Feb 12

Vocabulary and Opening Paragraphs


Session 6

To make your writing more interesting you need to develop a wide vocabulary. For example what does this sentence mean?
It was a nice day.
Does it mean that the weather was fine?
Does it mean that you had an enjoyable day?
‘Nice’ is a very overworked word! Improving your vocabulary will help you to say what you mean.

There are lots of ways of expanding your vocabulary; reading is one very important method. Make use of a thesaurus to find lists of synonyms and use the most interesting and accurate words to describe things.
Having a wide vocabulary is especially useful in descriptive writing and will make your work more vivid.
Remember the sentence at the beginning of this passage: It was a nice day.
Suppose it said:
It was such fun at the beach that day, and the weather was glorious.
This tells us so much more and brings to life the meaning.

Compare these two sentences:

  • The young man looked good.
  • The handsome young man was smartly dressed.

The second sentence tells us what kind of man, handsome and young, and in what way he ‘looked good.’

Do not be afraid to experiment with more interesting ways to use vocabulary in your writing. Always read what you have written, especially in descriptive writing, and check that you have expressed what you intended to say as well as possible.

Avoid repetition.
Sometimes repetition is used deliberately for emphasis:
‘I told you to paint it green! This is blue not green. I said “green.” Are you colour-blind? It’s supposed to be green!’ he cried.
The repetition conveys the speaker’s anger and frustration.
I walked slowly, leaving footprints in the damp green grass, lost in thought. Overhead the green leaves cast dappled shadows and the air vibrated with green light.

I moved languorously. My passage was marked by soft indentations in the moist grass. Above me the dappled leaves cast shimmering, green shadows; the very air seemed to dance with vibrant emerald light.
There is very little difference between the two passages in terms of what is said, but the vocabulary of the second evokes the intended mood more effectively.

Give copies of the following to the group members:

If the following was the opening passage of a story or novel how would you change it to make it more interesting?

1. Jot down very briefly what the opening tells you about the setting, period, genre, characters….?
2. Rewrite it so that it engages the reader and makes you want to read on.

One evening a man was walking home. He had a limp and appeared thoughtful. He was carrying a basket and he wore an old hat. Presently he met a person on horseback and they exchanged greetings.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Allow sufficient time and make it clear that they are free to expand as much as they like.

Share their thoughts about what the original passage tells us.
Note similarities and differences in responses to the passage.

Share and discuss their versions.

What different messages/ extra information are the expanded versions giving?

This is the actual opening of a novel from which the idea for the passage that they were given was taken:

On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining vale of Blakemore or Blakemoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off.
Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a grey mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune
‘Good night tee,’ said the man with the basket.
‘Good night, Sir John,’ said the parson.
The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted and turned round.

If time you might discuss the ways in which the writer engages the attention, particularly by the revelation that the man who is walking and dressed plainly is the higher ranking, whilst the rider is a country parson. The passage is the opening of Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

The group may like to try writing an opening, giving information incidentally as the above passage does and maybe attempting to include a little unexpected twist, in the group if there is time or as a homework exercise to be shared next time.

(Category: Group Session) Blog 9

1 comment

  1. Thanks for the great article..

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