This post is especially for the writers out there. My lovely friend and writing-partner-in-crime, Robin Woods, has a wonderful BLOG where she shares lots and lots of writing resources for FREE. I have her permission to share some of what she has written on her blog, and I thought the resources below would be especially helpful.
Today, we’re talking synonyms. I’ve touched on the subject before, and one year I even received backfire from some overzealous, newbie NaNo writers who took Leonard’s advice on just using “said” for dialogue rather religiously (and erroneously).
Look…here’s the deal. I have taught English in various forms for the past 14 years. I have been writing fiction since the age of 10. I have incorporated classic literature into my teaching curriculum. I’m a trained copywriter. I’ve edited over 25 books in the past year and a half. I have written 3 books and counting. This year alone, I have read 34 novels in varying genres. Though I don’t like thrusting my credentials out there, sometimes I feel it’s necessary to assert myself and my experience. I know there is ALWAYS something new to learn, but when it comes down to it, I have many, many years under my belt of knowing the English language intimately. Therefore, I tend to roll my eyes when inexperienced writers tout some other writer’s philosophy at me, arguing that they know best. (And, yes, I am FULLY aware of the intentional repetition of “have,” in the above paragraph, thank you very much.)
Rules were made to be broken. Rules were also made to make our prose tight, intelligent, and evocative. Finding the balance between the two can be tricky, but it can be done. Trust me on this one.
So, back to synonyms, which I definitely think should be used in order to cut all the repetition in our writing, as well as improve its flow. Synonyms are necessary at times, unnecessary at others. And this is where practice comes into play. Unless you devote the time to practice writing, unless you devote the time to read as often as you can, you will have a hard time mastering the art and craft of the written word. Is it fine to use “said” after dialogue more often than other words? Sure, I think so. But a talented writer will either use a different where needed, OR weave the sentence in such a way that it isn’t needed at all. Like I said, there’s a fine line.