As I was revising my Madeline story, I changed the title of it to, “What She Sees”. Without even thinking, I used the word “look” about a million times.
Something needed to be done. I needed a word intervention.
I printed out the story and highlighted every time I used the word, “look”.
At one point, the story was more highlighter than printer ink.
I went to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary and thesaurus page online and typed in the word “look”. While I received many alternatives to the word, I had to make sure the word I picked to replace the word “look” had not only the right meaning, but also the correct connotation.
By looking at the sentence the word was in and knowing the tone of the story, I was able to find the most precise word for the story.
This seems like a lot of work for a short story. However, it is important to understand the purpose of a short story. A whole tale needs to be told in a small amount of time. Therefore, every word in the story, every action taken in the story, has to count for something. No words, no matter how small, should be wasted.
Words are clever things. They can help define a character through how the character speaks to him or herself and to the audience. Does the character talk differently to a loved one than he or she does to a distant friend? Words help foster the tone. If the direction of the story is dark and gloomy, one should pick words having this connotation. Setting can also be expressed in words. The slang a character says or a narrator uses directs the reader to the time period the story is in as well as where in the world the story takes place.
Once the story is set, the theme is established, the characters are as well defined as the writer intends them to be, the next thing to do is start going over the words used in the story.