Choosing From The Word Pool

Maelstrom-Clarke

“All speech acts are goal-oriented.”

That phrase lodged itself in my brain during a linguistics lecture I once attended.

Every thing we say, every word, is to achieve some kind of goal.

I’ve found this idea particularly useful when writing dialogue.

When someone speaks there is a pool of alternative words they can to dip into to describe something.

Let’s say a character is talking about children.

They could choose use a variety of descriptions – for instance kid, brat, squirt, rugrat, tyke, urchin or munchkin.

Each choice has a different psychological effect – brat, for instance, has negative connotations – it implies a child is badly behaved.

Of course a character can choose to speak in a responsible, measured, neutral way. But if they are angry, sad or manipulative there are plenty of charged words to scoop out of the vocabulary pool.

Each choice they make is a way of achieving that goal – and laying bare their soul.

An audio version of this blog is available here:

 

What Our Monsters Might Tell Us

goya

There are monsters around this time of year.

Creatures of folklore and horror fiction.

All of them presumably had creators at some point -people  who had to puzzle and make creative decisions about their monstrous imaginary progeny.

Which made me ask a few rhetorical questions to myself, starting with this one – what kind of monster would you make, if you were writing a story?

What everyday fears would it exploit in your readers?

Would you start by calculating what would scare you the most?

Did something make them a monster? A tragedy, a mistake – or were they just born bad?

Would it be male or female? Why?

Living, dead or undead?

What horrible things would the monster do to its victims?

Would they be guilt-ridden after a bad deed  – or so implacably evil they don’t care?

How does this monster kill people – maybe in the way you would be most afraid to be murdered?

Or are they human, a villain with monstrous qualities – maybe based on a person in your life who you don’t like – a bully from your childhood perhaps.

And would this villain have the surname of a teacher you didn’t like at school – or maybe an annoying work colleague?

Does this person live in a near-derelict house on the outskirts of town?  Or a white picket-fenced house in the leafy suburbs?

I’ll stop now – but you get the drift – the monsters we create in our own imagination tell us a lot about ourselves.

An audio version of this blog is available here: