Monday, 20 June 2011

Using Impact Words

Someone in my class wanted to go on an adjective diet, and of course, one of the classic pieces of advice to cut the adjectives and adverbs. But I think one should treat it more as a quality diet, as we're advised to do for eating meat: Use less, but use better.

So we should try to use words with impact. They come into 4 areas....

Words that express emotions - happy, passionate, concerned, thrilled, nervous, scared, terrified

Words that evoke physical sensations such as sounds and smells - whoosh, smack, clunk, crash, sniff, cold

Words that create pictures in a reader's mind - towering, looming, sparkling

Words that are filled with special meaning - midnight, secret, starlight, hidden, new, good, evil, hero, mission

The more impact words we use in our writing the stronger it will be. So characters don't walk across a room, they strut, stroll, cartwheel. They don't bump into things, they crash, smack or knock something. They don't have blonde hair or long legs, but have laughs dirty enough to plough.

Here's Angela Carter describing Puss in Boots: "A tom, sirs, a ginger tom and proud of it. Proud of his fine, white shirtfront that dazzles harmoniously against his orange and tangerine tessellations (oh! what a fiery suit of lights have I); proud of his bird-entrancing eyes and more than military whiskers; proud, to a fault, some say, of his fine, musical voice." (from The Bloody Chamber)

Okay, so we can't all write like Angela Carter, and quite a few probably don't want to. But we can all use impact words and give our writing some extra oomph.

(My thanks to The Mind Gym, which introduced me to the concept of impact words).

There are still some places on the How to Sell a Novel day course in Bath on 3rd July - clickhere or contact if you want more info.

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