On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Word Choice

I have a fox Familiar (telepathic animal companion) in Heart Quest. Well when I was writing the fox, I was also reading books about foxes by experts in the field (in all ways, meaning they were in the field observing foxes for about 20 years). In the general public’s view, foxes make noises and most particularly “bark.” Now the expert used the word “chortle” which he believes is the closest description of a sound that a fox makes at certain times. He can do that. He’s an expert.

You know what would happen if I used the word “chortle”? First my editor would strike it, then the copy editor would strike it. If I insisted, I’d probably not get reader comment (I’m not that important), but most readers would think “Chortle! What a stupid word to use to describe a fox barking…” So, of course, I’m not going to use it. I’ve used bark, and growl and other choices, but chortle (which I don’t tend to use anyway), will not show up with regard to the fox, Vertic.

Again, this is story and not real life. In real life, I can use the word chortle and discuss it or explain it to my listener. In a story, it might make a reader pause…and we all know what I think about giving readers time to pause.

Oh, and a reminder, when writing a rough draft and I keep using the same word three times in a paragraph, I DON’T stop. I just put ** by it, then when I’m revising, I’ll do a search for ** and clean it up.

Word choice is a part of style which is a part of an author’s voice – the words you choose and how you string them together, particularly if you’re writing fast and under deadline, as opposed to writing slowly and crafting every phrase to sing to the reader.

May all your words choose themselves today and be perfect!



Blogger Bernita said...

A fox does not really bark.
The sound is a combination a strangled howl and something throwing up.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

Thank you. I was pretty sure that it wasn't a bark like a dog's bark, but since that's the "accepted" way of describing a fox's vocalization, I will stay with it.

"Vertic gave a strangled howl..."...seems (to the average reader, I think) that something is wrong with Vertic if I don't explain...

Or I could do something like. "Vertic made that strangled howl noise that was most common to foxes..."


Many thanks, again!...My cat is making that hissing noise about breakfast...

7:40 AM  

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