Words Fail Me

I groan when they show writers in movies or TV shows worrying about word choice, as if all writing is poring through a thesaurus trying to find just the right word. That almost never comes up for me. I worry a lot more about characters and story than whether I describe a thing as “shiny” or “glossy,” and find these depictions irritating.

But that’s where I’m at right now. Two sisters in my story-in-progress are arguing about something (actually multiple things at once, like arguments often go) and one [verbs] at her sister and [verbs] out of the room. The girl groans and stomps, or she growls and storms, or she exhales in frustration and clomps… but none of these sentences capture her vocalization the way I hear in my head, or the way a small body exits a room in anger. (I cringe at the word “flounce,” though it may be technically accurate, it seems to be in the realm of “spunky” and “sassy” for words that delegitimize the way girls act and feel).

Allegedly any language has the ability to express any idea, despite Sapir, Whorf, and Orwell’s claims to the contrary, but I’m not convinced. The word “march” makes me visualize the rigid gait of a soldier; words like “stomp” and “clomp” suggest a heavy-footed oaf, and “storm” seems fast-moving, not a furious exit with time for smoldering sideways glances.

As for the first verb, I don’t want her to come across as a pig, or a dog, or a dragon, with the huffing and snorting and growling.

If I don’t get a grip on this sentence soon I will expel my breath in an annoyed manner and leave the manuscript in a brusque manner.



4 thoughts on “Words Fail Me

  1. One of my Betas is a terrific resource for le mot juste. Like you, this is rarely where I am stopped. But I understand how hard it is to portray the process of writing on the level of action, where TV and movies reside.
    Your character seems to spew and then… whoosh out of the room. I doubt the latter is a proper verb, but propriety is not my hang up.
    Keep at it. It’s on the tip of your typing fingers.

  2. I’d get stuck like that sometimes when I used to write on deadline. One option, of course, is to recast the sentence so that the solution doesn’t depend on a single word. You could also use an action to convey her exit: kicking something, banging the door, clenching her fists, or even running into or bulling over something as she leaves. Good luck 🙂

  3. Having 3 sisters, I feel confident suggesting that a sisterly combatant might well “huff and stomp out” of a room. The “stomp” is loud and aggressive and about as close as we got to fisticuffs (i.e., not very close). And the “huff” is indicative of the all-powerful sisterly derision: “as if,” “whatever,” “how moronic,” “this whole engagement is SO not worth my time.”
    If I were writing a book about sisters, I might have them take a swing at each other just because that would have felt so good at the time. Forgive me, but it’s true.

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