#027 – Get-up and Go … word choice & characters!
Earlier we listed ten considerations to ensure your 'get-up and go' had simply not 'got-up and gone'. The first two asked you to consider Clarity and Thrift which we did in post #23 and Style and Sentences as reviewed in #24. Crisp Conversation and Word Flow were looked at in post #25 and Pace & Phrasing in #26. Now we come to the final review in #27 and the last two subjects, Word Choice and Character Development.
What About Word Choice?
We find it can be far too easy to be a bit too 'high brow' with word choice. The pace of your manuscript will be lost the first time your reader has to reach for the dictionary to find out what a particular word means. Use a Thesaurus to not only ensure you have a range of words available to you in your search to describe a particular situation, but also to sort words and place them in some preference of order. If you get stuck on a word, it's a good idea not to angst over it for hours or even minutes. Simply put the word 'blank' in the space you are looking to fill and go back to it later. Don't risk encountering the deadly disease of 'writers block' over the basic choice of ways to be 'superb' - such as ... excellent, outstanding, wonderful, terrific, splendid, fabulous, fantastic, marvelous, magnificent, superlative, tremendous, brilliant, etc ... etc.. Do you see what we mean? Using everyday words for everyday situations is normally a winner. However, be careful in too liberal a use of what are deemed to be in current society ... expletives or 'cuss' words. They can be very effective in the right place and often used effectively to reflect the 'reality' of a particular situation. However, they may be a 'curse' in their own right and our advice would be to ration them carefully.
Well Developed Characters?
This often discussed and relentlessly quoted subject is regularly linked to criticism rather than praise. An editor may refer to 'character development' in writing up his or her comments on your submitted manuscript, which is generally taken as 'editor-speak' for ... 'have you done any?'
So, what is character development? Well, it's basically creating a character in your mind and then building up a complete life of the character as a series of notes or a full-blown mini life story. The process of character development adds necessary depth and even some much needed life into what may have slipped by unnoticed as a rather flat personality. As such, this character may end up being one that does not come over well within the twists and turns of the plot at the heart of your manuscript.
A good development process would be to start listing your characters life points; where they were born, went to school, went to university, first job, career path etc. Then you need to describe them, physically. If you know your characters well, and you will by the time you have finished an extensive character development project, then you can avoid falling into the less experienced author's trap of putting them in the wrong place at the wrong time or asking them to do things that are - for them - physically impossible. Again, it is worth remembering that if you write a full and detailed sketch of your story before you go to work on the real thing - as recommended - then developed character profiles will form part of that process.
There is much written about the art of forming and developing fictional characters and a quick search on the Internet may prove fruitful if you want to know more. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to have led a good life, travelled well and met lots of interesting people, you will no doubt be blessed with the ability to draw on such experiences when forming the characters for your work of fiction. However, if this is not the case then a great imagination and some study of the subject may serve you well.