Play With Your Words

Hello, Katy Lee here. When I was a kid I loved to play with my food. To give myself some credit, though, I will say, I never dove into my meals like “Mommy’s Little Piggy” from “A Christmas Story.” Eww.

Usually, I was a mad scientist pretending to work in a laboratory, creating concoctions that would save the world from some annoying fungus or the like. (Yes, I even created stories to go with my food.) By the time I finished playing, I had taken a boring, straight-laced meal (Shh, don’t tell my mother) and created the pièce de résistance. And eventually, as I got older, my playing turned into experimenting with various spices and ingredients with the end results of some fabulous works of food art.

Even back then I followed the old saying, “All work and no play makes Katy a dull girl.” That anything without play is boring.  And now, as a writer, I have taken that play into my stories.

Now, you may say your story follows the correct baseline, bringing your reader from point A to point B, with all the necessary black moments and turning points, and that’s great, but without a little jue de mots (play on words) your story could end up like my mom’s meals. Sure, it’s complete and it will satisfy, but it sure could have used a little wordplay to spice it up.

Some ways I have found to do this in my writing can include substituting out your everyday words for more exciting descriptive ones. For example, I could take the word “dancing” and replace it with “a toe-tapping production.” It feels a bit livelier and more fun.

A thesaurus can be most helpful for doing this, but a lot of times you want to do more than just swap out one word for another. You want to give your reader a whole visual as a comparison.

For example, in a situation where you need to paint a picture of a failing business, you could draw that out in numerous sentences, or you could say something like this. “We could count our client list on one hand of a bad high-school woodshop teacher.” (Thank you Mitch Joel)

The Unlocked Secret: A picture is worth a thousand words, and if you can give your reader the picture in just a few, you just saved yourself a whole lot of work…and a high word count. Get creative in your descriptions. Experiment with new vocabulary. Play word games. And read, read, read. You never know, maybe your writing will spice up so much, you’ll win a major award!

Question: How do you play with your words? And BTW, if anyone wants to play a game of Facebook Scrabble with me, bring it on.


20 thoughts on “Play With Your Words”

  1. Great analogy, and good advice about playing with words. I am always thinking about taking those telling words and turning them into showing ones. Often it is quite a challenge.

  2. Hahaaa, yes, I like to play with words. Markus Zusak, author of Book Thief, did a wonderful interview where he talked about playing with words. I posted it on my blog a long time ago. Anyway, great post! And I’ll play scrabble anytime. *grin*

    1. Great! If you’re on Facebook, friend me, and I’ll start a game. I may have to start next week, though. I took a “Book in a Week” challenge with one of my writer’s groups, and the clock starts ticking first thing in the morning. Yikes!

  3. Hi Katy,
    I agree with you. Sometimes I sit before my computer pondering the use of different words that will be vibrant and colorful and really hit a cord with the reader, or make the reader say ewwwww …. gross. Great post.

  4. I’ve got four or five scrabble games going on all the time on my Android. I’d love to play on FB. Let me know how and when. Gotta love technology.
    I’ve been a word geek since grade school when i would sit at the bottom of my stairs in the morning looking up some crazy word in the ginormous Webster’s Dictionary in our book case just so i could get on the bus thinking I’d wow my friends. I quickly found however, that saying words like ‘pulchratudinous’ and ‘pugnatious’ made for a lonely bus ride. LOL
    Thanks for another great post, Katy. I think I’ll go out and buy another Thesaurus. One is just not enough.

    1. It is sad to say, but nobody likes the word geek. 😦 I’ll send you a Scrabble invite. But I might not be able to play too much this week. (See post above)

  5. Katy, I love A Christmas Story and it never gets old, probably because I limit myself to watching it once (okay, maybe twice) per holiday season. With that said, it’s totally annoying to read the same few adjectives/verbs repeatedly. I once read a book where the author used the word grimace so much, that well, I started to grimace (then laugh like a lunatic) everytime I saw the word. I try to avoid repeated words, but I’m not always sucessful. I appreciate my critique partners catching me. Now that I’m more mindful, I do a search and find, replacing overused words or deleting them.

    1. Yes, my repeat word is “even.” Now that I know this, whenever I catch myself writing it, I laugh.

      And thank you Susannah Hardy for pointing this out to me!

    2. I LOVE A Christmas Story. We may have to have a Scribes screening around the holidays. I’ll host! Hope everybody likes red cabbage, mashed potatoes and meatloaf. Turkey? We’ll have to see.

  6. My mom told me one of my first words was “ee-wees” for raisins. She knew what I meant, so I would imagine I played with those raisins. Then I played with words before I began keeping a diary, and had whole notebooks filled with word games I’d made up. It’s fun to see when I edit what my playing word was through the ms. I’ve found lots of redundancy. I have yet to use groovy — and I believe a Hippie-kind of story is in my future.

  7. I love a play on words, the best advice i ever got was to include as many as the five sense in my writing as possible. I live with the Thesaurus next to me! I think once i looked up about 50 ways to say someone said said something. LOL Thanks for your Blog! Also love the Christmas Story! Too much fun!

    1. Bonnie, I’m so happy you stopped by! I recently added a thesaurus app to my phone! I went on “vacation” and left the big book home. I consider that packing light.

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