Word Search, part two

I’ve learned to shop for words like I shop at the grocery store. Some words are exactly what I need and I’ll pay whatever I have to for them. Other words are used as if I saw them on sale, ten for a dollar. If I keep to a reasonable budget in action scenes (short words, short sentences) and splurge on the quality descriptions, my scenes may improve enough to get the message into the reader’s heart without banging her over the head.

Being budget-minded, I oppose using big words in an effort to sound smart. If I must use an unfamiliar word, it had better be valuable for the sentence.

When looking up words, I sometimes see interesting-looking words and get distracted. I try to think of a way to use the word naturally in a sentence. My efforts often end up silly. I saw “grandiloquent” in my Oxford Dictionary of Current English Third Edition and wanted to see how the entry varied from dictionary to dictionary.

Out of five adult dictionaries ( and not counting my kids’ two dictionaries which omitted the word – imagine that!) three entries listed grandiloquent and two listed grandiloquence. Four of the definitions used the word “pompous”, two used “eloquence”, and one used “lofty” twice in the same entry.

The oldest of the dictionaries used the fewest words: “pompous eloquence” (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary 1974). The definition using the most words (nine) was less than “lofty”: “using long or difficult words in order to impress” (Oxford Dictionary of Current English Third Edition 2001).

The newest dictionary I own is a dictionary/thesaurus in one and used big words in hopes we’d all become familiar with their thesaurus pages.

Do you see why I use several dictionaries?

My writing style is simple and I like to use words which are right for the context. However, if a (new to me) big word is exactly the right word to use and nothing else will make the sentence as meaningful, I’ll use it. Either the reader will already know the word or will gather the meaning by the surrounding words. Hopefully, if they look up a (new to them) word, they’ll nod in agreement that it was exactly the right one for that sentence.

Word Search, part one

Learning new words has never been a top priority for me. As a writer, that is a shameful admission. Dictionaries and a thesaurus or two help me in my attempt to find the right word to use in my manuscripts. Nevertheless, I find myself more inclined to choose lesser-used words I already know when replacing overused words.

Let it never be said that I've bombasted my audience with my grandiloquence.

Sounds dangerous.

Sometimes dictionary entries will use a different form of the same word or a different "big word" to explain the meaning. I'm sure you've all seen incomprehesible definitions. Many times, the definition isn't helpful: penitential means "of or relating to penitence or penance".

When I find a word that fits my sentence on a broad level, it isn't right because of the atmosphere it creates. For example: words that define colors. Yellow could be anything.

The bright yellow of a flower: the flower could be described better to let in the character's personality as he/she views the flower.

The glaring yellow of the sun: the sun isn't really yellow, is it?

The pale yellow of a shirt: maybe Ecru could be a shirt color?

The grisly yellow of a villain's teeth: the villain -ick- maybe just needs some dental hygiene tips.

The happy, golden yellow of the heroine's hair: the heroine's hair color tells me she's in the calm before the storm. I can't see her hair being described that way during an argument or while she's hanging from a cliff.

"The heroine's happy, golden yellow hair danced gaily in the wind as the heroine walked the plank and jumped to her impending death in the shark-infested waters." See? It just doesn't fit.

Next week, I'll post the reason I use several dictionaries.

10 Blessings

I found this challenge on Jennifer Tizai's blog. I couldn't pass it up.

Share a little about:

1. a friend who has blessed me - My friend Julie walks with me for exercise when it isn't so hot outside. I need the encouragement to keep exercising - and she's there for me.

2. an unexpected gift - My neice Michelle called to pull advice from my 20 years of marriage since she's getting married in December. I was thrilled to be asked.

3. a kind word shared with me recently - My mom is always saying something nice to me about what she sees in my writing life, parenting, or other parts of my life. I'm blessed to have an encouraging mom.

4. something that makes me stop and praise God - I love to acknowledge what God is doing in my kids. My daughter recently decided that she needed to be baptized. We wanted to wait until the kids knew what was happening. Now she knows and will remember the day. I praise God for letting me see spiritual growth in my kids.

5. something I'm looking forward to - The ACFW conference is just a few weeks away. I will be seeing some people I've already met and some I'll meet for the first time. It's going to be a lot of fun.

6. the part of me that I'm pleased with - I'm determined to grow and mature in my writing. Some say I have a stubborn streak. Okay, anyone who knows me can see that I have a stubborn streak. I will push myself to achieve success in writing, no mattter how long it takes. I'll not be a slacker, that's for sure.

7. something in my life that I wanted but never expected - Because of the NON-quality installation of our shower when our house was being built a few years ago, we now have a new shower. Not only that, but the Man of the house decided to spring for a double-headed shower. Extreme coolness!

8. a place that moves me - The ocean quiets my soul and, at the same time, exhilarates me. I love being on sand, looking out at its expanse. I love being in a boat riding along with dolphins or whales. I love being in it and seeing the underwater wonders it holds. I've been scuba diving one time and found the experience to be an incredibly amazing gift from God.

9. one thing or person that always makes me smile - My husband is undoubtedly the one person who makes me smile most often. I think he doesn't like it when I gawk and say, "Man! You are so handsome!" Sometimes he makes me smile as a defense when I get in a growlly mood. I'm glad he realizes that laughter is the best medicine.

10. my most recent love note from God - I pray for my husband to receive guidance from God. So whenever my hubby tells me what God is leading him (which really means "us") into, I imagine a wink from God. I think God likes seeing me recognize His answers to my prayers. Recently, my hubby was led to make a change in our finances. I'm excited about God meeting our needs in new way.

Thanks, Jennifer, for reminding us to remember the ways God blesses us: through nature, through friendships, through family, and through that soul-filling wink from God.

ACFW Conference in September

Imagine a bedroom, its stark white walls bare except for a decorative light switch plate. Clean white sheets and a non-descript blanket are folded and perched on the top corner of the mattress leaning against a wall. White linoleum floor, sparkling clean, made less lonely by a trumpet-shaped floor lamp near the mattress and a wire hanger thrown carelessly into a corner.

The setting is basically a blank page, full of anticipation, waiting for a story to begin. Writers begin their career journey with a blank page, but the light switch plate and floor lamp in the setting above are evidence that we at least have an idea of where we want to go. The hanger is evidence that we all have something we need to get rid of because it doesn’t add to the plan. Building an interesting and colorful career takes effort, a plan, tools, good advice, and persistence. ACFW, according to their website, is Where Christian Fiction Begins.

Hundreds of writers are going to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas this September to keep their ears open for new details that will guide them further down the road to success. With every publisher’s rejection, with every personal crisis, there are many more notes of encouragement and pats on the back that keep us going.

One who has made a mistake may hear the voice of doom calling out, “You’ve made your bed, now you have to lie in it.” However at the ACFW conference, writers will hear, “In order to lie in it, you first have to make the bed. Here’s how:…” Success often comes after strategic planning meetings with advisors.

Many writers’ success stories include a road bump or two. Overcoming conflict on a personal and professional level colors the road they’re on. New writers need mentors to help them decorate the stark white room of their unadorned career and help them avoid problems.

Most people want the road to success to be completely rosy, but when we hastily embrace the roses, we wince at the thorns that we notice only after it’s too late. How can we keep moving down the road to success and still enjoy the roses? We listen to experienced voices in the community.

ACFW is a community of Christian fiction writers who care enough for each other to hand out the necessary tools we all need along the way. The rose-grabbers can listen to the voices that warn of the need for appropriate tools. “Take this and snip off those thorns,” experienced voices say. When writers accumulate new tools and learn to use them well, they’re able to help others. When each member helps another, we work in unity, speeding the growth of all writers and building the quality of fiction along the way.

More importantly, ACFW is a Christian community of like-minded professionals who seek God’s best. Newbies and best-sellers go hand-in-hand before Almighty God, singing together and praying with a humble heart.

The ACFW community wants to help all fiction writers transform the stark white room of their career into a dazzling room that’s ready for the cover of House Beautiful or Creative Home magazine.

Scenes and Beans Press Release

Press Release

August 1, 2006

Laura Domino has landed a role in Scenes and Beans, an entertaining character blog based on the new Kanner Lake suspense series by best-selling author Brandilyn Collins. She will be writing posts for Sarah Wray, owner of Simple Pleasures home décor shop in Kanner Lake.

According to the site (www.kannerlake.blogspot.com), Scenes and Beans is ‘brought to you by Java Joint’, the coffee shop in the fictional town of Kanner Lake, Idaho, where the eclectic and eccentric locals hang out. Writers for the blog are from the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand. “Laura Domino was chosen because of the creativity in her auditioning post,” says Collins. “Laura is a talented writer, and I’m thrilled to have her as a part of this international project.”

Eleven characters from Java Joint post Monday through Friday, telling humorous and poignant stories about their lives in Kanner Lake-until tragedy strikes. The posts are in real time according to events in the suspense series, which launches in August with Violet Dawn. In the novel, Paige Williams, a newcomer to the town, slips into her hot tub in the blackness of night-and comes face to face with a corpse. Fleeing a dark past and afraid of the police and media, Paige must make an unthinkable choice about what to do with the body. Soon the whole town is in pursuit of the truth, and the killer in their midst.

The blog lists the eleven characters and links to www.kannerlake.com, a Web site that explains the suspense series and lists the writers for Scenes and Beans.

The Kanner Lake series is published by Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins. Senior Acquisitions Editor Sue Brower said, “We fully expect Violet Dawn to be the biggest best-seller yet for Brandilyn Collins. The Scenes and Beans bloggers are a select group of writers who will gain exposure through their character posts, which will be read by many fans of the series.”

Visit Laura Domino’s Web site at www.lauradomino.com


Kanner Lake’s resident bloggers:

Bailey Truit, owner of Java Joint and originator of the Scenes and Beans blog.

Wilbur Hucks, a town curmudgeon who proudly shows off his scar from heart surgery.

Hank Detcher, an Idaho born and bred pastor who loves to fish and is always ready to listen.

Jared Moore, an experienced reporter with a nose for news, and owner of the Kanner Lake Times paper.

Jake Tremaine, a recently retired logger (and lover of gossip) who’s driving his wife crazy at home.

Leslie Brymes, an ambitious young reporter with a charming air of flamboyance.

Angie Brendt, a retired school teacher who’s always up for fun.

Bev Trexel, a retired school teacher who’s more than a little set in her ways.

Carla Radling, an attractive young realtor who loves to argue with the town curmudgeon.

Ted Dawson, a.k.a. S-Man, a laconic science fiction writer whose head is always in his created world of Sauria.

Sarah Wray, owner of Simple Pleasures home décor shop, and all-around cheerleader for the town of Kanner Lake.