Choose The Right Word

I had to laugh when I read recently that there are about 2,500 words for drunk, a word meaning inebriated. Good Lord! Can't you just imagine Bubba from the Forest Gump movie as he tells someone that he's drunk - in the same way he held forth on the many varieties of shrimp dishes?

"I was drunk. Snockered. Pickled. Hammered. Messed up. Trashed. Looped. Ripped. Sloshed. Wasted. Plastered. Tight. Zonked. Tanked. I could go on and on, but the point isn't really all the synonyms for drunk. The point is that you, as a writer, need to pick the best word for what you're writing.

So Many Words

There are thousands of words, proper and slang, for every object and action. You have a lot of choices so don't take the easy way out. Search out the right word that expresses the layers of meaning attached to the word. Also make sure that your character would use that specific word based on his or her economic and educational background, personality, attitudes, and vocalization patterns.

That's a long way of saying that someone who possesses three advanced degrees and is a Harvard professor from a long line of professors would be less likely to say, "I'm totally wasted, dude." He'd be more likely to say, "I'm rather intoxicated."

Unless, he's trying to fit in with a young, urban crowd to impress a girl perhaps. There are many scenarios, but the point is that word choice is organic to the character you write.

Takeaway Truth

Listen to people talk. Try to imagine their backgrounds based on their word choice. Then use that technique in your writing.

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