the official website of
Bob Nailor




Mr. Thesaurus, If You Please...

What's another word for "raced" in a sentence like He raced to the house?

During the first pass of writing your story, you slap whatever word immediately comes to mind to describe the action. Okay, that's what I do, since much of my writing is done as scenes within my mind. I love watching movies, even those I am making up as I write.

So, calling on Mr. Thesaurus at www.thesaurus.com, we can easily discover several words to replace "race" such as: chase, run, sprint, dash, go, rush, scurry. But there is also scramble, surge, charge, hasten, hurried plus many more if you take the time to search a little further into possibilities for words like 'rush,' or 'dash.'

I just finished going over the "professional edits" on my latest work. The editor took exception to everyone "racing" here and there. I believe she nailed me for about 70 "raced" entries.

I read a book a couple of months ago where everyone smiled and nodded their heads. My characters do a lot of that, too. I found other actions for my characters. Plus, in addition to smiling, my characters can also smirk, beam, grin, laugh, snicker or they can scowl, frown, grimace. The options are numerous.

Sometimes, if you look carefully, a properly chosen word can make the scene come alive.

OK: He got into the car. Better: He slid into the front seat.
OK: She walked into the room. Better: She strutted into the assembly.
OK: The small boy ran to first base. Better: The lad scampered to first base.
OK: The necklace was shiny and new. Better: The necklace glittered in its newness.

For some writers, going back over their work to clean it up is all about making sure the words are spelled correctly, and that the punctuation is in place. It really should be the writer's chance to punch up the story, change the boring, ho-hum words to a better selection. Don't get me wrong I'm not telling you to over-glorify the text. There is no reason for flowery prose unless it is appropriate.

Read the following:

The white walls of the cliffs were practically unscalable. The pirates hunted for possible footholds.

The alabaster chalk walls of the sheer cliffs were treacherous. The pirates scoured the base for potential footholds.

Both scenes depict the same, basic image but the 2nd one has more life and vitality. First pass should be the first example. The second and following passes should give your work the polish of example two.

There is no reason to write "The silvery dewdrops glistened like diamond chips as they slid on the emerald path of the blade of grass." Yes, it is descriptive, but exactly where do you feel it would be appropriate? My recommendation? Save all that flowery prose for poetry where it counts.

So the bottom line is simple: Write tight prose with vivid images. "He rushed to the car." conveys your idea but "He speedily slid into the front seat." swells with images. Don't cheat yourself or your reader.




  Click to add a comment - say something!


~ COMMENTS ~

Elise Stokes
2013-08-26
The Thesaurus is my best writing friend. I'd be lost without it. It's also helpful to have a list of action verbs and adjectives handy.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Onisha Ellis
2013-08-26
Great post. I have the honor of doing first draft edits for Rebekah Lyn. It's so much fun to take all of her hours of research and work and find ways to "punch up" the language. I so admire authors. I could't carry out a plot line beyond 500 words if my life depended on it!
~ Reply to this comment ~

Alan Tucker
2013-08-26
I love thesaurus.com and use it all the time. I know writers who say never use one if you don't know the word you want to use, don't use it. I know the words, but sometimes I need a prompt to bump me out of a rut like your characters who race everywhere. :-)
~ Reply to this comment ~

CR HIATT
2013-08-26
Like you, I am guilty of choosing the first words that come to mind for my first drafts. That is why the second and third drafts take so much more time, because I am constantly searching for new words.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Sonya Contreras
2013-08-31
"The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression" is an excellent resource that takes 75 emotions listing body language, thoughts, internal feelings. ...It is indeed, the writer's best friend. (I do not receive commission on selling the book!--but I do endorse it.)
~ Reply to this comment ~