because you find a synonym for a word doesn't mean it will actually fit in the sentence. Sometimes it can totally change the meaning.

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, Auds ... sure didn't need my caffeine today ... your header title kick-started my heart just fine ...

DITCH THE THESAURUS???!!! There's no website I frequent more in a year than my trusty One Look Reverse Dictionary, so your blog reallllly opened the old (and I do mean "old") eyeballs right on up.

But then I read the blog, and you make some really excellent points:

1.) You said: "Whatever character happened to catch my interest, and then all of a sudden, the wild ride stops because my brain got snagged on one out of place word."

YES, YES, YES, AND YES!! This has happened to me more times than I can count, and I totally agree!! But I'm thinkin'I'd rather ditch those ten-cent words rather than my trusty thesaurus, but maybe I'm addicted ...

2.) You also said: "But for the most part, readers of romantic fiction want "Calgon to take them away." They read for the pure essence of the world presented them."

I couldn't agree with you more on this, something I've learned well about the romance market, where complicated stories and plots with lots of gut-wrenching (and word-wrenching) emotions don't always appeal to the masses. And I totally concur on this point.

3.) You said: "The writer must remember that the words we find in a thesaurus are SIMILAR to our original word choice, but the ultimate meaning may skew the intent of your passage."

You nailed this to the wall, my friend. When my original word doesn't do it for me emotionally, I trail down the list in my Reverse Dictionary, substituting it with each word before one rings my chimes loud and clear, nailing the exact emotion I'm trying to convey.

But ... there have been times when I've been tempted to go with the ten-cent words that really resonate with me, but my hubby will screech to a dead stop when he reads them in my ms. So I have learned to "tone it down" for the comfort level of the reader, who IS, after all, reading for enjoyment, so let's not give him or her a vocabulary quiz!!

Anyway, you sure got my blood going this mornin', darlin', with this convo, so I'm anxious to see where most people stand on this. Gotta feeling it's on your side of the thesaurus! ;)

Hugs and more hugs,

Julie Lessman said...

Whoops ... forgot one:

You said: "What all this boils down to is identifying and staying true to your voice."

This is pretty much the bottom line and the core truth of your blog, my friend, and I applaud you for tackling it in an unconventional way.

Any post that generate this much passion in me is a keeper as far as I'm concerned, so you better believe I'm going to be ditching something -- those ten-cent words if not my thesaurus! ;)


Vince said...

Hi Tina:

You wrote:

“I find a thesaurus helps me when I want a particular word and I can't remember what it is, lol.”

Isn’t it odd that we can’t remember a word but if someone reminds us of the word, we are able to say that it was definitely the word we couldn’t remember?

If we didn’t know what the word was then, how can we say this word is the word that we couldn’t remember back then?

After all we didn’t know what the word was then. Maybe the brain does not remember words per se but rather remembers the context in which the words can be used.

We remember the context. A thesaurus can show us words for which we do not have a context. That’s what makes those words so dangerous. It’s like getting an unknown tool out of a toolbox without really knowing how it is supposed to be used to do a job.

That’s not a good idea – especially with power tools!

So much for the fun. Now back to doing taxes. : (

Connie Queen said...

I love this! It's frustrating to be taken out of a story and the reader knows how you came up w/that word.

I do occasionally use a thesaurus because my brain freezes and I can't think of any good words. The older I get, the more often I feel the chill coming on.

Missy Tippens said...

Howdy, Audra! Fun post.

I most often use my Thesaurus, like you said, when words are on the tip of my tongue (I'm thinking it might have something to do with age). :)

I also use it when I've been repeating words and need to change it up a bit.

Vince said...

Given inflation since the time that ‘fifty-cent’ words were first minted, they now actually function as does good old one syllable Anglo-Saxon vernacular.

Erica Vetsch said...

Good morning, Audra!

What if you find that your natural voice and vocabulary are...high-falutin' without the use of a thesaurus? My editors and readers have told me they've had to look up words upon occasion, but if it's the right word, and it's a word I use all the time, is it wrong?

Especially because I write historical fiction, a more antiquated vocabulary fits the story. And readers of Christian romance like to feel they are learning while they read...perhaps they feel it justifies reading fiction...and romantic fiction at that. :)

Jeanne T said...

Great post, Audra. I hadn't thought about Thesaurus' ability to change the sound of my voice. Great insight! I rarely use them. I confess, I use them when I can't quite remember the word in my head for conveying something. I also use it when I've got too many of one word in a short space and need to mix things up a bit.

If you have other suggestions for this, I'd love to hear them!

Terri said...

Morning Audra, I use my thesaurus to keep from being repetitive.

Keli Gwyn said...

Audra, I left a somewhat pithy comment on Ruthy's recent post (I have my moments), and because of it, she invited me to fill a guest spot in June when my first LIH releases. She's nice that way. =)

I'm thinking a post about Dabbling in Dated Language is something I could create. I'll share my strange and not-so-strange techniques for creating Old-Fashioned Speak then. I might even enlist the help of some historical authors you know and love.

Audra Harders said...

Sarah, glad to hear using a thesaurus doesn't get in the way of your creative thinking!!

Audra Harders said...

Good girl, Debby. I run to my online dictionary all the time. I hate to say it, but as I get older...I tend to add letters to words that have no business being there and inadvertently write the wrong word.

When I run the word that just plain looks wrong through the dictionary, my-my, I've had a few brow-raising moments, LOL!


Sheesh, one never know how a sentence might read at times...

Audra Harders said...

Myra, I rest assured GQ keeps you in line, LOL!

Audra Harders said...

Deanna, there are many things Ruthy pilfers from Mary that she just doesn't 'fess up to...

Audra Harders said...

Deanna, there are many things Ruthy pilfers from Mary that she just doesn't 'fess up to...

Audra Harders said...

KB, I like thingy : ) It's a friendly word : )

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Audra, I tell Mary when I steal.

That must make it less sinful, right?

DebH said...

Kaybee: spew moment with I often rely on substitute words like "thingy."
LOL. Personally, I go for "whatcha-ma-hoozy"

I use the thesaurus to weed out repetition. I always make sure of the definition of my substitute word though...

Ruthy It's not stealing from Mary, it's imitating success (the sincerest form of flattery). Wait - that sounds a bit too nice...

CatMom said...

Very interesting post, Audra! (*confession* I ALMOST used my thesaurus to find a substitute for the word "interesting" LOL).
You've made some very valid points today, so thank you. :)

I'm giggling at KAYBEE'S comment about using "thingy" - - I do that quite a bit, hehe.

Please enjoy the peach cobbler I'm baking - - took kitty to the Vet (check-up) and now rewarding myself with a cobbler *sigh*.
When it's done baking, help yourself!
Hugs, Patti Jo :)

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Audra! I agree, unless a complicated word is carefully supported by context and used correctly, the story sputters for me as a reader.

I'm enjoying studying through Rock Your Revisions right now. I called a break after the first section on content revisions, since that's where I'm at, then will pick up when I'm ready for line editing. I'm excited to get to that part. :)

Thanks for a great reminder to use our words and our thesauruses wisely!

Jeri Hoag said...

Thanks for the tip. It's a good thing I can't find my thesaurus and I don't use the computer one I like the paper. I'm hoping I can do my revisions from Speedbo and make it better.

Audra Harders said...

Julie, good to hear I really perked you up this morning, LOL!

I don't know about sides. I think folks are going to do what works best for them. The two points I really wanted to make though were:

Don't think thesaurus while your creativity is blooming, and

Don't use a word unless you know what it means -- don't assume!!

A thesaurus in the right hands is a powerful tool. In the wrong hands...

And YOU, dear Julie, are a master of manipulating and painting with words so take that for whatever it's worth!!!

Audra Harders said...

Connie Queen, I know that brain freeze well. No worries there!!

Audra Harders said...

Right on the tip of my tongue.

Yep. Been there; done that. Very frustrating.

I'm intrigued with the alphabet style Mary Cline mentioned. Hmmmm, gotta try that.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Vince, that sounds like a Reacher-ism!!!!

Meghan Carver said...

Confession: Some of my favorite books to read are the dictionary and the thesaurus. In college, I began highlighting all the words I looked up, actually thinking I would eventually read them all. Hmm, maybe there's still time? :-)

Eileen said...

This reprimand...uh...what is the word I want? Anyway, very timely as I am trying to take out the words I use too much and replace them with a new twist. I am all in for the book you're offering, but also, what is your advise for writers to repeat certain words too much.

Sandy Smith said...

I am with everyone who said they use the thesaurus to avoid repetition. I also need to use it to find new words to replace my boring ones. But I agree that looking up a fancier word is not going to help the writing.

I would love to win Rock Your Revisions. Please enter me in the drawing.

Vince said...


“Ruthy It's not stealing from Mary, it's imitating success (the sincerest form of flattery).”

If it is sincere, then is it still flattery? Isn’t that like saying something is real counterfeit money? DQ 10-20!


“I tell Mary when I steal.
That must make it less sinful, right?”

How can you steal something when the person still has it? Ask this of Saint Peter.

However, I think it’s just as sinful, only it’s more truthful. Perhaps the virtue of telling the truth will get you less time in Purgatory.

The real sin, however, is not stealing the best material. It would be an insult to bypass the diamonds and steal the zircons. (Assuming there are any zircons, of course.)


“Vince, that sounds like a Reacher-ism!!!!”

That’s because Reacher is a philosopher whether he knows it or not. He is a better cynic than were most ancient cynics. Their founder, Diogenes, lived in a barrel. “Happiness is not found in owning things.” Reacher is a perfect cynic in the original philosophical meaning of the word and not what it means today. T

That’s a novel idea for creating characters. Make the character represent a school of philosophy. With just this one decision you pretty much know how the character will react to almost anything. I like that.

But back to your original observation. It’s 50-50. Either it sounds like a Reacher-ism or it does not. : )

If it be not so, then I’m with Robert Browning in saying, "…a man's Reacher-isms should exceed his grasp."

Audra Harders said...

Erica, you just speak as high-falutin' as you'd like. Any gal who can play those red nail as you do...can do whatever they'd like : )

Vince said...


Sorry. I got my queens mixed up. I meant Grammar Queen, not Drama Queen. However, DQ is welcome to comment., too.

Cara Lynn James said...

Audra, I use a thesaurus and then I use a dictionary to find out if I really have the right word. Sometimes, I'm way off, so I absolutely need to look it up.

Unknown said...

I must be a newbie - I don't think I even have a thesaurus :) Of course, I've never gotten much past the first draft stage. Starting revisions now (and would love to win Rock Your Revisions, so please enter me) and I'm starting to see how useful one could be... but like anything, you can definitely overdo it. Great post, great things to think about.
Pam Jernigan

Audra Harders said...

Jeanne, too many words in a small space? Hmm, I've been there.

I let them set and simmer. Then during revisions, a thought might hit you. Seriously. I'll start reading along and suddenly the right word just inserts itself.

Good luck!!

Audra Harders said...

Atta girl, Terri!!

Audra Harders said...

Oh Keli!! I'm so looking forward to reading your words of wisdom!!

Finding historical words. Yes, I'm looking forward to your post!!

Audra Harders said...

Patty Jo. I hope kitty enjoys the cobbler : )

Preslaysa Williams said...

Great post, Audra! I recently discovered that my writing strengthened after I got rid of the fancy verbs and told (I mean, showed!) the story straight!

Becky Dempsey said...

When I can't think of the word that I want, I usually go bug my husband...I want a word that sort of means "x" but not exactly that. And kind of like "Z"...He usually helps me figure it out or gives another synonym that I look up to find the word I was looking for! I sometimes use a thesaurus when I keep using the same word over and over!

Audra Harders said...

Natalie, I'm so with you. If the word doesn't fit the context, don't use it!

Good luck on your Speedbo revisions!! There were so many words written last month. I'm sooooo proud of everyone who participated!!

Audra Harders said...

Jeri, I think revisions are best part of writing. You know how the story begins and ends, and a pretty good idea of what happens in the middle. Now all you have to do is make it gel together!!

LOL! Go forth and revise! I have complete faith in you!

Audra Harders said...

Oh Meghan, you warm the cockles of my heart! When you look up words and study them, THAT'S what the dictionary and thesaurus are all about. Teaching you the little idiosyncrasies between the words.

Highlight away!!! Yes, there's still time to read them all...maybe : )

Rhonda Starnes said...

Thanks for the post, Audra.

I like a thesaurus when I'm trying to find the right word for the mood of a scene. However, I do agree a thesaurus should be used in moderation. I don't like being pulled out of a story by a word that seems out of place. I especially don't want to keep a dictionary on hand to help me interpret a book I'm reading. ;)

Audra Harders said...

Eileen, reprimand? Oh dear one, this is more a heads' up to think before you take the easy route.

I have to confess, body parts are my downfall when repeating words.

Hand. Fingers. Cheek. Shoulder.

If I find myself using the same noun too often in a paragraph, I step back and think about what I'm trying to say. It's so easy for me to "hand" this and "hand" that because there's reaching or touching involved.

I have to sit back and study where I am in the scene and talk it through. Yes, out loud. I find when I actually listen to my ideas, I only need to say the sentence once, and then move on.

Lots of times it's not that simple, but sometimes it is. That's when I shout "hallelujah" at the top of my lungs, LOL!

Audra Harders said...

Yes, Sandy! You are in the drawing!!

Audra Harders said...

Ha, Cara! I love you! Now THAT's how you use a thesaurus!! Hand in hand with a dictionary!!!

Audra Harders said...

Pam, new-bies learn and then they become old-bies. Enjoy the wonderment of writing now : )

Good luck on your revisions. I'm assuming it's a story you came up with during Speedbo? Good for you!!!

Audra Harders said...

Preslaysa, trust me, you can tell a wonderful story with out the fluff. I'm certain you're doing a great job!

Audra Harders said...

Becky, give your husband a great big kiss for helping you! If I approach my husband for help, he gets this deer in the headlights look and suddenly remembers he had to go feed his dog.

Silly man.

Audra Harders said...

Rhonda, that's a good idea to find ways to set a mood. I usually go in with a mood and don't think twice about massaging it.

Good thinking!

Unknown said...

Audra, it's the story I finished during Speedbo, anyway :) Started writing the beginning of February. Had the idea last fall. Speedbo's been awesome, though, because in learning more about the business, I'm getting more confident that I can actually sell something.
Hey, I entered a contest, that means I'm a real writer, now, right? :)

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

What an awesome post. And it sounds just like you. I never realized it, but you're right, the wrong word stops me.

And you know I'm one for 50cent words :) But you've just taught me something, 'ole writing buddy.

Albeit...inside joke I thought it was a French word. Not ALL BE IT. Still laugh today over that one.

Lucky person who wins the Cathy Yardley book.

Olivia said...

Hi Audra, The only way I can find the perfect word is to reread and revise so that I can fine tune in the context. The alphabet is a great memory jogger...will have to use it the next time I am at a loss for words! Please put my name in the drawing for the book. Thank you, Seekers, I am printing this week's posts to keep in my revising folder.

Tanya Agler said...

Audra, Thanks for this post. (Head in hands) Yes, I use a thesaurus when I'm editing if I have a lot of word repetition and I need to get some ideas of whether another word would fit or whether I need to revise the whole sentence.

Sometimes a word that seems totally out of the character's mindset will pull me out of the book.

I already own a copy of Cathy Yardley's books so please don't enter me in the drawing.

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Hi Audra!

Agree with much of what you said! As usual in Seekerville master classes, I'd not thought about it in just the way you highlighted. Interjecting words, just because, makes no sense and definitely takes readers out of the story.

While we're up, let's celebrate those 4th grade levels! ;)

However (writes the former teacher) a thesaurus is invaluable for shades of meaning. Admittedly I don't grab it on 1st drafts - though I used to which slowed me down.

But I do use one when revising, in ways that Vince mentions especially. Not to jar myself or readers from the story, but to find the PERFECT word to express what I'm trying to say.

What's the old adage - there's a great deal of difference between lightning and lightning bug?

Janet Kerr said...

Yes, a thesaurus coupled with a dictionary seems to be a great idea!

Patricia A Radaker said...

Thanks for such a freeing post. I thought about the many times when our children were young and excitable and I'd have to remind them to "Use your words." I think I'll make a note to post on my desk that says "Use YOUR words! Please include me in the drawing.