Saturday, March 9, 2013

Word Choice: What is This Turquoise Thingy?

I’m almost done with another round of revision. As always, I’m amazed by how much depth and clarity can be added to a story by changing a single word, or tweaking a phrase or comparison.

It’s kind of like this vintage turquoise bucket thingy with holes in it. 

From that description do you know what it is? Or even from looking at it?  Maybe, you do at a basic level but more likely not.

Let me add a bit more description and a comparison.

Here’s a vintage wooden bucket  basket which goes with this metal contraption and rope.

Yeah, I know your getting the idea. But I’m not done yet.

Sometimes describing an object from a different angle will help with clarity. Sometimes, not.

Here is a wooden thingy with a boatload of holes in it. Hmm. Maybe it is something that belongs on a boat?  Maybe it’s a piece of trash.

But find the perfect angle and words to describe it and you have clarity and depth.

 Tilt the basket and the contents are revealed. Clothespins.

This vintage turquoise bucket like thingy with holes is actually a depression era clothespin basket with drain holes--pretty obvious, once the right description, perspective and comparison are found. The metal contraption is a clothesline reel with clothesline. 

I should add as a side note that, last night, the scene I was working on called for a certain lack of clarity, for the sake of pace and mystery. 

How about you? Found any mysterious objects lately or tweaked any details in your story and had it make all the difference?


  1. Ah! the mystery revealed! Raven guessed sparrow house first. Before I scrolled down.

  2. Raven wasn't far off. In real life it looks a lot like a sparrow house. Maybe more like a commune for skinny sparrows.

  3. I got into a round of this just last night, going over the words I wrote on Friday. I wrote them very quickly, and they contained the appropriate plot points, but they lacked what I described to my husband as "ambiance." I usually go back and reread what I wrote the day before and add in all the missing detail before writing the next bit. :)

  4. Ambiance a great way to describe it. It's fascinating how slight changes can effect readers and people as a whole, like the difference between using yellow, saffron or mustard.

  5. Thank you. I did have to laugh when I had to make something less specific, right after posting this. But that's the way writing goes :)

  6. Great visuals to illustrate your point, Pat, and very true. Off track with writing, I definitely think you have the coolest "day" job ever. I'm guessing you are selling that in your store? So cool!

  7. I should be selling it in the store, but actually it's in my personal stash of old goodies. That's the trouble with being a dealer :)