Mark Twain wrote that, “A powerful agent is the right word.”? Since he is oft considered the greatest American writer, who am I to object?? In fact, I agree.? How many times have I sat, thinking, pondering, worrying as I tried to find the perfect word to describe a scene or for my character to utter?? Too many to count.? But it is worth the task.? The danger is that I will use a word, possibly by digging into some archaic tome such as Roget’s Thesaurus (yes, I still use printed books at times), that few will know.? It takes the reader out of the story while he or she goes, “What the heck does that mean?”? Let’s say it was “gasconade.”? For the next twenty minutes, my reader researches my word before going, “Huh.? Why didn’t he just use ‘brag?'”? The moment of my story is lost and my reader thinks I was showing off and trying to make him or her look stupid.? That is a valid criticism.
But there are times I fall in love with a word and am just itching to find a way to use it.? Let’s consider the word “sesquipedalian.”? I stumbled upon it about thirty years ago and thought it was perfect to describe an acquaintance of mine.? It is a beautiful if obscure word that I immediately loved.? But how could I use it while not interrupting the flow of my story?? Here is how I did it in Christmas Cracker?when Morg is talking to her friend, Bennie, about his girlfriend:
?What?? Danielle?s been fooling around on me??
?Bennie, she?s a stripper.? What do you figure the odds are??
?She?s an ecdysiast.? That means she?s an artistic dancer.?
?And you?re a sesquipedalian.? That means you use two-bit words unnecessarily.”
So I used that wonderfully ironic two-bit term to describe someone who excessively uses two-bit terms in a way that defines it and doesn’t impede the flow of my story.? At least that’s my opinion.
I trust I haven’t been prolix in my explanation.