Thursday, March 21, 2013

Powerful Words, Part 2! by DL Larson

So, I took my own advice and edited my WIP with my new writers tool, my powerful word search.  My weakest link as a writer is the opening of a story.  Once I'm going, I can hold the attention of the most reluctant reader.  I re-write and edit my opening many times, striving for an intriguing circumstance that pulls the reader in.  Changing a flat tire would be easier, I'm sure. 

My current WIP is a sci-fi romance.  I'm writing Book Three.  But Book One has a weak opening and that just can't continue.  Everytime I look at it I do the slow grrrrrrrrr.  My character is focused, but she does not grab the reader as I had hoped.  I've already pulled the bits of history from the opening that many writers type in to get their imagination flowing in order to zero in on the story.  So that's not the problem. 

The problem, I discovered, is the lack of power words. 

Here's an example:  'Tracy blinked to clear her vision and looked again.  The large, scratchy letters filled the subject line on the pink memo in her grasp.'

The only power word in those two sentences is scratchy.  This will never do.  Tracy may well be a great gal, but the reader is not intrigued.  The writing lacks umphh!  As a writer, I need to deliver a better opening.
So I try again.

'Holy cow!  Holy rotten cow!  Tracy gawked at the dark, scratchy letters on the pink memo in her grasp. She'd landed in a nut house.'

This is better.  The reader now knows several things about Tracy.  1.  She doesn't swear, so she's a pretty nice lady.  2. The note on the pink slip must be odd indeed. 3. Tracy is uncomfortable and the reader wants to know why.

There's a few other things going on as well.  Repetition of words gives a bit of insight to the character, Tracy.  I easily could have written 'holy shit.  Holy rotten shit.' But that gives a different feel to the character, so the power words I chose are important to maintain my character's personality.  I could have written 'pink memo in her fist.'  Or clutched. But again, the choice of grasp flows better with the word gawked, so the cadence creates an image in addition to the color image, dark letters on a pink memo. 

'She'd landed in a nut house.'  This has possibilities.  It could be stronger, but I don't want the reader to misunderstand my character who has already shown she is pretty innocent in her befuddlement.  It does tell the reader a few things. 1. She must have recently 'landed' this job. 2. Whatever she's reading is not normal, it smacks of weird. 3. The reader wonders what is being asked of her.

Power words intrigue the reader and heightens their involement in a story.  I know that.  I've used power words many times, I just need reminding to use this tool.  So I'll remind you as well.  Power words make for a powerful story!

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Mary Jo Burke said...

It was a fun retreat! Great to meet you!

Deb Larson said...

Thanks Mary Jo ~
I'm still reeling on all the info we learned.
Thanks for stopping by.

Morgan Mandel said...

Very clever editing! Great job, DL!

Morgan Mandel