Monday, September 17, 2012

The Cost of A Story

Yes, I'm putting a price on my stories. No more free fiction.


Are you getting ready to flame me? Okay, okay, I'm not going to stop posting free stuff.

However, I did want to share some thoughts I recently had on 'fifty cent' words and their place in fiction. These so called fifty cent words are the ones that catch your eye, the big words full of rich meaning in the English language (or whatever the author writes in).

So many times I see a story littered with them, every sentence structured to feature the words that jump out at you, sometimes even hosting two or three of them! I guess to some, that's a good thing. They like to use those fifty cent words, thinking that increases the worth of their story. This is especially true in the area of speech tags, something I strive to avoid using as much as possible.

For example: "Oh, how spectacular," she exclaimed fervently, enthralled by the landscape when she beheld the vermillion flowers carpeting the verdant meadow.

Now, my writing is all about entertainment. I'm after the picture, not the words.

I'm not trying to enlighten anyone, I'm trying to entertain. For my writing, bigger is not better. I made those mistakes at first, throwing out the unusual words that had great meaning, but became annoying and difficult to wade through for the average reader. Sure, there was little confusion for those of us who grew up reading the dictionary for fun, but for the other 99% it wasn't nearly as enjoyable. (Yes, self-confessed geek here, lol)

When writing, I've come to a realization that my whole goal is to make the words as invisible as possible. That means using simple phrases and key words to create vivid images in the reader's mind, the 'nickel words' of the fiction world you might call them. I don't want my writing to get in the way of my story, so I try to streamline everything.

Or you could just call me cheap!
For example: "Oh!" Her bright smile lit up her eyes. Her hand gripped his hard as she stared, taking in the ruby red flowers carpeting the lush meadow.

My own choice of words would be simpler but a bit more visceral. I use the word ruby to evoke a rich red color that just about everyone knows, and since most people already think of meadows as green, I used lush. It works since we usually relate the word to something really rich. I avoid the speech tag and instead show her reaction with visual cues, so the reader can see how she feels and, therefore, get a better 'picture' than if I just said she's excited.

Now, I'm not saying using big words is wrong all the time, or that they can't enhance a story. Sometimes you will have a discussion between two doctors, for example, and they'd logically use more technical words than the average person - depending on the discussion. A story set back in the Victorian era would also be more adaptable to a flowery turn of phrase.

But for regular old entertaining stories, the kind I really enjoy presenting to my readers, I think I'll stick to my trusty nickel words!


  1. Now that you mentioned it, I gotta say I prefer simple words because those nice strange words get me confused!
    And you read a dictionary for fun?! Such a geek you are. I was found of encyclopedias but then I only stared at the pictures and let my imagination loose.
    Guess now I know why I can't write much but I'm pretty good at poems :-p
    Keep on writing and though I love reading great stories for free, I hope you publish your first book soon.

    1. I did like encyclopedias as a kid as well. I remember doing a report on natural gas as an alternative to fossil fuels in the 5th grade. What can I say? :P

      And thanks on the well-wishing for the publishing! I had a target publish month of September, but my story is still in editing stages, though in the finals! Woo hoo! I should be able to announce a publish date soon for the expanded version of Pricolici.

  2. You read dictionaries for fun, too? My favorite part is reading where words came from and turning those words into names or places. :D

    I'm probably a top 10 offender in the big word department, though I fight the urge. The key, I think, is if you are going to use a big word, an important word, it has to be ABSOLUTELY the right word. Not a close word. Not a filler word. The only possible word to convey what you mean. The other words in the sentence should be direct and plain to function as supporting players.

    Picking words is like choosing the right materials. There's craft involved in how best to put the darn things together.

    1. Yes, I agree Tali! The right word is vital and often the 'bigger' words have shades of meaning that most people don't seem to get. I'm going to be writing another blog tip up about that soon. I just put a staff blog up on another site I admin for, Fiction Stories Online, that spoke about the work that writing really is, beyond just telling a story.

      Choosing the right words, then editing them effectively, is not as easy as many readers think it is. I was guilty of the same 'well, why can't you produce more than one novel a year, sheesh, it can't take that long to write this'. But really, there is a lot more to consider than just writing. It's a lot of fun to me, but then as I've said before, I'm a geek. LOL

  3. I totally agree,Cia.
    Many years ago (a lifetime away it seems), I used to read a lot of the 'plain vanilla' type of romances. I finally quit; I could not stomach the verbose (there's 50 cent word!) prose these stories became drenched with; it seemed to get worse over time to the point where the plot of the story got lost.

    There is a big difference between using words to give certain shades of meaning and throwing in flowery '50 centers' and tongue twisters that detract, confuse and slow down a reader. When reading fiction, especially an action or love scene I don't want to stop an go find a dictionary. ( BTW I, too, sometimes enjoy 'perusing' dictionaries and encyclopedias.)

    That example you gave (in red) could have come straight from those romance stories I used to read. The kind of prose that drove me away with a quesy stomach and brain.

    Thanks for shining a light on this type writing!

    1. Oh yes, those Harlequin ladies like to exclaim fervently with heaving bosoms as they throw a wrist across their forehead and swoon into the arms of their loosely shirted, bare chested *insert cowboy, pirate, scottish highlander*...


      Yes, to my eternal shame I did read those book too, however I think I was about 10 at the time. I blame the loose morals of the late 80s, early 90s. I think I was about 8 the first time I saw Dirty Dancing, LOL (nobody better ask me that that is or I'll kick anyone younger than me off my blog, I'm not old!)

      So, my fellow dictionary and encyclopedia peruser (dime word?) I'm right there with you! Come back tomorrow and you'll find a story without any frills but lots of emotion! Thanks for commenting Starnite Owl!


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