Over this past weekend I finished reading Andy Weir’s The Martian.
It is one of those books that will keep you up all night, telling yourself as your prop your eyes open,’just one more chapter’. Then at the end of that chapter, you say to yourself, ‘just one more’. And again. And Again. And then again. Lots of space nerd stuff, suspense, humour – everything a great novel needs. If you haven’t read it, highly recommended! As I was reading it, one thing that stuck in my head, and I have no clue why I noticed this, I just did. The word cacophony was used to describe a noisy situation on more than one occasion.
Perhaps it is because I like that word and you don’t hear it all that often, so when I saw it, it stuck in my head. And then I saw it again, and then (I think), again. Is there anything wrong with this? No, it’s a great word, and The Martian is an AMAZING novel so this is not meant in any way as a criticism of the book, just something that I noticed that got me thinking about adjectives.
Google has this function that, if you are a word geek, you’ll love.
Type ‘define [insert word]’ into your search bar and it will display a definition that can be expanded to give the history of the word. For example. cacophony
One word I used in my writing recently was ministration, check this out:
See the difference in the usage over time? Neat eh? Anyway, back to adjectives!
In my own writing I will often find myself stopping part way through a sentence and thinking what word would go best in certain situations or backing up and changing a word to something else because it doesn’t convey the right tone for what is in my head.
As an example, I wrote this yesterday:
He nodded his head with an understanding smile.
But then I changed it to:
He nodded his head with a sympathetic smile.
Both are along the same thematic line, but each will give a unique tone and change the way a reader will read the sentence. Try Google’s define feature on both those words and see what I mean.
Finding the right word for any given situation is not as easy as plopping down in front of your keyboard with a thesaurus and picking a 5-cent vs a 25-cent word. Proper consideration needs to be given to just how each word will play in the reader’s mind. The imagery, the emotion, the feeling it will evoke. All are critical to the overall feeling of your story and deserve to be chosen with care. Sympathize is listed as a synonym for understanding on synonym.com, but each bring their own specific connotation that needs to be carefully considered before choosing which you will use.
Anyone can write, but it takes care to be a wordsmith (or at least an aspiring one I suppose).