Fun With Words

One of my favorite resources for research (besides hanging out at the racetrack) is Yahoo. No, not their search engine, although that can be quite useful, too. But rather their Yahoo Groups. When I first needed answers to questions on Thoroughbred racing, I did a search for groups on the subject and joined several. The members have been more than helpful. Besides, chatting with them is fun. And this whole Yahoo Group membership thing can become quite addictive. But that’s a subject for another day.

My friend Nancy Martin, author of the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, introduced me to a little game she plays involving finding words. She listens and reads and certain words pop out at her. Each day, she collects a certain number of them. I forget how many…six, ten…something like that. For me, I haven’t set a number, but I do keep a running list of intriguing words. They might be something new and trendy. Or they may be something I’ve heard of long ago and never thought of using. The point is, you find words and then use them in your writing.

This morning while browsing through the posts on one of the Thoroughbred groups, I found one message from which I gleaned five wonderful words: bicker-fest (okay, maybe it isn’t in the dictionary, but I can just hear it coming out of one of my character’s mouths), scuffle (not an uncommon word, but a nicely descriptive one), foray (to raid or pillage…pillage is a great word, too), hullabaloo, and bonehead. I want to meet the gal who wrote this particular post. What a wonderfully colorful grasp of language she has! By the way, in case you’re wondering, she was telling about an incident between two stallions on her farm.

Those five words are safely tucked away in my notebook until I find the right character and set of circumstances to pull them out and put to use. And believe me, I will.

It doesn’t have to be single words, either. One day I was having lunch with my mom when I overheard (eavesdropping is an interesting, but ugly word) a conversation that involved some wonderful phrasing. Stuff that I would never have thought of, but will one day soon be uttered by Jessie Cameron’s mother when she comes for a visit.

So, if you’ve ever been told that all your characters sound alike, maybe they sound too much like you. Maybe you need to expand your vocabulary…or at least your character’s vocabulary. Listen to what’s going on around you. Read newspapers and magazines and the posts on your Yahoo Groups. There are words out there just ripe for the plucking. Get out there and harvest your own collection of words!

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