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Sep 8, 2012

Finding the Best Word for the Job


by Rayne Hall

Specific words make a story vivid because they paint a clear picture for the reader.

A woman with a dog” creates only a vague picture. By replacing “woman” and “dog” with specific  words you can bring your story alive: 
A lady with a poodle”
A tart with a mongrel”
A gothgirl with a puppy”
A redhead with a Rottweiler”

 The man looked like a sports champion” is bland.  Show us what kind of man and what kind of sports, and the sentence becomes interesting:
The gentleman looked like a fencing champion.”
The thug looked like a boxing champion.”
The salesman looked like a sumo champion.”

Instead of the dull description with generic words “This garden is full of flowers of all kinds”  show the kind of flowers to paint a picture:
This garden is full of roses, honeysuckles, and hollyhocks” - The reader sees a cottage garden.
This garden is full of crocuses, daffodils and tulips.” - The reader sees a garden in spring.
The garden is full of daisies, dandelions and thistles.” - The reader sees a garden overgrown with weeds.

Vague: "Woman holding a boat"  Specific: "Sea Witch tormenting the galleon"
Before tackling your own manuscript, you may want to practice on these sentences. Use your imagination to replace the underlined generic words with specific ones.

I went further down the road until I came to a building half hidden by trees.
She put on her new dress and shoes and applied make-up.
For dinner, he ate meat with vegetables.

Post your versions as comments. I look forward to reading them.


Rayne Hall is professional writer and editor. She has had over 30 books published under several pen names, in several genres(mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction), in several languages (mostly English, German, Polish and Chinese), by several publishers, under several pen names. For a list of currently published fiction under the Rayne Hall pen name, go to

Her recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Writing Fight Scenes (for authors), Writing Scary Scenes (for authors), Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories) and more.

She is the editor of the Ten Tales series of themed multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, and others.

She teaches online workshops for intermediate, advanced and professional level writers who are serious about improving their writing craft skills. Caution: these classes are not suitable for beginners or the faint-of-heart! For a list of her currently scheduled workshops, see

1 comment:

Jai Joshi said...

I totally agree. Finding the right verbs and nouns for a sentence is crucial for a good storytelling technique because it gives flavour and texture. The reader can really get to grips with the scene and the characters.