In the novel I am currently reading, a teenager tells his grandmother she is phat. She is offended.
Like myself, she didn’t know that phat is slang for cool (also slang).
My grandson uses epic in his speech. Another word that is fairly new in our vocabulary.
Just recently, flatten the curve and social distancing have come onto the scene. Only weeks ago, they had no meaning.
As writers, we need to keep current on new additions to vocabulary and use them in our writing when appropriate.
The vocabulary we use is a subtle reminder to our readers just what time period we are writing about. It must be consistent with the setting and characters.
It would be ridiculous for an old western cowpoke to exclaim that a cattle drive was epic; or for a young girl living in this current decade to say that a boy she thinks is handsome is the bee’s knees.
Did you know there are an average of one thousand new words added to the dictionary each year?
Are you a logophile (word lover)?
How do you keep up on the current trends in vocabulary?
Your writing may look different lately.
You may not be working on that article or novel.
Instead, you may be sending cards of cheer. Notes of encouragement to friends and loved ones.
That’s good. Because our writing should reflect what is in our hearts. I’m guessing most are turned toward love, empathy, and compassion at times like these.
Completing that book or writing those reviews may not be what is priority right now.
Let your heart and soul direct you to look beyond yourself and your circumstances. Let your writing speak to the needs of others.
As authors, our words have the power to move, exhilarate, spread compassion.
Our words travel via the internet, telephone lines, and Hallmark cards.
Whatever the vehicle, communication of how much we care is the key.
I wish you health, safety, and the knowledge that God is in control.
He loves and cares about us infinitely more than is possible for us to comprehend.
For the first time since I began writing, my daily planner has NOTHING scheduled for the coming week.
I have often tried to come up with four or five days for writing only, but have never put more than two days together back-to-back.
I’m NOT saying I would choose to have the world experience a pandemic just so I can achieve a few days with no medical appointments, lunch dates, errands, and so on.
Far from it!
But, my purpose here is to say that if you are also experiencing some down time from other obligations, why not take the opportunity to write?
It may be human nature to want to watch television, play video games, or text friends. Nothing wrong with any of those.
However, what about following the familiar advice we’ve all heard before:
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Here are three more literary devices you should know about:
1) Anthropomorphism- something nonhuman, such as an animal or object behaves like a human. Cartoon characters are good examples of this. They are made to talk, sing, dance, engage in battles, and so on. Authors of children’s books are especially adept at using this literary device.
2) Colloquialism- This term refers to the use of informal language or slang in order to lend a sense of realism to dialogue. “Gonna” for example, is not considered real word. This device removes the formality from conversation, making it more relaxed and believable.
3) Euphemism- This refers to words or expressions that are used instead of a more blunt word. For example, a doctor might that say a patient “didn’t make it” instead of “he died” when talking to family/friends.
Continuing our discussion of literary devices (last week, we looked at foreshadowing), I’d like to talk about two techniques used mostly by speech writers and not often by those of us who write fiction.
In fact, our self-editing programs may consistently red flag these as repetitive words/phrases.
I like to use them—sparingly–because they can be very impactful.
If used too often, they will never pack the punch intended.
The first literary device is called Anaphora. A word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of multiple sentences to emphasize the repeated phrase and evoke strong feelings in the audience.
An example would be: “He wanted to be a good boy. He wanted to please his teacher. He wanted to make his parents proud.”
Like I said, this technique is often used in speeches where the writer/speaker, such as a presidential candidate, hopes to rally a group behind their cause and/or belief, as well as gain votes.
A very similar technique is the Epistrophe. Here, the repeated word or phrase appears at the end of successive statements. It is used to evoke an emotional response from an audience, just as the Anaphora.
An example might be: He followed the rules so his parents would trust him. He kept his promises, so his children would trust him. He was faithful to his wife so she would trust him.
In writing, these devices can sway audiences to adopt one’s point of view.
There are many literary devices.
Writers use a good deal of them—often without knowing it.
Foreshadowing is one that really packs a punch.
It is a literary device used to give the reader a hint of what is to come later in the story. It often appears at the beginning of a story, or start of a chapter.
To create foreshadowing, a writer may use dialogue, action, even chapter titles. These create an atmosphere of suspense, building reader anticipation as to what might happen next. For this reason, this device is most often used in mystery novels.
Here is just one example in literature, (From Act 2 in Romeo and Juliet by Robert Francis): “Life were better ended by their hate, than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.”
Here, Juliet is concerned about Romeo’s safety. Romeo says he’d rather have her love (and die sooner) than not have it (and die later).
We all know what happened shortly after…
I am one chapter into writing my next book.
I’ve decided to tell it from six-year-old Mary’s point of view.
Before going any further, I thought it prudent to find out if there was anything unique about writing in a child’s POV.
Specifically, I wanted to know about vocabulary.
I know about using a child’s vocabulary in dialogue. But do I need to use it throughout the story (in non-dialogue sentences) or can use “grown-up” words for description, etc?
I looked LONG and HARD for the answer:
Claire King, author of The Night Rainbow says:
“When finding the right voice, you’re not obliged stick to the limits of a child’s vocabulary. Rather, get to know her, try to find your way into her thoughts, even if she doesn’t have words to express them, and write that. A child narrator isn’t writing the book, or dictating it; she’s telling it and you’re allowed to be in her head.”
Now, Ms. King just one person. I realize that. And, there may be books on the subject that I am not aware of. But, since that is the way I am comfortable writing my book, I am going to take her advice.
Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and the advice of a best-selling author.