Morgan Locklear: Wordslinger

Vocabulary, it’s one of the ways in which we measure a person’s intelligence.  A rich vocabulary has traditionally been seen as a high-born, well-educated trait and regularly celebrated.  However, when you’re trying to relate to a reader, fancy words can derail them and slow down your story.

Did you know that a nomadic portion of the metamorphosed igneous or sedimentary deposits of the Proterozoic ear accumulates no bryophytic plant life?  Did I lose you halfway through the question due to my aggressive vocabulary?  What if I had said that a rolling stone gathers no moss?  Better?  A big vocabulary doesn’t make a smart book smart, it makes it boring.  Worse yet, it makes the author look pompous.

I’m a talker, and I have a proclivity for the prolific approach to my narrative.  So for me, it is imperative that I don’t burden my reader with unnecessary work just because I know fifteen different words for dildo.

As usual, my posts come with a warning not to over-correct and abandon the ideals of great writing to spare a few indulgent sentiments.  Being able to describe things in a multitude of ways is a great tool for avoiding using the same word over and over again and it’s not the same as deliberately and consistently choosing laborious ways to get across the same point.  The line between poetry and pedantic pros is a blurry one and wide enough to pitch a tent on so there is a lot of room for interpretation.

Using unexpected words from time to time is definitely worth doing, but I have read some books lately that have been laughable in their insistence on subjecting me to a barrage of obscurity that even the New York Times wouldn’t try to cram into a crossword puzzle.

Am I forced to conclude that a verbose author must certainly be intelligent because they have such a command of the English language?  No, I am forced to conclude that the author is desperate for approval and needs an editor.

I guess moderation is the key here, too much of a good thing and all.  That’s the challenge of writing in general.  There are a lot of rules that you must follow, but only so far and then you have to pull back lest you alienate your audience.

Here’s what I do.  If I break out a twenty dollar word and I like its placement and sentiment and don’t feel that it jars the reader out of the moment, I’ll allow it under the condition that I don’t plump up the paragraph with any more shiny syllables.  Keeping my extra-curricular vocabulary separated is a great way of having my cake and eating it too.

I have read chapters of mine and wondered if I thought I was getting paid a nickel each time I used a certain word.  Objects are the worst, chairs, beds, the house, it can get monotonous.  I encourage you to seek a thesaurus to smooth out moments like these only.

This really can be a tough aspect to negotiate.  I love to see a new turn of phrase and highlight them on my iPad when they come up.  But a collection of monster words just makes me roll my eyes, (which also makes me lose my place).

A good editor will help you determine what is indulgent and what is prudent.  Some of the best writing I have done in the last few weeks has been what I cut out of a story to strengthen it.

In parting, I should like to observe that some characters have big vocabularies and using such language in the course of dialogue from that person does not count as indulgent.  It’s a loop hole that can be exploited as long as it serves a purpose, (which is to say that it serves your story).

I hope I have not just confused the issue further.  I do believe that that if you can recognize the difference between situations in which to use alternate wording, you will be able to still produce flowery writing without heaping on too much honey.

Your Pal,

Morgan

4 thoughts on “Morgan Locklear: Wordslinger

  1. Judith Stein says:

    Hi Morgan!
    Love your thoughts and writing as always! You made me think how as a teacher I comment different writings from my students ( 12-16 years old). How I want them to be better with words, when they try to describe persons, feelings, actions, scenes a.s.o., to use all their senses with words. How I want them to be better with an extended vocabulary and use different synonyms. Unfortunately nowadays youth don’t read much in their free time. Reading books gives you the power of being good with words. Thats why by the way my colleagues and myself ” force” many reading in our teaching, both Swedish ( which is my teaching subject) and English.
    I realize though what you say is in a higher expectation and I agree that using so many different words for describing the same things in a novel or even in an article could be disturbing, makes the reader last the essential in the reading itself. To be a great writer is as I see, how you connect your actually words and express them.
    Morgan I hope You could understand my thoughts about your excellent writing! English is a language I use while tweeting and reading. It is one of my languages, though not my mother tong or teaching subject. I am sure there are grammatical mistakes, but hopefully you understand my thoughts.

    Thank you for sharing your insightful writing with us!

    All the best Morgan!
    Waving from the other side of the pond and your big country 🌍🌎❄️⛄️❄️⛄️❄️Sweden
    Judith

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  2. Judith Stein says:

    It should be ” … lost the essential…” Instead of last 😃

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  3. Morgan Locklear says:

    Hi’ya Judith,
    I totally get what you mean.
    Thank you for sharing your world, I am very interested in teaching and teachers. This is a tricky subject because it’s so contextual. The Outlander books, for instance, are extremely wordy but it works.

    Like

  4. Judith Stein says:

    Hi Morgan!
    Thanks for your replay. Agree it is tricky, you need to find the balance there is where the challenge is, as you wrote yourself. I am smiling while reading your example The Outlander books. After some ladies non stop tweeting about these books I started to read. I am reading though “slowly” – I am not really connected yet!
    Congrats to SeaHawks winning the SuperBowl!

    Stay safe and cool as always!

    Like

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