Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In A Word

I like to think I’m pretty good at writing description, even though I use it sparingly in my books. I don’t like reading a lot of it, so I don’t write a lot of it. I put in just enough to spark an image in the reader's mind. Some people prefer reading a mile-long paragraph describing a character’s dress. Not me.

But I do want to see the characters –their mannerisms, expressions, actions, reactions – the overall package. A couple of cleverly written sentences usually does the trick. And once in a while, one word can do it too. I’m talking about that one word that shows us body language, facial expression and emotion. 

If you remember from a few controversial blog posts ago, I collect dialogue tags. Sadly, that well has dried up. So I’ve started collecting one-word descriptions. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

He balked
He blanked.
He blustered.
He bristled.
He chilled.
He collapsed.
He cratered.
He crumbled.
He drooped.
He eased.
He exploded.
He festered.
He flared.
He fumed.
He loosened.
He melted.
He raged.
He recovered.
He sagged.
He scoffed.
He seethed.
He shrank.
He slumped.
He snapped.
He soured.
He strained.
He stirred.
He sulked.
He surrendered.
He thundered.
He twitched.
He weakened.
He withered.
He withdrew.

And I'm confident that these are just the beginning.

Remember, one-word descriptions should only be used occasionally, otherwise your novel will read like Dick and Jane (and never get into an editor's hands).

Ah...it's so nice to have a hobby. Do you guys have any to add?



  1. Thanks for sharing your list with us.

  2. He cocooned

    Collecting words is a great hobby. No need to dust!

  3. Hey Dotti, Funny, I've been collecting those, too. I have a long list--oddly enough, a lot of them came from Robert B. Parker mystery novels. Those books are VERY lean on description, etc. and he was a master at less is more.

    For kid's books, Chris Grabenstein is also a master of the very unusual verbs.

    Here's one, from me---she cavorted.

    Happy trails!

    bobbi c.

  4. Bobbi, if you have the list in a word document, I'd love a copy!

  5. Loved the list! How about, "He crashed." meaning wore out.

  6. YOU ROCK.

    Thanks for sharing these, Dotti! :)

  7. This is such a fun list! Thank you

  8. Nice. I'm a minimalist too as far as descriptions go, but a character better not be blank, dang it!

    That's an awesome list. I'm a fan of "cooed", and the reaction "blinked", "fidgeted", and "blanched".

  9. Thank for your very good article! i always enjoy & read the post you are sharing!