One great thing about playing Scrabble is it does increase your vocabulary. It’s amazing just how many three and two letter words there are. I play on a mobile app so there are no worries about losing any of the tiles either!
Mind, there have been times many years ago when I’ve played the traditional board game when I would happily have stuffed the Q, X, V, and Z somewhere I could guarantee they’d not be seen again but that’s another story! I’m less hostile to the Q now I know you don’t always need the U to go with it.
I’ve also recently discovered the word “xeno” which means strange. I’m looking forward to using that one at some point. It should score well!
One of the joys of writing that is less well known I think is the pleasure finding new words can give you. I adore playing with words, which is why I have a great fondness for puns (however awful they are). Does every writer secretly dream of adding new words of their own into the Oxford English Dictionary? Oh…it’s just me, is it? Hmm! (Still the good news is that new words are chosen every quarter so that gives plenty of opportunities I guess if I take the long term view!).
Shakespeare, of course, is renowned for giving us so many words and phrases we use constantly. The word fortnight is one of his, as is the phrase “what the dickens” and there are countless others. Dickens himself has given us Scrooge as a widely recognised shorthand for a miserly character (which in a way is a shame given old Ebenezer did change his ways!).
Terry Pratchett gave the world the fantastic word “embuggerance” which he used to describe the rare form of Alzheimer’s that took him from us far too soon. You can get some real venom behind a word like that (!) but it is also a great descriptive word. It conjures up for me something that is a burden, a pain in the backside etc.
Experimenting with Form
Another great joy of writing is being able to experiment with form in terms of what kinds of writing you try, but even when you pick one, you can then discover just what you can do with that. Poetry is probably the obvious example here as you could stick to writing limericks all the time but then you’d miss out on the world of the sonnet etc.
It can be done with flash fiction too as not only can you vary the word count from a few words up to 1000 but stories can be written as poems, as acrostics, in the first person, in the third person etc. Here is a recent example of one of my acrostic flash fiction pieces, which recently appeared on my Facebook author page.
Allison stumbled across the body on her way home from Slimming World.
Cantankerous as ever, she thought, recognizing the chap she’d walked into.
Really had no consideration for anyone else, even in death, typical of him to still be in the way.
Oh my… I guess I’d better call the cops.
Should’ve gone home the other way tonight.
Trouble falls into my lap at times, she thought.
Instinct made her look around to see a ghoulish figure behind her.
Crammed her fist into the figure’s stomach and bashed it over the head with her bag, nothing but nothing was getting in the way of Allison and her dinner!
Allison Symes March 2019
Okay I will admit to cheating a little. That last line is on the long side and often I’d split it into two but that would’ve spoiled the effect here but flash fiction is adaptable, despite the word count restriction funnily enough.
I think it is a great idea to mix up how you write a story. It keeps things fresh for you (and I think some of that passes through to the reader as well). It is crucial for any writer to enjoy what they do. It will help keep you going when all that seems to come into your inbox are rejections or you realise you haven’t heard back from the competitions you’ve entered so know from that your work is free to submit elsewhere. These days the general convention is that if you don’t hear, your work is not being considered further.
Much the same applies to non-fiction. It’s why I like to write a mixture of interviews, writing advice pieces, “nature” posts (like my Signs of Spring last week) and so on.
Experimenting with words and forms will help you discover what you can and can’t do. I realised some time ago I wasn’t going to be a great playwright but that’s fine!
Application of Experimenting with Form
I’m currently revamping a novel I wrote some time ago, having realised that, due to writing flash fiction, my editing skills and the ability to write with precision have developed. I would say those two core items are the biggest advantages in writing flash fiction.
Naturally I can apply all of that to the novel and I hope when my revamp is finally done, that will give the book a better chance “out there”. It’s certainly not going to do any harm. It will be interesting to find out how much tighter and sharper my book is when I’ve finished this process. I think it will quicken the pace of it for one thing which is never a bad thing.
(To) Jargon (or not to) Jargon, That is the Question!
Increasing your vocabulary via word games and reading are two useful things for any writer to do. I see this as building up your basic writer’s toolkit. We really should have the mot juste after all. I suspect you’d have to be established to be able to “do a Shakespeare” and invent your own!
I don’t envy technical/scientific writers in that you have got to know exactly who you are writing for to gauge just how much, if any, “jargon” you put into your piece.
Science fiction and fantasy writers can make up their own terms and can either add in a glossary or ensure the meaning is clear from context. A good rule of thumb here though is ensure your inventions are pronounceable. If your fantastic world, teeming with interesting characters, is called something like Xxxlbreh, you’re going to lose your readers. How do you pronounce that?! Going back to Pratchett, this is where I love his invention of Ankh-Morpork. It’s easy to pronounce and conjures up an image immediately of a conjoined city (as it is).
I suppose playing with words is what you do once you know the basic rules. This applies to music too. I remain convinced the late Les Dawson, famed for his awful piano playing, could actually play properly to know to create a sound which is fair to say was unique (and perfect for comedy).
And I can’t leave the topic of playing around with music without mentioning the late, great Andre Previn aka Andrew Preview on Morecambe and Wise. Their Grieg’s Piano Concerto sketch for me is and remains the funniest thing on TV (closely followed by the Two Ronnies’ Four Candles, which is the definition of playing around with words). Hope you enjoy a trip down Memory Lane with these two. And I’m off to play with some more words and then have a game of Scrabble!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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