Tag Archives: mark twain

Mark Twain writing tip 11

“The difference between the right word and the almost write word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

Choosing the right word is essential.  Synonyms are great, they help add variety to writing and make our language more dynamic, but two words don’t always have the exact same meaning.  Searching at dict.org can result in the Moby thesaurus, a group of related words, not necessarily the same same, one cannot simply select one and move on, though I imagine if you used it to substitute words, you could come up with some crazy stories.

A good example is the Eye of Argon.  In it the author is writing about a barbarian, think Conan fanfiction.  A loincloth is an essential part of being a barbarian; looking at thesaurus.com’s “visual thesaurus” at the bottom, g-string is closely related.  Like a loincloth, a g-string essentially covers the same area.  Yet one would not use it when referring to a barbarian, as the author did.  Sorry for the image of Arnie/Conan in a lacy g-string.

Similarly, there is the use of the wrong word, known as a malaprop, the unintentional misuse of a similar sounding words.  I know I’m certainly guilty of this in conversation.

Another aspect is mispronouncing a word, like epitome, it’s not ep-i-tow-m.  It’s great to watch someone use words they don’t know how to pronounce, especially when they’re acting smarter than they really are.

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Mark Twain writing tip 10

“I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.” – Mark Twain

A lot of words came from writers, like Shakespeare who simply made them up.

In writing fantasy, it is obvious that one might have to create words for things that don’t exist, and then explain them.  Combine with the fact that each culture, and subculture, is different, and will have different expressions for things.  For example, Americans and British speak English.  The words are the same, but they don’t always mean the same thing.

In my own writing, I’ve focused a bit on Susurrus’ gambling, particularly dice.  I made up a game with the aspect that a fate die changes the results of the “combat” dice.  Then I created references to this aspect, i.e. when the “fate die is cast”, or fate has cast her die.  I could even add “fate changed the roll” or other references.  It adds just that little bit of “authenticity” without being to foreign.

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Mark Twain writing tip 9

“Don’t say the old lady screamed.  Bring her on and let her scream.” – Mark Twain

Easy to say, hard to do.  Telling a story like you weren’t there, will distance the reader.  Tell it like you are witnessing it.

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