By: Julie Eshbaugh
Hi all, Julie here!
Recently I found myself looking out a hotel room window at a cityscape. The view made me think of the components of a city—streets made up of buildings, buildings made up of walls, walls made up of bricks.
I found myself thinking of all the unnoticed bricks that were holding up the city below my window.
This observation got me thinking about novels. I started considering all the components of a novel—chapters made up of scenes, scenes made up of paragraphs, paragraphs made up of sentences, sentences made up of words.
This whole metaphor gave me the idea for a series on the building blocks of a novel. This post will be on words—the most basic building block. The next will be about sentences, then paragraphs, then scenes, then chapters. Of course, most things as intricate as a novel are greater than the sum of their parts, so maybe the final post in the series will be about how a novel transcends (or hopes to transcend) all these things that go into it.
Starting with words
Word choice is one of the most fundamental aspects of writing, so much so that we don’t talk about it much. But the wrong word can leave writing flat or confusing, and more importantly, the right word can make writing come alive on the page.
There are so many ways in which word choice impacts a piece of writing! Since we’re talking about novels, I want to focus on clarity, voice, and sound.
One of the most powerful things about word choice is the subtle change in meaning that can happen when a writer changes just one word. Consider the differences between the following:
“She dropped the package to the ground.”
“She chucked the package to the ground.”
“She hurled the package to the ground.”
Swap package with bundle and ground with pavement and the meaning changes even more. Consider the difference between “She dropped the package to the ground,” and “She hurled the bundle to the pavement.”
This is a painfully simple example, and the lesson here is so basic and elementary,
. . .
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