Tuesday, March 17, 2009
L. V. Gaudet is hosting this weeks discussion on Facebook's Suspense/Thriller Writers group. http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?topic=15765&post=183491&uid=2397748813#post183491 Being ... Stuck On a Word There is a phenomenon that sometimes strikes me in the middle of a writing session. You know the kind, when the words are flowing faster than your fingers can type, they fly across the keyboard trying to keep up, and you feel like an omnipotent creator of literature. You are on fire and nothing can stop you. And then it hits and just like that you are stopped, stuck. More often it happens when I am struggling with what to say and how to say it, the story coming in stilted bursts. It is a phenomenon that I'm sure most writers have struggled with at some point. That frustrating experience of being... Stuck on a Word. And you cry out with the dreaded call of the writer …, “Aaaugghhh! What’s that word!? I need *the* word!” Ok, maybe you don’t vocalize it, but you inevitably are thinking it. What writer has not experienced this phenomenon at some point? You know, that terrible feeling that *the* perfect word is out there somewhere. It has a feel, almost as vibrant as if it had life of its own. Perhaps you think you can even almost taste it. You can feel that word with every fiber of your being, and yet it stays teasingly just beyond your grasp. Your mind tosses out word after word, words with the same or a similar meaning but that just don’t *feel* right, or words with a completely different meaning but your gut insists have a similar sound. To your great frustration none of these words *feel* right. Your fingers might rush to your online thesaurus, or you might grab your handy dandy “old reliable”, that always present standby large dictionary who’s predecessors you grew up with and learned to rely on for everything from checking your spelling (in those dark ages when dinosaurs roamed, hungry wolves bayed at your door in the frozen dead of winter, and you had no computer or Spell Check in your home), to discovering the meaning of a particular word, or searching for that elusive word that starts with “x”, which can’t be that elusive since there are only about 32 “x” words, depending on your dictionary. Or perhaps you might feel the urge to call out seemingly random words to your loved ones in hopes they’ll give you the perfect word, while they look at you with that special expression reserved for pondering the clinically insane. Sometimes you find that perfect word, and sometimes you regretfully settle for something less, a word with the right meaning but that just doesn’t feel *right* in your writer’s heart. When this happens, I sometimes settle with a sense of dissatisfaction for the lesser word. Other times I might insert that nonsense string of words flowing through my mind, words of similar meaning or that I think might have the right feel and sound despite having the wrong meaning. I bracket and highlight them in a garishly bright color, something I can’t possibly miss later, in the hope that the perfect word will come to me later when editing. And sometimes, at that perfectly wrong moment in the dead of night or while driving and pen and paper are unreachable for too many reasons, that great moment of eureka happens. As if of its own that perfect word pops up, tantalizingly real, delicious tasting on your writers tongue as you repeat it so as to burn it into your mind, only to have it slip away once again by the time you can jot it down. How do you deal with finding that ever elusive perfect word, the one that is the only word that *feels* right for your story, but your mind simply can’t seem to reach far enough to grasp?