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Words to Think About From A to V

Here is a list of some important and interesting words for writers to think about, know and use. Have fun!

ACTION: Action and plot grow out of compelling, interesting characters. Suspense, action, and conflict are what keep the reader interested. Action is presenting the real life evidence through characters, by showing, not telling the story.

BEATS: Beats can be the little bits of action interspersed through a scene, especially in dialogue. For example:
“I don’t even want to go there,” I said.
He laid a hand on my arm. “You want me to drive?”

CONSONANCE: Is the close repetition of the same consonants of stressed syllables, especially at the end of words, with differing vowel sounds. Example: Boat and Night.

DISSONANCE: Is a mingling or union of harsh, inharmonious sounds that are grating to the ear. Often used to create a disturbing or tumultuous atmosphere or confusion or bewilderment in poetry.

EUPHONY: Is the harmony or beauty of a sound that provides a pleasing effect to the ear. It is achieved not only by the selection of individual word sounds, but also by their relationship in the repetition, proximity, and flow of sound patterns.

FLASHBACK: A window to your character’s past. A flashback gives you a way to “show” your character’s past through a scene without “telling” the story through narration. Be very careful in using these so it doesn’t “bump” the reader out of the action & story flow while you are explaining what happened sometime in the past. It can be passive. Keep it very brief and try to use a sense to trigger the memory, e.g. a smell or a sound, etc.

HOMOPHONE: Is a word that has the same in sound as another word, but different spelling and meaning. (For example: Pair as in set of two, and pear as in edible fruit.)

METAPHOR: An analogy between two objects or ideas when you say one item IS another. For example: “Then it was there alongside, the locomotive a sudden tornado, black, huge, screaming…” A SIMILE is saying something is LIKE another: “The bird’s wings were blue as the sky.”

ONOMATOPOEIA: Words that imitate sounds, or any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning. Using words like a musical instrument to create a specific sound. For example: the words “Splash” or “Plop.”

PARADOX: Is a statement that contains seemingly contradictory elements or appears contradictory to common sense, yet can be true when viewed from another angle. A good character trait to experiment with.

STORY LINE: The plot of a book, film, or dramatic work.

THEME: An idea, point of view, or perception expressed as a phrase, proposition, or question. The root or core of what is expressed.

VISION: A mental image produced by imagination. How someone sees or conceives of something. Discernment or perception; intelligent foresight. The mystical experience of seeing as if with the eyes of characters within your writing.

A native Montanan, Heidi Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. She has had her first novel published, Cowgirl Dreams, based on her grandmother. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series. The sequel, Follow the Dream will be released this fall.

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  1. Nice definitions on needed terminology. Thanks for sharing these. I especially liked the use of consonance in the definition thereof!

  2. A concise reminder of all the things we need to include or exclude, depending on the setting, goal, motivation, etc., of our characters. Nice job giving just we need.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  3. Once again, we are reminded how writing resembles other art forms and how we can use those forms to strengthen and polish our work. Incorporating Heidi's "words" into our writing allows us to create rhythm, flow, color, sound, a whole gamut of emotions, etc.

    Consider this parallel: Have you ever listened to "Grand Canyon Suite" by Grofé? It's an incredible musical work that transports the listener through time and space to a presence at this awesome natural wonder. Sound inspires vision, activating a second sense to enhance the listening experience. How does this apply to writing?

    Let's look again at Heidi's words. These are tools that we writers utilize to inspire vision, to create sound, to implement presence. When used with purpose and imagination, they transport our reader into another place, another time, and catapult our work from ordinary to extraordinary.

    Thank you, Heidi, for a timely, terrific post!

  4. Linda, great observation! Using the senses, both to inspire us and to describe in our writing makes the words come alive.

  5. Loved this post--it made me realize that my hero's backstory can be layered in bits and pieces to give him more depth.

    And that's just one of the aha moments.

    Thank you.


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